I’ve noticed recently that I’m surrounded by stressed college students, whether it be exam stress (the dreaded winter exams are nigh) or UCAS stress (the deadlines are fast approaching). Luckily for me, I’ve finished off my UCAS application and sent it off to be scrutinised by various admissions tutors. I also have no January exams, so I’m not really feeling the stress to the same extent as my friends who are running around, silently screaming whilst trying not to tear their own hair out. Not that they usually tear other people’s hair out, but that’s not really the point. The point is, stress, though unavoidable as it is, won’t get you very far. You need to be systematic about how you’re handling everything, and everything will sort itself out.
For those of you who have exams, here are my top tips:
1. Start revising early
There’s nothing more fulfilling than realising as you get to an exam that you know everything you’re trying to cram. Cramming doesn’t work as well as long-term revision, believe me. Make sure you give yourself enough time to go through everything at least twice. Repetition is the way to get things ingrained into your head – combine this with your ideal method of revision and you’re a winner for sure.
2. Find your revision technique
For me, as awful as it sounds, it’s just writing things down over and over again. I have a whole filtration process for information: I write it down, then highlight it, and then if I have time I write down the highlighted bits. This is a pretty long process, but it works for me. Try a variety of different things until you find what’s right for you. Some people stick post-it notes everywhere and memorise them. Colours, posters, notes, reading, recording yourself and listening to it as you sleep – just find what makes your brain work best. There is always something for you!
3. Don’t overdo it
You have to look after yourself during exam season. Don’t have sleepless nights of worry; as long as you revise, and do so consistently, you’ll do well. Eat well and give yourself enough rest. Don’t try doing five-hour revision stints unless you know that’s definitely what works for you. Revising and re-learning things is tiring, so make sure you have a drink close by and make sure you’re keeping an eye on the time.
4. Make a revision timetable
Make sure you’re doing regular amounts of revision every day. Studies have shown that your brain peaks after 45 minutes of study, so perhaps work in hour-long stints to ensure that you reach that peak. Give yourself short breaks that you’ll stick to – it’s important that you stick to them so you don’t waste time. I find sticking to a school-like timetable with a couple of hours extra helps me.
5. Don’t panic
When you get into the exam, don’t panic! Someone once said to me that your exam is your time to show off, to show the examiner that you do know what you’re talking about, so exploit that. Know the subject really well by studying it all thoroughly, and you’ll do brilliantly. The worst thing you can do is panic, because you won’t know what to write and you’re probably more likely to make a mistake. It’s easier said than done, but be confident in yourself; you’ve worked hard and you deserve a decent grade for it!
And for those of you who are suffering at the hands of UCAS, believe me, I know how you’re feeling. If UCAS was a person, I’m sure I would have really hated them with a passion. The administrative stuff is the most tedious form you’ll ever feel you have to fill in, but once it’s done it’s done and you won’t have to do it again. Do a little bit of it every day so that you reach the deadlines but don’t end up feeling very aggressive towards the website and breaking your computer in an attempt to destroy it. I nearly cried when my UCAS application was sent back to me, but luckily it was only once and only for minor tweakings… minor tweakings in which I had a debate with my head of year about a comma. The things UCAS drives you to.
Just wait until the obsessive email checking starts. Just you wait.