Exam season –  study tips to help you out

It’s exam season. That time when your year comes together in one huge blur of revision and study as you face getting tested on what you have learned through 2016.

NCEA exams begin from November 9, and are all done by Friday December 2. Students taking Cambridge or IB pathways are already underway.   

For some these exams are vital. They may help determine whether you can actually go to university next year, whether you are able to get into that training course you are set on, or even whether you may need to go to Plan B (or C) sooner than you thought.

Studying for and sitting exams is not as easy as it sounds, or as your parents and teachers may think it is. You need to be organised, committed, honest and prepared to put in the time to make your year worthwhile.

Here are some thoughts from SchoolLeaver to help you get through this. 

Get ready and get going

  1. This can be the hardest part. Make sure you have the stuff you need to revise or study before you start. Don’t waste good study time looking for your notes.
  1. Sort yourself a quiet space to study in. Make sure you are comfortable, have good light and you are able to keep the distractions to a minimum.
  1. Sort out what you do know and what you don’t. Try to understand and study the stuff you don’t know.
  1. Start your study with the most important stuff you will need to know. Finish with it too as you will be more likely to remember this.
  1. Know all about your exam timetable and what sort of exams you will be doing – essay-based exams, types, multiple choice questions etc. This is totally your responsibility.

Ways you can study:

  1. Re-reading and writing your notes out again. And again. This is OK for some students but for many it’s as boring as it is useless. You are banking on the exam questions looking just like your teacher’s notes and that’s really unlikely. For every hour you spend writing notes you only actually study for around 12 minutes.

You would be better to…

  1. Review the notes you made the following day, or summarise the notes further into flashcards and test yourself with these, or work with a mate and explain your notes to them.
  1. Help your information and notes stand out and be memorable. Try to use colours in your notes, make your information into pictures you relate to, use highlights, make up mnemonics to remember groups of information. Try to keep these to one sheet of paper.
  1. Try paraphrasing what you need to learn. Putting it in your own words helps lock in in more.
  1. Spend some time studying in a group. Helps you learn what you don’t know you don’t know.
  1. Look over past exam papers, get an idea of what the exam setters are looking for and also what topics are likely to come up again and again. Study these. 

  1. Break you study time up. It’s hard to sit for two hours revising one subject or topic. Instead try to set four 30-minute study sessions, or three 40-minute sessions where you look at different subjects/topics. They call this interleaving and it works best when there is some intersection between subjects. It’s not easy and requires some discipline, and social doesn’t count as a subject change.
  1. Cramming can be really ineffective. Spending hours the night before an exam focusing on that subject alone can make it harder to sort and store information. It can also make you really tired for your exam and really grumpy to be around. Try to study the same information over more frequent but much shorter periods (see above). It’s proven you recall more this way.

Read more:

Studytime New Zealand - useful and interesting info

Good (short) video to watch:

How to study faster & smarter | Study Advice for NCEA | StudyTime NZ