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Coming from Behind: Catching up in Time for Exams

Male student with his head in the books

Sometimes the promises made in first week about doing all the readings, starting assignments early and getting to every class just aren’t possible. As we find ourselves in the later stages of semester, with exams not far away, we begin to fret a little… okay, a lot.

But fear not! If you’ve fallen behind on the course there’s plenty you can do to catch up in time for exams. To get started, you’ll need organisation, discipline and many delicious study snacks…

Know How You Learn There’s no point attempting to learn in a hurry if you don’t know how you learn. I’m a visual learner, so diagrams, pictures and colour coordination are the most effective ways for me to learn. To maximize your limited study time and increase your speed of learning, take five minutes to work out what type of learner you are and you’ll soon be able to study at speed.

Create a Calendar Download and print some free monthly calendars from the Internet that cover the period from now until the end of exams. Make sure you leave some calendar space at the end of exams so you can write ‘Yay exams are done’ or ‘going overseas’ for motivation. Then add (with colour coordination as you please):

  • Exam dates, times, seat & room numbers (this saves last minute panic)

  • Commitments such as work and extra curricular activities

  • Add the dates by which you need to have completed notes, revision, etc. Don’t forget to factor in some time for you can test out your finished notes on a few practice exams.

  • Add in a few fun things! Make sure your calendar doesn’t totally depress you or you will never study.

Don’t forget to factor in things like:

  • How many lectures do I need to listen to?

  • How many weeks of reading do I need to catch up on?

  • Are there any assignments outstanding? If so, consider what these are worth and how long you need to spend on them.

  • How much paid work do I need to fit in and can this be minimised/should I take any leave?

Learn to say 'no' or reschedule If your calendar is too full you may need to reorganise, drop a commitment or compromise the grade you’re expecting. Your calendar should look do-able or else it will be too hard to begin studying. You need to trick your brain into thinking this exam period is going to be easy.

Once you have a manageable calendar, learn to say no to commitments that don’t fit in. Can the coffee date you’re trying to fit in be allocated to a time when you will need a study break? If not, can you do it after exams?

Organise to study in different places and with different people

Studying at home can be good, but sometimes it’s boring, lonely and prone to making us a little nutty. Mixing up the way you study can increase effectives and motivation all the while keeping you relatively sane.

Study with friends in a study group Debating how the law works, fighting about which case is the authority and working through problems can be a quick and slightly more fun way to study. A study group is a terrific way to learn the material, especially for closed book exams.

Study with friends but separately The bonus of this study method is that you usually get a lot done and you can keep each other motivated with study snacks, breaks and (most importantly) keep each other off YouTube and Facebook! Consider keeping yourselves on track with a Study Contract.

Study in the library The library has fewer distractions than home and having people around you studying often makes you feel guilty if you’re sitting on Facebook.

Study outside If it’s a nice day do yourself a favour and find some way to get outside – even if only for 15 minutes to drink your coffee. The sun will make you feel instantly chirpier, even though the sunlight may burn your library eyes a little at first. If you really can’t tear yourself away from study, grab your headphones and listen to your lecturer or draw diagrams of what you just learnt.

Study while exercising A simple change to your posture can do amazing things for your figure and your mind! Studying on an exercise ball, reading while lifting weights, doing crunches and push-ups while looking at diagrams, or quizzing yourself while doing wall squats can help you to escape a dull study routine. Even just listening to a lecture while you walk around the block a few times will work wonders.

If all else fails...

Get someone you trust to change your Facebook password. It sounds extreme but it’s amazing how much extra time you’ll discover!

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