In the words of Jimi Hendix: Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens. So here are some top exam tips from our extremely wise, incredibly experienced and downright gorgeous writers:
Could you explain the subject to a monkey?
If you truly understand a subject, you should be able to clearly explain it to someone who has no clue about it. And you don’t necessarily need a friend to do that. A plush monkey will do. So will an imaginary one.
Just take a piece of paper, choose one of your revision topics and imagine that you need to explain it to someone completely new to the topic. Then start explaining using the piece of paper in front of you. The dumber you imagine your fictitious listener to be, the better. Explain everything from scratch using examples and metaphors, preferably your own ones.
Try not to use any intricate terminology that an average English speaking monkey wouldn’t know – a lot of stuff you don’t understand could be hidden behind that obscure fancy-sounding name. If you need to use such a word, first teach it to your monkey. Using monkey-level vocabulary of course.
Whenever you get stuck, go back to your revision material and reread the bit you got stuck on until you are able to explain it simply. This method should help you pinpoint exactly what pieces you don’t understand. Besides using this method you can go through the whole course material as opposed to just the bits and bobs that are tested by exercise sheets or practice exams.
Look after your friends, and they’ll look after you.
Friends are one of the best exam survival tools. Here are some ways you can ride out the storm together:
Work together at a group table on Floors 1 and 2 (within easy reach of the Coffee Bar), you can quiz each other on your revision and you can share Library books – avoid lending books though, because if a friend loses a book that’s borrowed on your account, you still have to pay the fine!
Share revision notes and essays via a Dropbox, easily creating a shared revision resource. Old essays are great for a quick and concise overview of a topic. Just be careful not to accidentally plagiarise a mate’s work, obviously.
Cook for each other, so you get nutrition and relaxation after a hard day’s revision. During my final year, a group of us would each cook dinner for each other on a different night: so if there are five of you, set up a rota so that each of you cooks on one weekday. Then you all get a proper dinner every day, but only have to think about cooking once a week.
Motivate each other to keep up all the other exam survival tips: go running or do yoga together, and agree with your housemates to get up early and have breakfast together every day.
But remember, if they are likely to distract you more than aid you, then find a seat in one of the Silent Study rooms over on the Floor 2 extension, or hide away in a corner on Floor 5.
Maintain a routine
The exam period can be a topsy-turvy time of mystery and wonder when it seems like everything’s up in the air and nothing makes sense any more. Do not worry: this is not unusual. One way to combat this feeling, however, is to establish a routine, so that even if the numbers start jumping around the textbook or if you’re sure that diagram just moved, you will at least know where you are in the grand scheme of revision and essays.
Get into the habit of regular sleeping hours. This’ll make it that much easier to drop off at night or rouse your sleepy head in the morning. Involve other people in your plans: if you promise to meet a friend at the library for a certain time, it gives you more incentive to run to the bus-stop and get the day started. Make sure to reward yourself, on scales both big and small, for schedules stuck to and work completed. Looking forward to nights out or hilarious catch-ups will keep you focused when it gets tough.
Finally, allow yourself some flexibility! Listen to your body and brain: if you’re breezing it, push on, if you’re hitting a brick wall, walk away. Always remember, the end will come. Good luck!
Do you feel like your drowning in information? Yet as soon as you try to grasp anything it slips away like water through your fingers? You need to try some different revision techniques. Staring at your notes for hours on end just won’t cut it.
Luckily for you, revision doesn’t always have to be dull and mundane. I found that if I made revision fun I was more likely to remember things. There are loads of different ways you can do this; whether it’s using charades to remember long quotes or drawing out illustrated timelines – associating funny actions or key images with information will make
it easier to recall in the exams.
When I was revising for my degree in Classical Civilisations, we played the imitation statue game to help us remember the names of sculptures and their artists. One person struck the pose of a famous statue and the other(s) had to guess which one it was. Nothing was going to help me remember a key statue like the image of my best mate attempting to strike some rather saucy poses. And there’s nothing quite like a game of hangman in Ancient Greek.
So use your imagination. How are you going to learn that tricky formulae? Or the imperfect tense? Get creative and mix up your revision!
We’d love to hear your revision tips – leave them in the comments!
Image: Gorilla:Steven Straiton: CC BY 2.0