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How To Do Exams

When exam period rolls around each trimester, it is often associated with a sense of panic, never-readiness and redbull-fuelled late night sessions – however this does not always have to be the case. By slightly adjusting the way in which you study, effectively use your time, and by looking at some things you may have not ever considered to impact your exam performance; you can turn that sense of existential dread into a sense of readiness and confidence. Checkout these five tips to achieve this.

1. Attend class through trimester

Attending tutorials and semesters throughout the trimester is a no-brainer. Most students would be lying if they said they had not had at least one exam-week cramming day, trying to get through seven weeks’ worth of lecture recordings at 1.8x speed, from a 9:00am lecture they had not been to since week one. Although this may be great for revising already-learnt material – it is definitely not the best method for learning essential unit material for the first time, additionally, a trimesters worth of reading spread out over a twelve week semester, is significantly less intensive than a trimesters worth of reading needing to be done in a matter of days. By staying on top of attendance (even online attendance during COVID), moving your classes around to better suit your work-life and lifestyle (the habitual midday sleep-in), and actively participating throughout the trimester, you can very easily boost your ability to do well.

2. Organisation is king – start early

Carrying on from the last point – staying on top of course material, (virtually) attending class and lectures, and organising materials in a logical way for you, are absolutely paramount in doing well and avoiding a last-minute cram to stay afloat. Organising materials, whether that be physically in unit folder/binders, or electronically, and using a system which works for you (each module/week, colour coding, tabbing etc) is a great way to stay ahead of the game.

Starting early is another effective way of staying ahead of the pack. Completing your readings before the week begins, looking over lecture/seminar PowerPoint slides prior to attending the lecture, and looking over discussion posts are a fantastic way to establish a base of knowledge regarding the materials, and allow you to utilise the actual lecture/seminar to build on this base, and identify gaps in your knowledge to further work on.

3. Effective study techniques – cramming never works!

Every person has their own technique or method for studying in which they find the most effective for themselves. For some it may be re-reading, re-watching (attended) lectures or going over their notes – whatever it may be, it is much more effective than a late-night cramming session the night before the exam, as although it may help to pass; it is not an effective method for excelling.

By utilising effective study techniques, resources available to you, and exploring the internet for methods and techniques that others find successful, you can build on your already established base of study. A time management study technique that has seen much user-success if that of the pomodoro technique; a technique that encourages users to study in increments of 25-minutes of study, 5-minutes of break, controlled by a timer (or one of many applications available on a phone/laptop), and instil a sense of urgency into students to get as much done as they can in those 25 minutes (or time-period that is chosen). The aim of the game is to get as many ‘pomodoros’, the 30-minute block of study/break, as possible in a day, which in theory should reflect a substantial amount of study done.

4. Practice Exams

Practice exams are invaluable when it comes to applying knowledge and legal principles and gather a huge amount of practice prior to walking into the examination. Practice exams allow you to identify areas in which you may be unknowingly struggling in, as well as allow you to get examples and practice with the way in which principles and knowledge must be applied. These practice papers will also allow to test the strength of your notes if your exam is open book. Practice exams are a fantastic way to get on top of an upcoming exam, and to minimise the risk of any surprises popping up during your exam. Most unit chairs will make available practice exam materials, or previous exam papers, and are a severely under-utilised resource by a large majority of students.

5. Keep on top of your mental and physical health!

Keeping on top your health – both mental and physical – is and should be each students’ number-one priority, especially with the added stress of the current climate surrounding COVID; no amount of coffee in the world will compensate for a burn-out. Maintaining your mental health is key to ensuring a successful exam performance. By utilising the aforementioned points, and avoiding a cram, you can keep a clear and positive headspace to tackle problems effectively and keep stress to a minimum. Many people tend to avoid taking breaks while studying, or feeling ‘bad’ for stopping when a due-date or exam-date is looming, however a 30-minute break to clear your head, take a walk or just have a quick lay down, may be the difference between effectively grasping a topic or subject; and a stress-induced burn-out from overthinking.

Your mental health and physical health are intertwined, and although time may be of the essence; it is essential to take care of yourself physically. Ensure you are eating well (avoid the $5 dominos pizzas), drinking plenty of water, taking small breaks, and are getting your heart rate up at least once a day by going for a walk, run to get the feel-good chemicals flowing, and most importantly, getting a full eight hours sleep a night.

So there you have it, our top tips for surviving exams. We really hope you find a studying routine that works for you, and that you continue to look after yourself during this time.

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