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3 strategies to prepare for exams, from someone who hasn’t got time

By Emma 10 Apr 2019
Girl at desk in Library working on laptop.

Preparing for exams can seem like a daunting task, especially when your calendar is so full of commitments you have to schedule in lunch so you remember to eat.

This year, I’ve started full-time work while studying three subjects. I’ve also taken up touch football and am squeezing in as many much-needed social catch ups with friends as I possibly can. It’s fair to say that exams have been the last thing on my mind, let alone actually finding the time to prepare for them.

I have been guilty of taking time for granted in the past. I admit, I have watched six weeks of lectures in the three days before an exam, just because I had the luxury of that uninterrupted time to lock myself away and get my preparation done. But now, having to share my time between all my new commitments, the struggle for prep time has become real and I’ve decided I’m going to have to get seriously proactive about my exam preparation.

Picture of a clock on top of a pile of books.

Yeah I know, exams are aggggeeess away, but I’m slowly learning that when you’ve got a busy schedule, forward planning is the key to success.

Here are the three strategies I’m going to use to help me prepare for my exams:

1. Accountability

I’m going to book in ‘pop quizzes’ with a friend or family member each week to test me on what I’ve learnt. This keeps me accountable to actually do my study. Also, I’m going to let those around me know when I plan to study. For example, I plan to get up half an hour early to fit in a little bit of study before work each day, and my family know that, so having this accountability will hopefully get me out of bed.

2. Filtering down

I’m going to try to summarise notes in my own words and then summarise again and again, so I gradually filter down my notes to just the bare minimum. Hopefully, by the time exams roll around my revision notes won’t seem so overwhelming because they’ll fit on just a few sheets of paper. I’m also going to try explaining the page of summarised notes to a family member, to make sure I actually understand what I’ve learnt.

3. Sensory study

I’m going to trial making my exam study a complete sensory experience, with sounds and smells that are only for study time. Research shows this kind of sensory association can help you store and unlock information as you study. I’ll be prepping to the sounds of Taylor Swift’s 1989 and the smell of my favourite rose-scented candle. Hopefully all of the important information will come flooding back when I mimic these experiences just before my exams! For more memory tricks, check out this great webinar, Memory hacks for learning.

Picture of a birds eye view of a study materials layout.

Fingers crossed, using these strategies will help make my exam prep easier and allow me to make the most of my limited time.

Why not give these strategies a go this semester with me?

Once you've finished preparing for your exams, make sure you have all the exam essentials you'll need to succeed!

Author profile of Emma