The most important thing to remember when you prepare for examinations is not to panic. Fear that you will forget important facts that you need to remember to pass exams is a sure way to program yourself to forget them. You are so busy worrying about forgetting that you fill your brain with anxious thoughts and worries. Pumping yourself full of coffee, cola and junk food as you pull an all night cramming session the night before the big exam is not a program for success either. Caffeine helps memory in moderation but in excess it can make you jittery and anxious and prevent you from sleeping well later.
Be calm, be methodical, be organised and don’t panic! Learning is an active process. Ignore the doubters and tell yourself you can do this.
Clear your environment of all distractions and complete any chores that need doing that will otherwise pop up as unwanted thoughts while you study. In other words, load the washing machine and walk the dog before you sit down as otherwise your conscience will keep prodding you about dirty clothes and a desperate dog when you should be concentrating on your studies.
Eat Right and Reward Yourself
Keep your snacks healthy and coffee to a minimum as it can make you anxious. Rather have iced water to sip, fresh fruit, nuts, small cubes of cheese and carrot sticks to nibble on and a treat of a small bar of chocolate at the end as a reward. That way your blood sugar levels will remain stable while you are working and you won’t have sugar spikes and slumps to contend with.
Learning is an Active Process
Don’t sit and stare at your computer or text book, hoping that by some miracle you will absorb the information in front of you. Rather write down notes in your own words or even dictate them into your smartphone or tablet. A conscious activity such as writing or speaking forces you to pay attention and helps your brain to make neural pathways. No, cut and paste is not the same thing!
Vary your study methods. Alternate between working with a laptop or textbooks and using a tablet or smartphone to look things up. Alternate between sitting at your desk and sitting in a comfortable chair with your feet up. That way your body will be less tired and you give your posture a reboot.
Use your Friends!
If you have a friend writing the same subject, discuss the topics and test each other on important facts. Talking about something reinforces neural pathways and discussing difficult points can make something clearer for both of you.
Make Google Work for You!
If your subject has a lot of jargon and specialist terms, make sure that you understand what they mean. You are more likely to remember a word and use it in the correct context if you have an understanding of its etymological origins and meaning. It is a pity that the old classical languages, Greek and Latin, are no longer widely taught as so many scientific and specialist terms have classical roots but you can still look these things up for yourself. Anything you have looked up and researched for yourself will remain in your memory far longer because you have made an active effort to look for the knowledge.
Take a Break!
Don’t try to learn everything in one go. After an hour, get up and do something different. Take a short walk and give your brain a chance to consolidate what you have learned. When you get back, test yourself and make notes of any areas that need more work before moving on to the next thing on the list.
The Night Before the Exam
Make sure that you get enough sleep. Your brain needs it to consolidate what you have learned and turn short term memories into long term ones.
The Big Day
Have everything that you need ready in good time on the day of the exam so that you don’t have any avoidable stresses to worry about. Set off in good time so that you aren’t worrying about being late or arriving agitated and distracted.
Remember, you can do this so don’t panic!