Hey, so usually I’m very early and prepared for exams but this time for my Christmas exams, I’ve left EVERYTHING until 5 days before the exams! There’s too much to memorise in such a short amount of time! And I have a busy schedule so I can’t do revision 24/7! Any tips?
Pssst! The best tip for cramming is actually to not cram!!
But if you have to, here are some tips that actually work! 💲💲
Throw out all distractions, and palm off as many commitments as possible to others.
You’re a student at the end of the day. That’s your job, so do it properly. Before you are a retail worker, a movie buddy, a chauffeur for your siblings, or a studyblr blog manager, you are a student.
You don’t have a lot of time left, so give your phone to your parents or someone you trust to keep it away from you. Add StayFocusd to Chrome and turn on the nuclear option so that you only use the internet for study purposes. Get your friends/siblings or parents to do chores for you and make it up to them after the exams.
Know what’s likely to be tested.
This is much more important than anything else. There are going to be important concepts that you learn that are not going to be tested. No point studying for something that won’t be asked about. Pro tip: think about the homework exercises that you got and what they tested.
Just as a general rule, the most basic things such as definitions (skim read these), as well as the most complex cases, will not comprise the majority of the test. For complex cases, you can’t just skim read them, but you should get an idea of the skills/processes that you need to solve them.
For example, when learning about different diseases, the point is to make you a practitioner which can deal with the most dangerous (life-threatening, sight-threatening no matter how rare), most common (>1% prevalence) and uncommon (0.1-1%) diseases, which will comprise the majority of the points. The rare conditions (<0.1%) will either be right near the end of the test or be bonus point questions. The other thing is that if even if they do ask about rare conditions, it’s going to be a distinguishing sign, or it is related to a more common condition. And the question they most likely ask is “what further tests would you do to aid diagnosis?” which relates to basic concepts of disease diagnosis.
Also, just keep in mind that there are university exams which literally ask you minutae in the multiple choice questions. For example disease exams have asked things like “What percentage of people with diabetes mellitus have diabetic retinopathy?” and have four really similar options for percentages. You just have to had studied that, and odds are you won’t be able to remember a hundred different stats prior to your exam if you’re cramming (just don’t cram, you literally can’t cram for uni exams).
Divide your time appropriately (not necessarily equally) between understanding the course content and doing practice exercises/ examination style questions.
If you just launch into doing practice questions without having some sort of knowledge, you’ll get stuck on a lot of questions, get the questions wrong, and need to refer back to your textbooks and do a lot of searching and flipping through pages, which wastes your time.
So start off by going through the concepts first so that you know enough not to constantly look back. You should try to allocate as much time as possible actually answering questions though, because there’s no better way to prepare for an exam than to do exam-style questions.
Step-by-step: Count the number of chapters/lectures you need to cover, and divide it equally amongst about 40% of the time that you have left, so that you know how long to spend revising each lecture.
Focus on one exam at a time, and study the hardest concepts which require a lot of reasoning and understanding in the morning.
Studying in the morning allows you to be at your freshest and most switched on. If you’re strapped for time, focus on being able to explain things. Explain it to your parents, siblings, or gudetama plushie. Explaining is an exercise in summarising which tests your ability to understand causative elements and how they relate to different consequences.
Ask questions to yourself whilst studying.
This tests your knowledge, and is a good way for you to check what you know and what you don’t know. When you’re cramming, you likely don’t have someone to help you at such short notice, so you need to be that person for yourself. Plus, it primes you to think like an examiner/exam paper - you’ll start realising what’s likely to be tested, which helps you narrow down what to study, and it helps you for the next part: practice questions.
For example: geometry - to give a simple example, yes, you need to know what an angle bisector is, but are they likely in the exam to ask you to “Write the definition of an angle bisector.”? No. They’re going to get you to actually get your tools and bisect one. 90% of the time, you don’t need to know a definition in maths - it’s only the foundation knowledge so that you can answer actual questions.
For example: medical/health science. Yes, you need to know differentials for diseases, but are they going to ask you to “List the differentials for ___”? No, that’s too simple, they’re obviously going to get you to eliminate a differential by considering the similarities and differences in signs and symptoms. So it’s much better to spend your time learning which conditions have similarities and what the distinguishing signs are e.g. Fuch’s Uveitis has stellate KP that is scattered all around the corneal endothelium - all other forms of uveitis pretty much have the KP scattered in Arlt’s triangle because of the convection currents in the anterior chamber.
Chunk information together.
This is a much more effective way of summarising all the information you need to study. Think of your memory as a mind map or a expandable list or like a set of folders in My Documents. You should try and sort things into topics and sub-topics that you can simply expand by just thinking of the title of that sub-topic.
Step-by-Step: Cover up the information you’ve written under the sub-topics, and then try to recall it all just by looking at the title (acts as a trigger word).
- Topic/Chapter/Lecture 1
- “Sub-Topic 1″ #Try and recall all the info below by reading this#
- #cover up this information#
- #cover up this information#
#cover up this information#
- “Sub-Topic 2″
- “Sub-Topic 3″
Not only does this 1) actually test your knowledge through a smaller form of the blank paper method (previously written about here) but it also 2) allows you to chunk and remember massive amounts of information just by seeing the trigger word (the title of the topic).
It helps to make a mental note of how many points were written for each section.
Tie everything together with a mnemonic.
Of course, the issue now is that if you don’t have the trigger word then you won’t remember that chunk of information - so you need to counter that by using a mnemonic to remember the top level of topics and link everything together in your mind.
Using this method is what I’ve always done to remember large chunks of information. That way, when key words turn up in the question, you will be able to remember all the information under that category and hence answer the question flawlessly.
Practice by doing one exercise for each type of question.
Particularly useful for studying for maths/science. You just need to know how to solve one question in the set to know how to solve the rest. Pick the hardest question at the end of the question set because it will involve the most skills to complete.
Study in a different order. Study your concepts in reverse.
Make sure you change things up, because you don’t want your brain to only be able to answer a question if all the topics lead on to the next. The questions in the exam are going to be covering all your topics in all different orders. Jump from Chapter 3 to Chapter 5 to Chapter 2, and do the same for the sub-topics.
Secondly, study concepts in reverse because this is how exams test who really knows their stuff. For example: instead of learning that Disease A has Symptoms 1, 2, and 3, force your brain to think “What Disease has Symptoms 1, 2, and 3?” - because this is exactly the type of question that comes up in exams.
Drink water, take breaks, sleep.
Still needs to be done to maximise your productivity. Not taking breaks will make you less efficient and less effective. You also said that you have other commitments so try to get that stuff done in the short breaks between your study sessions so that you can be productive. Take a 5-10 minute break every hour and get out of your seat and stretch. Sleep is essential for our brains to consolidate information and retain information.
Best of luck!!
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