By Conor Maxwell
Don’t let the stress get to you; follow our 6 effective study tips to lead you to success in your exam preparation. Each year, on the first Wednesday after the June bank holiday, over 100,000 students in Ireland will sit down for their exams. This day will see the commencement of the Leaving Certificate and Junior Cycle examinations.
Stress levels might be high, and navigating the run-up to exams will prove to be a challenge for some. We have outlined 6 effective study tips to make the best use of your time and make sure you are feeling confident going into your exams.
1. Create a Plan
Creating a plan might be the most vital study tip we have. Planning is half of the battle when it comes to studying and revising. Let’s set the scene:
You sit down at 5 pm to figure out what you are going to study. Picking the subject(s) to the most to make the next few hours easier on yourself and flicking through the book aimlessly, looking for something to scream “STUDY ME”.
Before you know it, an hour has passed, and you are no further along than you were at the start.
This is why creating a study plan is essential. Creating and sticking to a plan will focus your study and allow for a fair amount of time to be given to all topics and all subjects, not just the ones we prefer.
Equally, if there is a particular topic or subject you find difficult, there can be extra time allocated to it.
The plan itself doesn’t have to be a work of art. Draw up a rough timetable onto a blank piece of paper, or keep a list on your phone. Whatever works for you.
Make sure all your other commitments, like your job or training sessions, are factored in as well. It can be all too convenient that your hour for biology revision just happens to fall at the same time as your football training! Creating a plan is only half the battle, though; the most important thing is that you stick to it. This is what makes it an effective study tip.
If you feel too disorganised to create a study plan, check out our ‘tips to help your teenager get organised’ blog to help you.
2. Engage yourself
We can’t stress this enough. You need to actively engage your mind. Putting in the hours for study can be challenging. It is important that the way in which you approach your study keeps you engaged.
Sitting at your desk, reading paragraphs from your textbook or notes copy might work for a short amount of time, but you’re going to get bored quickly. You need to make sure you’re actively engaged in your study.
Here are a couple of quick tips for this:
- Study in short blocks to keep your focus levels high.
- Switch the subjects you are often studying or build a number of subjects into your study plan. This will keep your study from getting repetitive and exercise your brain more.
- Vary the methods you use to study. Yes, creating and studying flashcards can be great, but doing this over and over again can become tedious. Is there another method you could apply?
3. Find What Works For You
When studying, it is important to find methods which both work and don’t work for you. There is no point in spending hours making flashcards for each of your subjects if you find it is of no benefit to you.
So, spend some time trying a few different methods out and stick with what you know works for you. Below are some different study strategies to try:
– Flashcards: Flashcards are a proven effective study method. Not only will writing down crucial information on cards help you remember it, but the vibrant colours will also stimulate and engage your brain, making it easier for the information to sink in.
– Mind Maps: Mind maps can be an excellent study aid, not only because of the visual aspects but through content association. When creating mind maps, you are connecting words, concepts and ideas via branches. This should enable you to recall more information later on by associating the words you linked with one another.
– Be the teacher: One of the most under-utilized study approaches by students is the ‘be the teacher’ approach. The benefits this method has are well documented and are referred to as the ‘protégé effect’. The protégé effect is a psychological phenomenon where teaching, pretending to teach, or preparing to teach information to others helps a person learn that information. So, round up your unsuspecting siblings or a group of your friends, and master a topic by teaching it to them.
– Record yourself: When it comes to revising, self-recording comes into its own. Record yourself using voice notes or the camera feature explaining the information, essentially taking on the role of both teacher and student. By listening back to your ‘lesson,’ you can consolidate your understanding of the material or spot any areas you feel you may need to revisit or need some help with.
4. Practice on Old Exam Papers
Another effective study tip is to practice prior papers over and over (and over!) again.
The same kind of questions tends to appear therefore knowing the papers and the associated marking schemes, from front to back and inside out, is the greatest way to prepare. All past exam papers are readily available on the examinations website.
5. Stay Up To Date with Changes to the Papers
We don’t know what will happen each year, and because of this, the Department of Education has issued a number of adjustments which will be implemented on an exam paper. The changes are designed to give students more choice & a fair chance to succeed.
You can only do your best, and exams, as stressful as they may be, are not the be-all and end-all.
5. Look After Yourself
The final tip we have is that it is essential that you look after both your physical and mental well-being while you study. There are several things you can do to help:
Sleep: Having a good night’s sleep will mean you are feeling rested and full of energy for the study you take part in.
Aim for 8 hours of sleep, and if you are feeling tired, don’t be afraid to rest or take a nap. It could be the perfect recharge you need to get back on top of your game.
Eat well: When studying for exams, a good diet can take a backseat, but the schedule of exams coming up in June means that endurance is pivotal, which means having a good diet is important.
Completing exams that can take up to three hours, coupled with the fact that there may be more than one in a day, means you need endurance. Ensuring you have the right food and drink will mean you are energised, alert and ready to tackle the exams head-on.
Schedule time off: Everyone’s study plan will look different. Students will choose what works best for them. What won’t work is studying for hours upon hours on end. You will end up burnt out.
Schedule regular breaks. Take this time to clear your head, rest and catch up with friends and family. You will feel the benefit of it.
Stay active: One of the most common things I hear students say in the lead-up to exams is that they have put their training to the side until exams are over. The hours spent training could be used for studying instead, but there are significant benefits of exercise that will actually help with the study.
So, rather than give it up, you should stay active. Staying active while studying has been shown to strengthen memory, lead to better concentration and increase energy levels, all of which will lead to more productive study!
Support: As you get closer to the exams, you may start to feel anxious or overwhelmed. You are not alone in how you feel because there are so many people in the same boat as you.
Don’t suffer in silence. Reach out and chat with someone. It can be a friend, family member or teacher.
We hope these 6 effective study tips help you. The very best of luck with your exam preparation and the exams in June. Remember that your worth isn’t determined by how much work you put in or how many marks you get on a piece of paper.
You can only do your best, and exams, as stressful as they may be, are not the be-all and end-all. There is a lot more to you as a person than your grades. Be kind to yourself and be proud of your accomplishments; you’re doing your best.
By Conor Maxwell
Conor is a Science, Mathematics and Coding teacher in Sandymount Park Educate Together Secondary School. Conor is ICT Coordinator in his school and gives training session to both his students and fellow teachers. He is a certified Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert and Apple Certified Teacher and he believes strongly that when used effectively in the classroom, technology can have a transformational impact on student learning.
Conor has created numerous courses on Wriggle Connect Family to support your digital journey, check out his courses here.