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Irreplaceable preparation tips for exams

by  Eleonora Marzi

Although exams can make you feel anxious or nervous, they also bring out the best in you. In fact, anxiety and fear combined with hard work and sacrifice can be absolutely worth the extreme sense of fulfillment you feel when you succeed.

As students, we will undertake many exams along our study journey. Exams help us to prepare for future endeavours, challenge our knowledge and face our weaknesses. It’s quite natural to feel a strong aversion to exams, but successful outcomes require commitment and dedication. So, don't let the stress get to you! Prepare yourself and follow my top tips for exam success. 

1. Be attentive

Approach your exam preparation in the right way. During your classes, be an active listener and don’t be afraid to ask questions. But what is active listening? Active listening is where you make a conscious effort to not only hear the words another person is saying but, more importantly, understand the message the person is trying to communicate. It involves listening with all senses and giving your full attention to the speaker. Students who listen keenly to their lectures - rather than simply hearing them - have distinct advantages. Less time spent on assignments, better academic results and more free time.

2. Keep well-organised notes

Well-structured study notes make studying faster, easier and more effective when revising. I remember one of my friends compared my notebook to a bible. It sounds funny but it’s true, without it I would have been lost!

Concise notes will help you better recall facts and a quick revision will hopefully be enough when the moment of truth arrives. Remember, if the lecturer speaks very quickly record the lesson, rewrite your notes and revise them before the next class. I won't lie to you, it is a time-consuming process but believe me, it will save you a lot of effort and stress as your exam gets closer.

3. Make the best use of your resources

Lucky for us, we have endless resources to count on.

If your flatmates are too noisy or you need a peaceful place to study, pick up your books and leave the distractions behind, the library will always offer a quiet spot for you. Extended opening hours, computer facilities, free WiFi and as many books as you want make the library the perfect place for studying purposes.

Do not forget your friends! You are not alone in the rush towards exam day and organising study groups can break the monotony of studying by yourself.  Get new perspectives, share your knowledge, challenge each other and learn new study skills.

4. Create a study plan

Put aside time so you don't have to worry about it at the last minute. The key to being ready is to plan in advance. It is easier for your brain to gradually absorb the material in a logical sequence than cram it all in at the last minute. To do this, you can motivate yourself by setting certain tasks to complete within a specific time limit. If you work on a new goal on a daily basis, you will build a robust and solid understanding of the course content.

5. Minimise distractions

It's hard to have much of a social life when you’re studying and you’re always on your electronic devices. But notifications, text messages and incoming calls are a constant distraction. That's why I recommend you switch to airplane mode on your mobile phone so you can concentrate. It might be a drastic solution but you will be surprised by all the advantages you can get from making your study space a distraction free zone! Your learning process will be faster and more effective.

6. Practise, practise, practise!

This is the golden rule to be exam ready and it's the most effective way to be confident when taking exams. In fact, mastering any subject is possible if you test your knowledge over and over again. Repeat your notes out loud to help you to memorise them and get a greater understanding of the topic. No matter what the exam format is, the improvements of your communications skills will advance your writing skills as well. In addition, I suggest you do old exams, which you can ask for from your lecturer or tutor, in order to be more familiar with the subject and identify areas in which you need further study.

7. Take care of yourself

During the exam period, we are under incredible pressure. Studying can be stressful and nerve-racking but what you might not know is that you can use these feelings in your favour. Anxiety helps you to push harder but be careful not to lose the delicate balance between keeping yourself healthy and pushing too hard. A little bit of concern is totally understandable when you do something that matters to you. But constantly overthinking your exam will spike your anxiety. Make sure you eat healthy foods, sleep properly and undertake some outdoor activities to clear your mind and stay focussed! This is essential if you want to have a sharp and positive mindset before the exam.

And finally, everyone is different and has a unique method for approaching exam preparation. To learn anything, you need to identify what kind of learner you are. Are you a visual, auditory, reading/writing or kinaesthetic learner? While some people might memorise information by rewriting or listening to a podcast, others might have a visual memory. At the of the day what matters most is using your own methods, the ones that suit you and your strengths.

Best of luck in your studies!

About the author

With a love for organising events, practising her English skills and playing volleyball, Eleonora enjoys being a part of a multicultural community and in a city that has so much to offer. She looks forward to sharing her experience and knowledge with other students about the endless possibilities in Melbourne. Meet all the Study Melbourne Student Ambassadors.

Eleonora Marzi