As January draws to a close, the exams are just around the corner. For many, this means stress, working through the night and coffee consumption that is certainly no longer healthy. But how do you actually get through the exam phase?
We have a few tips for you so that you don’t have to spend your nights in a haphazard way, so that you come through the exam session well prepared!
- Planning is everything
Before you start with the actual learning, you must first make a plan. Which exams are actually scheduled? In which time intervals do you have to write them and what material will be tested? Do you only have to recognize the material, like in a checkbox exam, do you have to write an entire essay or solve tasks? Think about what exactly is important in the exam and see how much material is there. Then you can divide the material into many small portions and take a certain amount each day. Take a monthly or weekly schedule and cross out the days when you don’t have time to study and also plan a day off per week when you don’t study. On the remaining days, you look at how many topics you can probably manage there, but be realistic. You should study for a maximum of six to seven hours a day.
- Tip: Don’t write down exactly which topic or subject you want to learn and repeat on that day. Just make a list of how many topics are possible on that day so that you can decide for yourself what you want to learn on that day.
- Do you have all the materials?
Check if you have all materials, such as lecture slides, summary, thesis papers or exercise sheets, and compare your documents with those of your fellow students. Often you can also find summaries or old exams at student councils or in internal groups (such as Facebook or Dropbox), it is often worthwhile to have a look there.
- Summarize substance
Before you try to internalize the material, you usually have to bundle and summarize it first. Try out how you can learn best. No matter whether on index cards, summaries on the PC or by hand, on large posters or as a podcast recorded by yourself. Find out what kind of summaries work best for you and then start going through the material.
- Being able to play back material
Make sure that you can not only copy the material, but also play it back. For definitions you can write technical terms on small cards and try to reproduce the definition of the terms by heart. Also try to explain facts or definitions to other people and simply recite what you have learned by heart. You can do this before going to bed, brushing your teeth or even in the car, try to use free time to refresh what you have learned often.
- Applying what you have learned
If you have to apply the material in the exam, do not neglect any exercises. It is not enough to know theoretically how to solve a task, schedule exercises regularly. So you can also check directly whether you have understood the subject matter.
- When can you learn best?
Each of us has a different daily high. Find out for yourself at what time you can work most productively. Personally, I have my daily high from five o’clock in the morning, but if you prefer to sleep in until nine o’clock and then work better, that’s fine too, just as some people don’t get really productive until nine o’clock. Find out for yourself when you can learn best, that’s up to you. Then try to put the main working hours at this high point of the day and use your low points for breaks.
7. Take a break!
The feeling of having learned and mastered everything never occurs! There is always something to repeat or practice, but don’t forget to take breaks, especially in very stressful times. After two to three hours at the latest, you should take a break, stretch your legs, drink a large glass of water and get some fresh air. Don’t plan on more than six or seven hours a day to learn productively, because at some point the air will be out of your system. During the breaks between the learning units, however, you should not spend unnecessary time at the PC or even watch TV. During these breaks your brain is still busy internalizing the learning material, if you add new stimuli, your brain is overstrained. Therefore it is better to open a window, do nothing for the moment, do sports or take a little power nap.
- Reward yourself!
He who learns a lot deserves a reward. This can be a small reward after a productive day of learning, like an episode of your favorite TV show, a free Sunday morning or just an extra hour of sleep. Set regular rewards, large and small, to motivate you. This way you can also set yourself a bigger reward at the end of your exam phase: this can be a trip, a nice dinner, the next holiday or simply the certainty to spend a weekend between couch and fridge without having a bad conscience. Sometimes even a piece of chocolate is enough as a reward!
- Write cheat sheets
Shortly before the exam there are still some things that just won’t go into your head. Write down all the things you can’t remember on a cheat sheet. And then you go through this cheat sheet again and again. On the day of the exam you leave the crib sheet at home of course, because you have internalized these things now that you have gone through it over and over again, so that the crib sheet is now unnecessary.
- Allow yourself to sleep
When time is short and the material does not seem to be manageable, sleep is usually the first thing you save on. But going through the nights and living only on coffee is firstly totally unhealthy and secondly it doesn’t help at all. You need enough sleep to be able to concentrate on your work and also to remember the material. When you are sitting at your desk, completely tired, you will soon find that you can’t think of anything else but how tired you actually are.
Always remember: even the worst and longest exam phase will eventually pass!
We wish you much success for the exam phase and good persistence!