For the past two weeks I have been revising daily, not because I am an overachiever rather because I am trying to find different ways of revising and preparing for exams. I find it difficult and stressful to leave everything at the end wherein I start to feel like I am hanging at the edge of a cliff with my nails.
During this time period of trial and error, I realized that it is not just about how to study better but also what I can do to compliment it to improve testing performance. Balance is key and time is your friend. Therefore, this post will be about the ways I have found effective during my revision as well as others who I tried it with and what activities complimented it.
- Replace titles with questions when making outlines
When I was still preparing for the IB exams in Geneva, we practiced answering questions using the past papers. This was good because 1) you could somehow predict the questions that are asked frequently and 2) it helps you improve the accuracy of your answers. In my Business School, there are no past papers. Rather than selecting a variety from the Internet and making the mistake of choosing questions that are not related to the course itself, I chose the Study Check questions from my academic books. By this point, specific topics are covered by around five questions and I need not ponder on which topic(s) are coming up.
- Group Teaching Session
It does not matter which school I went to, whether it was here in Switzerland or back in the Philippines, I have a group of friends or classmates who would huddle up together and ask each other questions in preparation for a quiz or exam regardless of the weight of the scores. For every time a study session took place, there was always one who teaches a topic with or without a presentation or asks questions while the rest answer as accurate as possible. Other people always have something new to bring to the table, new ideas that everyone can take advantage of or theories that we struggled to understand becomes clear.
- Video Assist
My online substitute teachers are Jonathan Jarvis on Youtube and Sal Khan from Khan Academy. Most academics books, in my opinion, either have too much fluff or is too complex that understanding the topic becomes difficult. A former schoolmate I had back in Geneva and I were constructing arguments about the books we were using for History HL and you cannot imagine how we managed to come to a conclusion as if we were in a debate or answering an exam.
Certain subjects can only be taught by certain teachers. Not everyone can explain the concepts well and just imagine a book trying to do the same job. What is great about watching videos about the topic is that you can be specific in what you need to master, stop at your chosen time for a break, and replay the video when it is over but still need assistance when unsure. Khan Academy offers more than the videos but it is entirely up to you if you want to do exercises there and see how you perform over time.
- Be the liaison
We think we know all the answers to the questions asked but what we do not realize when we revise is that we are not connecting the answers to the question. We know the concepts or theories individually but cannot relate them. I always highlight the questions even if it looks as if it is a simple one that you answer with bullet points (if permitted). Box the instruction, and underline the object. Once I start making my outline on scrap paper, I tend to get carried away and so I keep referring to the question whenever I stop writing on my outline and then I can answer the question once I am sure that the answers I wrote on the outline covers the scope of the question, and that I omit the waffles.
- Defeat Time and Pressure
They are not my friends but it does help prepare me for the exams. Conditioning myself to the atmosphere of the midterms allows me to be comfortable with what I answer and how I answer the questions through time. This is important for me because although I know that I am prepared for my exams, all of a sudden I get a jolt of anxiety and stress about something that could go wrong and sometimes does because of that thought worrying me. I can reduce the stress because not only will I have covered all the topics during revision but have also implemented them on practice exam sessions at home or in the library.
- Workout or do sports
Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands, they just don’t. –Elle, Legally Blonde
Although we are not talking about a murder case like Elle is in the film Legally Blonde, the principle stays the same. I make sure that I am physically active in the gym at least once a week. It does not matter if I am only doing cardio, or crunches, or Zumba. They will all have the same effect on my brain. It improves my alertness and memory.
On the Biological Front, it increases the heart rate which then pumps more Oxygen to the brain and releases hormones that provide a nourished environment for the growth of brain cells, the plasticity of the brain is stimulated because of the growth of the new connections between the cells in important areas of the brain.
On the Behavioral Front, you experience “runner’s high,” an antidepressant-like effect due to the drop in stress hormones and the secretion of hormones like Dopamine that functions in memory, attention and cognition. Information can be controlled, processed, sorted either as short-term or long-term memory.
- Reward yourself with your favorite food
If it is junk food or your mom’s cooking, do not forget to give yourself a pat on the back after revising for a course. But keep in mind that junk food only lasts for so long and will then make you feel hungry again without the proper nutrients. A bar of chocolate every now and then is fine but crisps may divert your concentration.
Just because you are revising with an aim to get an A or a passing grade does not mean you should reduce your meals to suit your study hours. This is not the Hunger Games. You have been studying hours more than when eating, you deserve to indulge yourself with a nice meal and you will feel much better after. It is a combination of feeling accomplished and satisfaction of hunger.
At times I start to feel too attentive that I can hardly keep to myself and merely sit down. My boyfriend reminds me constantly to stop moving and to start resting, even if he has to cuddle with me on the sofa and watch films (How could I say “No” to that?) until it is time to start cooking our dinner.
Everyone is different when it comes to resting. Others prefer to go out and walk or lay in bed while listening to music. Do only what keeps you calm and relaxed rather than stressed and fatigued.
- Sleep, breathe, and drink lots of water
We are not robots that are programmed to perform tasks that a monkey could do. The consequences of not sleeping enough are that we experience low body temperature and sores because our Immune System becomes impaired, our Nervous System does not perform properly which means we can forget about improving our concentration and memory if we keep this up. Beauty Sleep does not necessarily mean we will look like princes and princesses when we wake up but that our cells need to regenerate, our neurons need to repair themselves because without sleep, they will begin to malfunction because they are used continuously and as a result are the consequences aforementioned.