Most freshers, second years and finalists, and some master’s students have exams soon. There is no question that exams are daunting. First years need to pass them to ensure they can go on into the second. It’s where finalists will discover their final grade. Getting through exams is rarely about knowing lots of stuff – it’s about preparing; it’s about divide and conquer. No doubt, you’ve heard the phrase “fail to prepare, prepare to fail”. It certainly applies to degree exams.
Design a Timetable
By now, you should know when each of your exams will take place. A timetable of revision is usually the best way to go, so long as you focus on producing a concrete plan that will help you revise. Divide each day into batches of several hours or, at the very least, by morning and afternoon. Don’t spend too much time on prettifying the table that you get so side-tracked creating a visual masterpiece that you forget its function.
What to Study?
First, use your timetable to divide up the number of days you have before each exam by the number of subjects required to study. This should give you a basic number of hours or days for each subject at the very least. But how do you then plan what to study? There is no clear answer on this, but it’s useful try a kind of academic triage. Spend a little time on the subjects about which you have excelled or don’t need to revise much. As for the weak areas, there are two methods. Either spend the time improving your knowledge or write it off and focus on the subjects where you could get a good grade with a little improvement.
How to Study?
Set time aside on your planner for a little bit of everything. The main sources of revision should be:
- Your lecture notes, handouts, PowerPoint presentations or other electronic information
- Exam papers from past years
- Books you have bought on the recommendation of the lecturers and the large number of volumes in the library
The bulk of your revision should come from library books and your lecture notes but also try to do one or two past exams.
Refresh Information even When Finished
When you’ve finished revising a subject don’t just move on. Pencil in some time just before the exam (the night before or the morning of an afternoon exam) to have a quick refresher. A couple of hours should just about cover it. This helps keep the information fresh in your mind as you head into the exam. Remember, passing exams at degree level is partly about memory and partly about formulating a good argument. For the latter, you’ll need to know the information with which to argue.