Study skills 11# Tests without stress
So you think that you work best under pressure? That feeling overwhelmed during an exam period is as unavoidable as taxes and death? Well, think again. An exam period doesn’t have to be a hellish rollercoaster of sleepless nights and anxiety caused by caffeine overdose. There’s a way how to survive relatively intact if you’re smart about it.
Don’t be afraid to ask your teachers
Generally, teachers don’t want you to fail their subject. If there’s an exam coming, ask them for more details: What’s going to be on the test? Will lecture notes be enough or are you expected to study specific textbooks? Are there older tests available that would serve as samples? (You might want to ask senior students about that.) Get as many details as possible to help you prepare better and overcome that paralyzing fear of the unknown.
First of all, make sure you have all the materials at least two weeks before an exam. Collect all your notes, textbooks, handouts, fill the gaps when you missed a lecture, fetch that book from the library while you still can. That way you can avoid panic when you finally sit down to cram and find out that you’re missing something essential.
Of course, if you’re serious about your studies and you actually want to learn something and not just cram information you’ll forget immediately after that, you need to employ a long-term strategy. Basically, prepare throughout the whole semester. If you do, the exam period will be a piece of cake. And don’t forget to be smart about it, use spaced repetition!
Simulate test conditions at home
Old-fashioned cramming is very different from when you actually sit in front of a test paper so there’s no wonder people have problems recalling information when it’s in the form of specific questions, often peculiar ones. To prevent freezing over the test, don’t revise the information as one long text but break it into small chunks and create custom quizzes.
Actually, it’s quite easy to predict test questions if you know what you’re supposed to cover. Look at the text and try to identify key elements. Let’s presume it’s a history test on the WW1. You’ll be most probably asked about important battles, political influences, famous people and significant events so you can let go of all that fluff surrounding it. If it’s a science test, you need to understand concepts—how things work and explain it, preferably in your own words—so forget brainless cramming.
Create cheat cards
We’re not encouraging you to cheat at tests but try to recall those moments at primary and secondary school when you were desperately trying to condense all information onto a small piece of paper that could be hidden in your pencil case. How often did you find that you didn’t actually need that little paper anymore because you remembered the information when you were creating it?
Not only creating fake cheat cards is an excellent method of preparation but it also makes you think about the study materials. You’re already predicting what will most probably appear on the test. A cheat card is really tiny so you can include only the most important things, reducing the redundant and thinking critically.
Unless you strive to be a straight-A student, don’t fuss about the grades
Passing a test should be an indicator for yourself (and your teacher) that you mastered a certain subject. It doesn’t say anything about what kind of person you are so don’t berate yourself if your grade wasn’t good enough after you did your best.
The goal should always be to apply gained knowledge, not to score A once and then forget everything. The best students aren’t always the best at their jobs later in life. Even Hermione in the first Harry Potter book admitted that bookish knowledge isn’t everything, especially in real-life situations. So forget perfectionism and stop being neurotic about your grades.
Create a study schedule
This has a lot to do with time-management. What you absolutely need to do in order to avoid unnecessary stress and panic during your exam period is to create a solid study schedule and stick to it. To do that, you first need to know what’s coming. Take a diary, open your syllabus and note down all deadlines for your essays and other assignments. Don’t leave them for the exam period. If you finish submitting them in advance, the whole exam period will be for actual exams only.
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If there’re too many subjects in one week, either start studying early or prioritise. If you don’t need to score A in everything, put emphasis on subjects you’re personally interested in, you want to develop more in future or you’ll definitely need in your job.