With the turkey now safely tucked away, the last thing on a student's mind is getting back into the flow of revision, serving what seems like a life-sentence in the library, and digesting the mound of textbooks, flashcards and revision notes they've acquired along the way.
But with Boxing Day now in full swing, the back-to-school date is creeping ever nearer, and with exams around the corner, there's still plenty you can do to work smart, stay prepared, and make sure you still have time for family, friends and fun this holiday.
So what are some of the pitfalls that many students face with their revision techniques?
Cramming - When those carefully planned timetables go out the window, (because plans get in the way, note-taking takes longer than expected or it's just how you’ve always done it) leaving everything until the last minute is risky business for exams. Of course, refreshing your memory is invaluable over the exam period, especially when you can be studying for multiple subjects at once, but the key is to make sure that knowledge is both understood, and with the ability to recall it at any point in any given situation. Consolidating knowledge through repetition can turn short-term into longer-term memory, and give you the winning formula of deep understanding coupled with a refreshed memory.
The relaxation guilt - This happens when students feel so overwhelmed with their workload, that they factor in next to no time for relaxation. Although it may seem like this is the best way to maximise study-time, it's not the best way to work smart. You can quickly become exhausted, not working to your full potential, and as a result, let your memory, motivation and concentration slip. It's much healthier to take regular breaks, but the one thing to stress the most is to actually enjoy them. Countless times I can recall sitting through a 20-minute episode of my favourite show as a well-deserved ‘break’, yet doing so with my laptop on my knee as I felt too guilty to pause. The result was that I would neither fully relax and have the break I desperately needed, nor would I get any further with revision. Our advice: Enjoy it, be indulgent, and really make sure you make the most of ‘you’ time. Come back recharged, refreshed, and ready to tackle the next hour’s revision.
Waiting for 'the fear' - If you've not come across this phenomenon before, that's probably a good indicator that you are organised. Leaving work until the adrenaline is pumping, deadlines are fast-approaching, and there’s no time for procrastination, the fear can often rear its head, and act as a terrifying reality check to power through the work pile. As successful as this can be, there's no saying when this will happen, and if there will be enough time to complete work to a high standard. Instead, try sticking to realistic daily goals. Reassess as you go along (rather than roll-over anything you don’t cover), take frequent breaks, and try some of our top revision tips...
SMHW Revision Tips:
- Lists - Take note of every topic that needs to be covered
- Calendar - Make a timetable of daily revision. Focus on just a few topics a day rather than flicking between multiple. Factor in note-taking time and separate learning time.
- Notes - Make the first draft detailed, thorough, and explanatory (see our blog post on effective note-taking strategies)
- Condense - With each revision of notes, shorten them, abbreviate, but recall all the original details
- Guilt-free breaks - Exercise is a great way to clear your mind, stay healthy, and start the day on a positive. This will put you in the right frame of mind to start a full day's work, and will do no damage to you in the meantime. Whether it's a dog walk, quick jog or your favourite hobby, having a physical release is so important when your mind is under so much pressure.
- Eat right - Staying healthy is so important over long exam periods, but it’s important to not deprive yourself. Eat healthy, nourishing foods that are filling, substantial, and won't leave you craving sugary snacks at every opportunity. Having said that, allow yourself a treat - Exams don’t last forever and the saying ‘everything in moderation’ can be a life saver when cravings kick in.
- Limit your spare time - Have a break by playing an instrument, calling a friend, watching a short TV Show, or cooking. Do whatever you enjoy and find relaxing. Be strict, and stick to your allotted ‘break’ time - Just really make the most of it! Whether you work better by taking a whole day off, then having a full day of work ahead, or by splitting up your day into chunks of work and play, tailor your timetable to make you work smart, not just hard.
Exams are undoubtedly one of the most stressful periods that students have to face during their academic life, and everyone deals with them in completely different ways. By staying organised, having clearly laid out daily goals, and keeping revision in manageable chunks of short-burst learning, it’d possible to crack the formula, and rock up prepared not panicked to these January exams.