Don’t Let Exams be a Pain in the Neck – Here are 5 Tips to get Through Exams!

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This is a post from Sarah one of Oakville’s Palermo Physiotherapy and Wellness Centres front end staff and a recent graduate of Kinesiology.

It’s that time of year again… exam time. The dreaded time of year where you have to take all of the information that has been thrown at you in the last 4 months and try to make sense of it. Everything else takes a back seat to studying… the gym, your diet, your social life. Studying always seems so hard to start and once you get going it is just as awful as you remember it being. It doesn’t have to be that bad though! Through my 5 years in University I learned a few tips and tricks to make this stressful time a little more bearable!

  1. Take breaks

Let’s be honest, studying can be boring. I know that I would find it very difficult to stay focused for very long. Then my mother enlightened me with a wonderful tid bit of information, she told me that your brain can only really focus for 20-30 minutes at a time and then I should be taking a break. This was wonderful news to me! That meant if I put in about half an hour of work I could justify watching that 5th episode of Friends on Netflix! I used this as a bit of a reward system. I would stay focused for about half an hour to 45 minutes and then I would get to take a break of my choosing, whether it was watching an episode of a TV show or going to gossip with one of my roommates. If I had put in a good chunk of time I would take an even longer break, something like going to the gym or going out for a quick bite to eat with a friend. Even on smaller breaks the most important thing is to move! Longer exercise periods can help you focus when studying but even a quick stretch will be helpful to help prevent aches and pains from sitting, writing and typing for extended periods of time.  This gave my brain a chance to absorb all the information I had just pumped into it. I found that using a reward system was very beneficial for me doing well in testing situations.

  1. Find a way that works for you

Not everyone studies the same way. There are many different ways to study. Here are a few:

  • Write out your notes
  • Read your notes out loud
  • Work in a study group

Some people need absolute silence while other people study better in a busy loud environment. For some people listening to music helps them to focus on the information in front of them while for others it is a massive distraction. Personally I needed silence to study because I liked to say my notes out loud to myself. I would start by writing out the notes based off of the review that I was (hopefully) provided by my prof. I would then read those notes over out loud a couple of times and then go back and ask myself questions that I would answer out loud. I was teaching myself and learning at the same time. I also found it very beneficial to go over the material with other people in my program. If someone didn’t understand something I was able to explain it to them in my own words which solidified the information.

  1. Don’t Cram!

This is a big one! My roommates used to be baffled at how long before an exam I stopped studying. Once I started getting bored of reading the content I stopped studying, because if I didn’t know it by then I probably wasn’t going to get it in the dwindling hours before the test. The best thing to do is stay focused and make sure you understand course content throughout the year. Cramming can also confuse you which will in turn stress you out and put you in a very bad place to be writing an exam. Even if you don’t understand everything 100% it is better to be writing in a relaxed mindset.

  1. Get a Good Night’s Sleep

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Burning the midnight oil might seem like a good idea but in actuality it is not doing you any good. You may think that you are benefiting yourself by getting all of those extra hours of studying in but your body AND your brain need to rest to be productive. You should be trying to get at least 8 hours of sleep the night before a big test or exam. This allows your brain to store the information you have been shoving into it all day. You will wake up nice and refreshed and ready to tackle this big exam! It can be difficult to sleep when you’re stressed out. Going for a walk or to the gym or even treating yourself to a Massage can help!

  1. Think about the Exam

Put yourself in your professor’s shoes. What are they thinking? What do you think the exam is going to be like based off of your professor. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What have the previous tests been like?
  • What topics did your prof focus on?
  • What questions did they ask a lot?

There is always a lot of information to filter through when studying for a final exam but if you think back and go through your notes you will undoubtedly stumble upon topics that were talked about A LOT. There were things that your prof asked a lot of questions about or kept bringing up throughout the course. These will lend themselves to be good candidates for long answer questions. This is another thing to look at. What were the questions like on past tests? Was there a lot of multiple choice or are they someone who likes all of the questions to be in short answer format? This will help you tailor your studying to be beneficial for the class. Finally, use your College / University to your advantage. A lot of faculties have exam banks that students can use to study off of past tests from the course. Who knows, maybe your prof will even recycle some of those old questions!

Exams will inevitably be stressful and studying is never a fun or pleasant thing but it is possible to make it a little bit more bearable. These study tips are tried and tested by yours truly so give them a try and GOOD LUCK!  ~Sarah H.