Exams are a necessary evil. They allow lecturers to check whether you understood the content covered in the course and they can show employers some of your strengths. Believe it or not, but they are also beneficial for you too. You can find out how well you knew the topic as you are tested on your ability to be able to explain everything in your own words (rather than with the help of google!), which will increase the depth of your understanding of the topic too.
Now we’ve covered why exams are so important, we can cover some revision tips and tricks to help you ace your exams!
1. Start your revision now
You’ve probably heard this before but its true! The learning curve shows that when information is practiced and repeated frequently, we remember the information better over time. On the contrary, the forgetting curve shows that when information is not practiced and repeated frequently, we begin to forget the information quite quickly. So, if you start your revision now, you’ve got more time to practice and repeat the information giving you a better chance of remembering what you learnt during the exam.
2. Space out your revision
Don’t try and cram all the information into your brain at once! The spacing effect suggests that you remember more information when your studying is spaced out (e.g. over a month) rather than mass studying (e.g. staying up all night before the exam). This is because your brain has the time to encode small bits of information into your long-term memory, rather than trying to encode lots of information into your short-term memory in one go.
3. Test yourself
Most people don’t like doing exams, let alone practicing exams but this is an easy and effective method of seeing what you already know and what topics you should focus on more. Plus, it can give you an idea of how well you might perform in the exam and if you’re not happy with the result, you still have time to revise and practice again. Students who test themselves perform better than students who do not.
For many of you, this will be your first time doing a take home exam and you may not have been received any practice exam questions, so try making your own questions and answering them yourself. Who knows maybe a similar question to one you created may appear on your exam!
4. Focus on the key points
Although it may feel like remembering every single word in a textbook is the best way to get a good grade, its much better to focus on remembering the key points made and understanding it in your own terms. This is because learning and understanding the key points involves deep learning and this understanding allows us to be able to explain it in our own terms. Whereas, repetitively reading and/or writing every piece of information you were taught is a form of shallow learning, where you are focusing on remembering the information rather than understanding it. This makes it more difficult for you to recall the information, especially when you are under pressure in an exam.
5. Summarise the information in your own words
Writing out what you have learnt in your own words shows that you have understood the information and shows that you are able to reconstruct the information you have learnt. This will boost your confidence and calm your nerves in the exam. Even in take home exams, where you have access to your notes, you may not have the time to copy notes during an exam. Therefore, practice writing everything in your own words so you are best prepared.
6. Learn the difficult stuff first
It can be tempting to put off the things you find difficult until last because it’s much easier to learn information you already understand, than trying to understand new information and then learn it too. However, the primacy effect suggests that we are better at recalling information that is shown to us first than information that is shown to us during the middle or end of revision. Therefore, if you start with the difficult stuff, you’re more likely to remember it! Additionally, its a great idea to recap everything you’ve learnt at the end of a revision session as the recency effect also suggests that we’re good at remember information that was most recently shown to us too.
7. Plan to complete your exam in the same place that you revise
Try and complete your studies in the same location, whether that be at a desk, on the sofa or even in your garden! Context-dependent memory suggests that we are better at remembering information when our environment is the same when we are learning the information and recalling it. This means that you will be better at remembering information if you revise and take the exam in the same location. This could be a big benefit for take home exams where you can control your environment! If this isn’t possible, then try to imagine yourself in the same environment as when you were revising as this can help your memory too!
We hope that these tips and tricks will help make revision easier and we wish you all the best of luck with your exams!