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Isn’t it too early to be thinking about exams?
You’ve barely eased into the university life and I’m already talking about exams. You want to relax and have fun! Besides, assignments are due first (and they’ll come before you know it!).
So what’s the catch?
A friend once told me that those who ace their exams at their university are those who study since day one. Soon, I found it was true. I realised that I did much better in subjects that I paid attention to since week one.
So if you want to ace an exam…
But how do you even start?
First of all, not all your subjects may have exams at the end of the semester. Some will be 100% based on coursework. So check your unit guides carefully and make a note of those that have exams.
Then, have a look at the weight of each exam. Does it count for 30% of your grade? 50%? 70%?
This will make a difference in your study approach throughout the whole semester. You will definitely save more study time for the exam valued at 70% than the one at 30%. On the other hand, if your internal assessments are worth 70% of your grade, you should focus more on those assignments.
Be aware of all these details about each of your subjects from the start. It will save you a lot of stress in the future.
Do your readings every week.
If you are in arts, you will have readings to do outside of class. If you are in business, you will have tutorial questions to do before class.
In every field of study, there will be some kind of ‘homework’ that is mandatory. But, unlike high school, your professors won’t be running after you to check whether you have done your work or not. It is now your responsibility to make sure you actually do it.
Sometimes, required readings are pointed out by lecturers. But, at other times, the implication that you have materials to read is more subtle (for instance, in engineering classes). Again, check your unit guides to check whether you need to refer to any textbooks to help you out throughout the semester.
Once you get to your readings, your assignments will also get easier.
From my experience, many students give up on doing their readings after one or two weeks. I understand this may not seem like a priority at first, especially when assignments start to turn up unexpectedly. After all, you are not exactly graded for readings.
After all, you are not graded for reading the course materials (though there are exceptions). But what you may not realise—until it is too late—is these readings are preparing you for what’s coming up in the exams!
So get your hands on those textbooks (only those that matter—see checklist) and start reading.
Note: it is very important to schedule your readings and study time. Put it in your Google Calendar or something. Readings do take time and you’ll need to go through at least one chapter a week for each of your subjects!
But don’t be scared. Plan ahead. You can always carry it forward to the next week if things don’t go your way.
Reading your materials and textbooks is not enough. Highlighting does not make a difference (backed by science). Taking notes does. And by that, you should take a pen and paper and write what you learnt. This can also apply to your lectures.
I admit I don’t always take notes in lectures, but this happens only if the materials in the textbooks cover the exact same things (hey, psychology!). Depending on how your subjects are taught, learn to adapt.
But I do take notes when I do my readings. It slows down my pace by a lot, but… you want to ace that exam, am I not right?
Have a notebook for each of your subjects (or at least those that have exams) and write what you understand from your readings. Write as you read.
I guarantee, if you apply yourself every week, you’ll be so relaxed during the examination period that you’ll scare your friends! (True story)
It’s important that you stay consistent in doing your readings. Create a routine. You don’t have to complete a whole chapter in one day. Divide your work into small study sessions every day.
Your efforts will reap at the end of the semester!
Don’t get discouraged if you are unable to keep up with your readings as the semester grows more and more hectic. Whether you’re one or three weeks behind, just keep at it. At least, you would have done most of the work for your exams!
What are your tips to ace an exam? Let me know in the comments below!
D. K. Waye.
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