Writer: Jasmine Qawiemah Leong, Roshween Riar
Edited by Vadim Audy
We’re guessing you clicked on this article because you’re a student who is in need of – or simply wanting to explore – some study tips. Correct? If you’re panicking about the upcoming examinations, don’t! You’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll break down some of our favourite study hacks. We would also like to remind you that not all these tips will suit YOUR study style: everyone is different and what works best for your brain when it comes to learning might not be the same for all subjects.
Past papers, past papers, past papers
Notice the repetition used in the title for this paragraph: it was done deliberately to emphasise that doing multiple past papers is a great revision tool. There are loads of websites where you can get your hands on past papers from previous years in each subject. Some of you might already be familiar with Save My Exams, Papa Cambridge or others.
Here are a few reasons as to why you should really utilise past papers: they are great for active recall and an excellent way to expose yourself to actual exam-style questions. Practising your knowledge on past paper questions and referencing your answer to a mark scheme teaches you the best way to answer the paper based on the exam board’s expectations. Plus, you can do the papers under timed conditions just as in a real exam to train yourself to write against the clock. As you do more past papers you might even notice trends in questions, such as which one comes up more or which one comes up less frequently.
However, we would also like to add a little warning to this tip: as easy as it is to predict what you think will come out in the mock oractual exam, which could lead you to spending most of your time and energy on studying or memorising mark schemes of predicted topics, DON’T DO THAT. Not only will it lower your chances of getting great grades if unpredicted questions do come up, but will also count as cheating in the mocks and will be very unfair on your classmates.
The power of flashcards
We are sure you are familiar with Quizlet, the free website that allows students to create their own flashcards or to go through flashcards made by others on a variety of subjects. This study method is great for remembering subject content which is a method of retrieving information from memory after learning to increase long term memory of the knowledge. This would include testing yourself with questions without being reminded of the information. This combats passive learning which is when you listen or read material without reflecting, retrieving or reviewing the information later, which does not reinforce understanding or long term memory.
But as Quizlet is not specific to any exam board, you may not find exactly what you are looking for on there. Or, if you did find something similar to what you need, it may not be the same as how the syllabus puts it. So make sure to always fact check flashcards if you’re using someone else’s and if you’re not sure of the facts they are using! There are also other methods for this form of active recall. You could use a similar online flashcard website, Kahoot, Quizizz or hand write your own flashcards. You can easily get pre-cut flashcards from bookstores and stationary stores or even online.
Do what matters to you
“Taking pretty notes are a waste of time”
We don’t know about you but we’ve heard this comment many, many times. While taking visually pleasing notes may take up more time, that does not necessarily mean they are useless or a waste of time. Taking notes that soothe your eyes may give a sense of satisfaction with a splash of dopamine when it comes to studying. It may also make it easier for you to refer back to them in the future. If taking colourful notes works for you, go for it! Because if you’re procrastinating, thinking about how much better your notebooks might look with a certain highlighter you’re going to be spending more time thinking about that rather than processing any information you’re writing down. Just don’t spend too much time on this: the aesthetics of your notes are meant to help you learn, not be the main focus of the whole thing. And if someone were to tell you “your notes are just pretty and not useful”, always remember that not all study styles work for everyone and what works for you might not work for them.
Study in groups but no chit-chat!
It’s a great idea to study with friends and classmates who are battling through the same subjects as you as it creates this support system that reminds you guys that you’re all in it together while also having the opportunity to share information or to test each other. A really effective way for group study sessions to be beneficial is to each individually learn a different topic or chapter in the subject and coming together later on to collaboratively exchange what you’ve learnt.
But we all know once you’re with your friends it’s easy to get off topic and start talking about something totally unrelated to the subject you were meant to be discussing. Of course, it’s good to take breaks and talk about other stuff once in a while between study sessions but resist the temptation to keep talking and forget about studying. Not only will this waste your time but also the time of those you are studying with.
Find good places to study
It’s easy to get bored when you’ve been constantly studying in only one spot for a prolonged period of time. Boredom really gets in the way of focus and your ability to do your best. Instead of keeping to one study spot, find different possible places for you to settle down comfortably for a study session. This variety will stop you from getting bored and will give you different places to choose from depending on your mood. This will be a good chance to visit your favourite cafe where you can do some hard core maths.
We have created a list for the ideal study spots based on our experiences as students:
- Somewhere with good temperature and ventilation
- Somewhere you will easily have access to food and drinks
- Somewhere where you will have access to a nearby washroom
- A place with few to no distractions
- A place which won’t take a troublesome journey to get to
Oscillate between your subjects
We all have a subject we like best, excel at the most, like the least and are weakest at, and sometimes, studying for some of them gets tough and demotivating. But, alas, you still need to study it. The best way to do this, from our experience, is to shift between a subject you like more and a subject you like less. By doing a subject you’re more comfortable with, you’re going to build up your confidence in studying. That means you’ll bring this confidence with you when you start diving into the subject you like less. Doing the subject you like more will also give your brain a good break after the tougher subject. A proven way to avoid severe burn out!
Understand, don’t memorise
It may feel easier to memorise stuff regarding a topic rather than trying to grasp it fully when studying but trust us when we say that sometimes this can lead to burn-out really quickly. Instead, make an effort to try to understand the subject. This will solidify critical thinking, making it easier to approach harder questions as it will make it easier for you to combine cross topics if a question requires it.
This will be beneficial not just for the exam but for your understanding of the world around you as well!
Don’t keep to one learner method
Visual, auditory, kinesthetic and reading and writing – the four “categories” for learning that you’ve probably already slotted yourself into. THIS IS A MYTH! While you may believe that you can only work well by limiting yourself to one category, it is better to branch out and experiment.
And there you have it folks, a list of exam preparation tools that you may find very useful. We hope that these few tips and tricks will help you with your revision journey and perhaps have inspired you to get some studying done today! Good luck in your exams everybody!