Written by: Mutshidzi Kwinda
Exam times can be stressful. Mostly if you show up for it without proper and/or enough preparation. Which is why trying different methods of studying until you figure out what works for you is important.
As much as you can find different study tips from different platforms or people, it is important to understand that we are all different. And therefore, when it comes to tricks, tips, and strategies, what works for one may not work for another.
For me, during my university years as a pharmacy undergraduate student, I was that person who was often behind. This came as a result of my cancer illness which demanded my presence at the hospital more than in the classroom. The hospital became more like a second home, and even when I was not in the hospital, I would be recovering from treatments in my room most of the time. The whole sequence of hospital visits robbed me of the time to attend my classes, practicals, tests, assessments, as much as I needed to.
For that reason, I had to be very clever with how I balance my school work and my health for me to pass my modules. My goal was to give all my best in any given circumstance. Making sure that whatever I do, neither my studies nor my health(both physical and mental) is compromised. This kind of attitude helped me to cope with all the hurdles sent my way.
Here are some of the tips to try out when studying for exams or tests (especially when you have piled up work to cover in a short space of time). NB: These are not tips on how to cover a semester-long course in one night.
- Firstly, you need to set your goal before diving into your work. And when you do, set them higher (but be realistic). When you know what you need out of the efforts you are about to make, it will keep you motivated. I wanted to get distinctions. So I studied with that mindset. And although that did not happen often, I usually landed at least above average.
- What study method are you most effective at? Do you remember well with graphics, audio, mind mapping, or by using color-coded notes, etc? For bulky notes, I used mind maps and audio (crash courses). Read the notes just to grasp the context and then summarize it into a mind map or in an outline format. Use that to revise as many times as you want.
- Timetable. Find the best time of the day that works for you (and duration). Do nighttime, early mornings, or afternoons work best for you? How long per study session (3hours straight up or an hour at a time?) For me, long hours from 22:00 until 1:00/3:00 worked best. For this method, you may need to take a nap before starting.
- Be consistent and disciplined. To accomplish this, you will need to set certain boundaries and get rid/put aside distractions (be it people or things). For consistency, I always took my study materials to the hospital whenever I went for treatment. And if I was too weary to study, I would just watch crash courses.
- Lastly, test yourself before going for an actual test/exam/assessment. I used previous question papers, tutorials, and relevant quizzes from textbooks and online resources. Use the internet wisely. All the best.