Exam Tips and Hints

Posted: May 15, 2011 in Tips and Hints
Tags: , , , ,

With end of semester exams on the way, it’s time for a few exam hints to get you through the study period so you don’t have to resort to this:

There are many ways to tackle an exam: this is not one of them!

Here’s a few that have helped us through the years:

o1 :: Write notes in your own handwriting: it sounds simple, but this is a fantastic way of facilitating your memory. For some people, re-writing out your entire compliment of notes (combining lecture notes, your notes and extra tid bits) is the best way to remember everything. For others, you may want to try something less extreme.

o2 :: If repeatedly writing something over and over again won’t help, write your notes in a new format. You may need to do something more engaging e.g. write an acronym.

o3 :: Are you a visual learner? Take over the kitchen and bathroom with hand-made posters. If you make them yourself you will remember the content better e.g. write out things like the process of photosynthesis and stick it up on your kitchen wall. That way you’ll revise it every morning over breakfast.

o4 ::  Make your own flashcards.

o5 :: Get together with a friend and each of you draw a diagram but leave the labels out. Swap with your friend and see which areas you can fill in.

o6 :: Colour your notes: Relating information to colours will help you remembering.

o7 :: Take short breaks for exercising or doing something fun. When you are relaxing your give your brain some time to encode what you just learned and put it into your long-term memory.

o8 ::  Before you start, clean up your room so that you wont be distracted  (the only time it’s almost fun to clean your room is when you have to study if you don’t)

o9 ::  Utilise your lecturers – they are there to help if you do not understand something. But approach them with organised questions. They will be unable to help you if turn up saying you need help understanding a whole topic.

1o ::  Bouncing ideas off friends can be a great way to learn – but know your strengths. If group work distracts you, work alone.

11 :: Answer lots of practise questions. The only way to truly test your understanding of concepts is to utilise practise exams and questions. The best way to learn is by getting the questions wrong and having to investigate where you made a mistake – so celebrate incorrect answers!

12 :: Don’t forget to revise your prac book – most exams will test you on practical knowledge, or even prac procedures (e.g. what to clean a pipette out with if you are using X chemical).

13 :: Prepare the night before: get all your exam equipment, student card and seat number ready. Arrive nice and early to double-check your seat number and ensure you’re there for reading time. You don’t need the added stress of things going wrong on the day of your exam.

14 :: Sleep! Some people will pull all-nighters the night before the exam. Sleeping and dreaming is actually critical for converting short-term memory into long-term. You will recall more facts after a decent night’s sleep, believe it or not!

15 :: On that note, eat lots, too. Your brain won’t function without food. You may not feel hungry (the adrenaline produced during study will quell your appetite), but your brain won’t power as well on empty.

16 :: Previous themes will give you an idea of what questions will be asked – look out for these in past exams!

  1. Stacy says:

    Colour-coded notes and posters work a charm for me!
    I put up hand drawn posters of the photosynthesis and respiration processes, as well as meiosis before my bio 3/4 exam – in the toilet and on the shower door!!!

    Does anyone know where to get practise questions besides the textbooks?


    • All subjects are different and the other guys may be able to chip in with their experiences: but for me it was always past exams. You can get those from the library (often from the online database), if not your lecturer will probably have a hard copy. Some subjects will have the last 4+ years of exams, so you will start to see trends and repeat questions very quickly!

      For other subjects, your lecturer may give you some to practice. You can go over tutorial questions or sometimes those posed in lectures. For first year bio (at least when I did it) they put up online multiple choice questions. If you’ve run out of avenues, it’s always handy to ask your lecturer – sometimes they will say they have nothing extra for you and to just do over your notes (in which case making up your own questions is a good one). Other times, they will be able to point you in the direction of more.
      – Rhiannon

    • Hey Stacy

      When I did first year bio I often made diagrams (05). We also had a few questions at the back of the tutorial book. If they still have the long answer question section make sure you submit a draft on AIRport to get feedback.

      – Kimmy

  2. SJ says:

    I totally agree with 14 and 15 (my favourites!). These are always forgotten or neglected during exam period and I have come to realise the importance of sleeping and eating well!

    An interesting point to note, some people (including me) are audio and/or tactile learners. To understand hard concepts, I sometimes have to say out loud as if I am explaining it to an invisible audience or there are times where I have to act it out!

    • Very true – thanks for pointing those out!
      – Rhiannon

    • Hey SJ,

      I’m glad to here I’m not the only person who does this. I often tell my dog all the concepts I’ve learnt. It helps me see where there are gaps in my knowledge. For our anatomy classes, my friends and I often make a deliberate movement e.g. bending our arms, to see which muscles are involved (we even do this during exams and tests so it’s quite funny to watch).

      – Kimmy

  3. chanel says:

    I colour code, I list, I keep a close diary. My favorite way of defining concepts or planning essay responses is to write every though that comes into my mind on a sticky note. I stick the sticky notes onto a surface such as a window and pace to get the thoughts pumping, when brainstorming is over I sort out the post-it notes into groups and cull the ideas I no longer like.
    this was how I approached English, but I guess university science is different. I’m a big fan of cutting and pasting. For example for biology, a day or so after each lecture I pull out the last lecture slides and cut out the slides and paste them into my scrap book. This forces me to read my annotations and expand on them in the scrap book. If I have fallen asleep or lost focus in the lecture I can tell by my illegible handwritten scrawl, it’s a wake up call to listen to the lecture again. This has worked well for biology, but I have lagged greatly in chemistry. I plan to go through the Chem Cal modules in the next two weeks so i refresh the important topics. They give nice fast feedback and the images really help me to understand.
    I made my exam to do list tonight and the enormity of it all scared me a bit. But i guess its all a part of being a student, it has just been hard adjusting from VCE to university, it really is different.

    • hi chanel

      everyone feels the same when it comes time to do their first lot of uni exams but it sounds to me like you’re really organised and that’s the first step to doing well (yep, i know how lame that sounds). keep up the good work and rember to give yourself a break every now and then to recharge

      – kimmy

  4. Tania says:

    Keeping up and not procrastinating (too) much is one of the best ways to get ready for your exams. It sounds simple, but we all know how easily students get distracted with Facebook, YT etc.

    One of my friends also goes through the lecture content and makes a list of questions that we all go through together as a group and try and answer. You learn not only be listening but allso by teaching others.

    Oh, and Science people have been known to be a little bit lazy. If you go through all the past exams available you will see questions start to repeat itself soon or later. 😀

    • Very useful tips – thanks for contributing!

      It’s interesting you mentioned procrastination: stay tuned for my next post on beating procrastination (wrote in a bought of procrastination yesterday) scheduled to be published at lunch time today!
      – Rhiannon

  5. Kylie T. says:

    For myself, if I need to memorise equations and such, I first write out a summary sheet on blank A4 paper and then rewrite it again and again on another piece of paper and check that I got it correct. Of course, you will need to practice more every few hours, days or minutes. Guaranteed to memorise everything within three days.

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