Unless you’re Hermione Granger, chances are exams are your least favourite time of the year. Some students, even the well composed, organised, supposedly mature age student who always somehow seems more together than they actually are, use this time to perfect their baking skills, or to finally sort through the accumulation of dust, water bottles and magazines hidden beneath their bed. Others use it to perfect staring blankly at text book pages.
Exam time tends to bring out people’s personal instant gratification monkey – a cheeky little primate who may try to convince you that tertiary qualifications are less important than running through the entirety of your Netflix account... twice. However, unless you enjoy the feeling of dry mouth, sweaty palms and heart palpitations (who doesn’t), maybe you should try these handy tips to help blow your exam and HSC results out of the water.

Five minutes

Taking that first step to sit down and comb through a trimester’s worth of notes can be daunting, but try to aim for a solid five minutes worth of work. Schedule a time slot every day with no distractions and no excuses, for five minutes. At the very worst, you will have achieved five minutes more study than before, and at the very best, you may find yourself happy to continue. Don’t be disheartened if it takes a few five minute blocks to get yourself into the zone. Take a deep breath and try again. Practicing a minimum of five minutes every day, instead of trying to cram in several months’ worth of last minute learning, will help to keep the panic monsters at bay.

Cater to your learning style

Are highlighters your shining beacon of hope? Do post-it notes help to keep you on track? Do you do your best work well after sunset? Are flash cards your saving grace? How about group study, or thoroughly disturbing your neighbours by loudly repeating every sentence after its read?

Knowing what best assists your brain in retaining information can save you a lot of stress and self-loathing in the long run. So, pouring over books in the library isn’t you style – maybe it’s recording your classes and listening to it while falling asleep, or maybe it’s practicing shorthand to conversations overheard on the train. Noise or silence; sprawled across the bed or sitting upright at a desk; incense, candles, walls covered with inspirational cat pictures – if it works, then use it as part of your study arsenal. Good news for night owls, by the way: studies have shown your brain is most receptive to new information shortly before sleep.

Have a to-do list

Knowing what subjects you need to tackle will give you freedom within the panicked confines of your study sessions. If you’ve spent the initial allotted five minutes weeping over a Media Law text book, swap to another subject. Maybe now isn’t the best time to learn the defences in defamation cases. Having a plan of what needs to get done will help to ensure you don’t waste any valuable time in the lead up to the exam period.

Hide yo kids, hide yo wife, hide yo phone

You can lie to yourself that Facebook might count towards your online study, but you’re fooling no one. Give the phone a rest, or at least switch it to do not disturb or aeroplane mode. Hide it under your mattress if you must, but resist the urge to check it every three seconds. If music helps, limit the amount of time you spend creating that perfect playlist (a tool for most procrastinators), and try to avoid the need to sing along – unless you manage to work it into the subject you’re so desperately cramming for; there may even be an app to help you in the future with this! Technology – the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems. Speaking of, there are actually a few handy study apps already available.

Treat yo self

There’s a reason why Aziz Ansari is an international treasure. Don’t forgot to reward yourself occasionally for all your hard work – take a break every 50 minutes, have a Kit Kat, stretch, go hug your parents or significant other (see: pet). If you’ve been staring at the same word for the past 15 minutes, it’s probably time to take a breath and hit the reset button a bit. If your brain has hit a wall, trying to force yourself to absorb words that have ceased to make sense definitely won’t help you in the long run.

Don’t panic

Easier said than done, but when it comes down to it your mental health is always important. Ask for help when you need it; take breaks; drink water; sleep; keep your end goal in mind – it’s important to remember why you made the choice to pursue vocational education and training, tertiary education, and yes, even higher education. There is a life outside of study, but wading through the deep waters of college, university and high school will help you get there. It’s all about the end game, and every exam is another step forward.



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