Exams are always a stressful time, and despite what people before me said, I always found it difficult to remain calm and collected. However, like you will, I managed to pull it together, and today I am following my passion in the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program.
Having been welcomed by even more exams, I approached a number of different faculty members to help develop my time management and study style.
Here are a few tips I found to really ease the exam stress.
1. Do past papers early!
Don’t make the mistake of leaving past papers to the last minute. These should be utilized as a practice tool.
They teach you the types and style of questions examiners will ask. The more you practice answering questions, the better. Use them as a starting point for your revision and get your answers checked by your teachers.
2. Declutter your space!
This is one of my favourite tips. Once I started doing this, I found I could really focus on the task at hand. A clean study space is the best space.
3. Make a study plan
Planning your time efficiently is a great starting point. I find having an outline of how you’re going to utilize your time is the best way to get motivated. Sometimes it can be daunting to see how much work is in front of you, but having a daily checklist can drive you to keep moving forward.
Do at least 2 subjects in a day. Changing between the subjects can help your stamina, instead of getting bogged down in one topic. But…
4. …Don’t panic if you don’t stick to it!
Expect things to change, and be ready to stay on a subject longer than anticipated.
5. Learn HOW to study, for YOU.
Are you a visual learner? Do you like to utilize study groups?
You need to figure out what’s best for you.
I’m a visual learner. I like arrows, circling words, and making connections. It’s how I’ve learnt to retain information in a way I can recall on it quickly. In pharmacology, I find drawing out pathways and drawing stars where drugs act works best for me.
Vocal Learners (Study groups)
I have friends however who live by flashcards. Anki, is a free resource that allows you to create your own flashcards and then quizzes you on the information. Best part, you can share them with your friends! Try it for free: https://apps.ankiweb.net/
If you learn by writing, ask yourself broad topic questions, and using notes and other resources answer them intricately to have a story-like answer of your information.
6. Don’t guess what’s on the exam!
Make up questions, but don’t try to predict what they will ask. One of my favourite sayings is “try to know a little about a lot, rather than a lot about a little.”
7. Allow time for sport and free time
Everyone always gives this exam tip. But it’s so important to follow it.
You must allow yourself time to let off steam. Even if you only take your dog for a walk around the block, fresh air and some company will do you a world of good. You’ll find that you will work better and be happier when coming back to your books!
8. Utilize all resources, including teachers.
Teachers are always there and happy to help! They are trained to know exactly what you’re expected to know in the exams, so abuse that knowledge! If they don’t know, they will point you in the right direction.
Take example answers to questions to them and ask them what they would change or how to improve
9. Put the books down.
One of the worst things I see before walking into exams is people with all their notes cramming the last sentence or formula.
Unfortunately, your chances of retention at this point are really low, so you’re better to take the time to calm yourself and go into the exam with a clear head.
10. Read the bloody question
This tip is so important I’ve said it twice. It’s so easy to mistake “which is FALSE” for “which is TRUE”.
When reading the question, underline or highlight the important words.
11. Use Reading Time Wisely
The 15 minutes is crucial to get your mind switched into gear.
I recommend reading the long-answer or essay questions first; this way as you work through multiple-choice, you can get ideas out of the questions and have time for your brain to tick away.
12. Plan what you’re going to write
Take a couple of minutes to dot point what you want to say. This will mean your response is succinct and to the point!
13. Are you answering the question?
A lecturer once explained to me, its nice to hear that you can regurgitate material, but can you logically understand that information and put it in a way that answers a question.
Make sure you answer the question they have given you. If they ask for 2 examples, provide 2 examples. If the question asks you to describe a mechanism, describe the way it happens.
If you can keep calm as you walk in, you’ll have a much greater chance of remembering information. Keep the pathways to the brain clear, and remain positive!