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Exam Tips!

by Alicia McIntyre - Psychologist, Head of Student Wellbeing at WSU School of Medicine

The jacarandas are flowering

It’s that time of year again. The jacarandas are flowering. What a sight to behold. It signifies spring. It also signifies that it is time to start knuckling down for those end of year exams!

In this month’s blog let’s talk about some techniques that will help you in the preparation for exams.

Setting boundaries and a new timetable

Of course, you all have study timetables, but our timetables change particularly in the month leading up to exams with increasing additions in reviewing study notes and lecture material. It is important to retain a study timetable and review it in study vacation week.

Whilst setting your study timetable, it is also important to consider what supports and what distracts from your study. It is time to pump up those things that support you and contain those that distract.

Letting family, friends and partners know that you are setting the date to begin the exam study lockdown is important. Tell your family and friends, particularly those who are not studying, that you be less available. Sometimes posting your “study lockdown” on social media is helpful. Updating your family and friends on your study lockdown journey will make you and them feel connected. It also provides them with an opportunity to encourage you.

However, you still need to socialise, especially now that we are out of lockdown. Get your diary out. Put self-care activities first i.e., exercise, sleep, meals, and hygiene. Then take note of all those events that might be happening during the month of October and November, for example birthdays and other family / friend gatherings. Book in the ones you don’t want to miss and will make time for. Let your family and friends know that you’ll be there in advance.

Booking your social events ahead of time is helpful to not feeling like you are deprived and a great goal to work towards.

Save the date

Set a date when it is all over and plan what you, your friends and family will do to celebrate the marking of end of exams. Now that we are out of lockdown, many of us can re-visit the places we like to dine and socialise in. This is a great incentive.

Study routine includes a time to organise and clean your study space.

Include in your study routine consistent start and ending times of study periods. Leave enough time to wind down before bed. Try not to study in the place you sleep if possible.

Leave your study area clean and organised when you finished for the day. Set your study area ready for the following day of study starting with the hardest material first.

You might already know how long you can go, in a study session. For some people that it is about 40 minutes with a 10-to-15-minute break in between. During this time try stretching or putting on “get going music”. For those of you who are not too distracted by screen time, watching a favourite tv show / movie during each break is a good way to relax. If you are not someone who goes back to studying easy, then leaving screen time to after your day's study might be required.

Ensure you have a break for morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea with fresh air.

As we are now out of lockdown, studying in libraries is an option. For some people travelling to the University Library is too far away. The local council libraries may become more of an option.

Reserving a study room in a library for the week leading up to exams might be a helpful place free from distractions and interruption. Pack your work the night before and make sure you take food and drinks for your day at the library just like you were in an office.

study with groups

Studying in groups or with a friend is helpful. I’ve had students say with studying with one other person is all that they can manage. I recommend no more than four people in a study group. It is useful for a study team to set agendas at the end of each study session for the next study session.

Secondly, everyone should be equally assigned a task to work on, with the aim of teaching others in the group.

Attending PASS classes is also incredibly helpful for those subjects you have found challenging. PASS classes are set based on subject difficulty, so these are perfect for increasing your confidence with exam content.

Don’t forget to use your preferred learning mode to consolidate your knowledge!

Some learners use visual modalities. Medicine lends itself to the use of visual imagery to illustrate the complex medical material you are trying to consolidate around mechanisms, processes and organ systems.

Other options that might be appreciated auditory methods, so listening to lectures and recording your own lecture on the topic may be helpful.

Write it down. Many students tell me that writing a summary and summarising the summary is helpful in consolidating information.

Don’t forget your acronym mnemonics. Again, recording yourself on your phone and listening to your recording when you are driving or doing other activities is a great way to consolidate.

Past exam papers

I am a big fan of past papers because it increases confidence and identifies gaps.

When you are studying, identifying the topics involved in an exam question is a great way to prepare for exams. Past exam papers help you identify gaps in your knowledge. Past exam papers will present you with tricky questions in a calm environment wherein you will process the trickiness semantically aiding your memory for content.

Lastly, past exam papers will assist you with your strategy on an exam paper, allowing you to time yourself and determine what to attempt first in an exam.

I wish all of you the very best during the month of November in sitting your exams. I look forward to hearing from students to hear how they have gone during exams.
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