With her final exams rapidly approaching, Casey knew that she desperately needed to start studying. However, with everything that was going on in her life, she was finding it hard to concentrate…
After recently breaking up with her boyfriend, receiving a huge repair bill for her car, and arguing with her father yet again, Casey was finding it difficult to focus on what she needed to do.
Instead of revising her notes, she often found herself spending hours on facebook or watching random videos on YouTube. This made her feel even more guilty as deep down, she knew she was procrastinating and wasting valuable time.
Finally, one morning she decided that enough was enough, and made the decision to get back on track.
Here’s what she did…
Step 1: Find Your Why
Casey’s first step was to sit down and think about why she was really doing her course. Her ultimate goal was to become a pharmacist, so to remind herself of this, Casey created a poster that included a picture of a pharmacist and the words “I Am A Pharmacist” in bold print.
She then stuck this picture to the ceiling above her bed so that it was the first thing she saw every morning, and the last thing she saw when she went to sleep. This helped her to get moving each day and focus on what she really wanted from life.
Step 2: Exercise In Moderation
Next, Casey made the decision to incorporate some simple exercise into her daily routine. Every morning, she put on her headphones and listened to her favourite playlist while going for a brisk jog around the local park.
Instead of pushing herself too hard and feeling exhausted, Casey just focused on getting her body moving, her heart pumping, and clearing her head as a great way to start the day.
Step 3: Create A Positive Work Environment
When Casey looked around her room, she realised that it was dark, stuffy and messy. She also noticed that this was a good reflection of how her mind was feeling.
Rather than falling into the trap of using “cleaning” as a reason to procrastinate for two days, Casey time-boxed her clean up activities and gave herself an hour to tidy up her study space.
She opened up the curtains to let the light in. Opened the windows to get some fresh air, and cleared the junk off her floor and bed. This had an immediate and surprising impact on her state of mind and attitude to her studies.
Step 4: Use Study Sessions
Now that she felt better about her physical surroundings, Casey made the decision that instead of trying to study all day, she would study in focused 25 minute blocks.
Before starting a study session, Casey switched her mobile to silent and put it in her bag. She also unplugged her Internet connection so she wouldn’t get distracted by email, facebook, or twitter.
Next, Casey grabbed a kitchen timer and dialed up 25 minutes for her study session. Once the timer started, she focused entirely on what she had to do to revise for her next exam.
She also kept a blank sheet of paper on her desk, which she used as a “Distraction Catcher”. If she thought of something she needed to do while she was studying, she just jotted it down on her Distraction Catcher so that she could deal with it later. This helped her to avoid distraction and stay focused.
Step 5: Take Regular Brain Breaks
At the end of each study session, Casey would have a 5 minute break to grab a drink or go to the bathroom. She would then kick off another session.
After completing four study sessions, Casey would then take a complete break for half hour. During this longer break, she would check her phone, go for a walk or have something to eat.
Step 6: Use Auditory Learning
One of Casey’s friends told her that the recordings of all their lectures were available online. Casey downloaded the recordings and listened to them while she was driving.
She found this was a great way to make use of her commute time, and also a fantastic way to get an overview of what had been covered during the semester.
Step 7: Use Visual Learning
As Casey reviewed her lecture notes, she focused on understanding the material rather than simply trying to memorise it. One visual technique that helped with this was to create a mind map for each of the topics she was studying.
Casey would review her own notes and then create a mindmap using the Freemind software to explain the concepts in her own words. She would then compare her mind map to her notes, and add in anything that she had missed out.
Step 8: Use Kinesthetic Learning
Casey also discovered that she enjoyed learning by “doing”. So she organized with a few friends to have a group study session. During this session, they took it in turns to present a mini lecture on a specific topic.
At the end of the mini lecture, they would ask each other questions which further enhanced everyone’s understanding. Casey found that the ideas that came up during these discussion really stayed with her.
She also realised that the people she spent time with had a HUGE impact on her own attitude, and made a conscious decision to spend more time with her friends who were working hard and trying to do well.
Step 9: Get Help Sooner Rather Than Later
Occasionally Casey came across a concept or question she didn’t understand. Rather than wasting time trying to figure out everything for herself, Casey made the decision to get help as quickly as possible. She collated her questions and arranged to see her tutor or lecturer as soon as they were available.
Instead of feeling bad about having a lot of questions, Casey focused on getting as much information as she could to help her prepare for her exams.
Step 10: Practice Specifically For Each Exam
As her exams got closer, Casey focused on practicing exactly what she would need to do in each of her exams.
For her essay based exams, she used her study sessions to write non-stop for 25 minutes. For her problem based exams, she completed as many practice questions as she could during her session.
The more she practiced exactly what she was going to do in her upcoming exams the more confident she became.
After getting back on track, organising her study sessions and working hard, Casey felt much better about her exams. She realised that preparation really is the cure for nervousness.
With a solid preparation under her belt, and a positive mental attitude, Casey was ready to blitz her exams…
So if you have exams coming up sometime this year, I encourage you to use these 10 steps to clarify your goals, develop a positive mental attitude, improve your environment, optimise your preparation, and make your academic dreams a reality!
Question: What is your single best exam preparation tip?