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The mature students’ exam survival guide

Revising for exams is hard enough at the best of times, but as a mature student, you’re likely to be juggling a whole load of other things on top. So how do you keep your head when everything around you is threatening to spiral out of control? By Julie Robinson

Although no one’s going to claim that anyone studying for a degree has it easy, mature students often find that they face additional pressures over and above the usual essay deadlines and end of year exams. Children, partners, mortgages and other commitments outside of university clamour for equal, if not more, attention than academic work, and exam time can be particularly stressful, with revision just another thing to add to the ‘pile’.

Work out what suits you best

The first thing to recognise is that the revision process is a very personal thing and what suits one person might not work for you. For me, the perfect scenario was to to curl up on the sofa at home, surrounded by my books and notes, with everything I needed at my fingertips, but that wouldn’t have been so easy if I hadn’t had the house to myself during the day. Neither is pulling an all-nighter an option if you have to be up early for the school run or you have a full-time job to hold down.

The best thing is to work out when you’re most alert and to try fit your revision around that, so if you’re an evening person, try settling down when everyone else has gone to bed, or if you’re a morning person, consider getting up super early. The fact that the Library is now open 24/7 might help give you a little bit of flexibility; revising at 6am on a Saturday morning isn’t everyone’s idea of fun, but it might give you a few uninterrupted hours before you dash off to do your shopping/take the kids swimming/drop your partner off at sports practice or do any of the other myriad things that require your attention at the weekends!

Put your transferable skills to good use

The chances are, if you looking after a family, juggling study with full (or even part) time work, or trying to do all three, you’re already pretty organised – otherwise things just don’t happen! Make sure you build revision into your schedule and, however tempting it is to put it off, set aside the time to do it, otherwise you’re just storing up trouble for yourself in future. If you know you’re short of time, start revising early, rather than leaving it until the last minute and over-stretching yourself and, if you need to, call in some baby-sitting favours! You might find it helpful to organise your notes by subject, module or even topic and have them in handy ‘portable’ chunks you can carry around with you – I used to write key points and important quotations on index cards and carry them round in my bag, so if ever I found myself with a spare 5 minutes, I could whip them out and give myself a quick refresher!

Take some time out

Even if you’re under a lot of pressure, it’s still important to try and take some time to relax. It’s ideal if you can keep your revision materials somewhere you can shut the door on when you’ve finished for the day, but if not, it’s a good idea to tidy everything away, so you’re not tempted to ‘just do a bit more’. Taking breaks is scientifically proven to help you absorb information, so spend some quality time with your nearest and dearest – go our with the family for the day, curl up on the sofa with a film, have a coffee with a non-student friend – and try not to think about your studies. You’ll come back to it tomorrow fully refreshed. The Counselling Service also has some great advice on relaxation techniques you can try at home.

The other thing to remember is that you can say NO to outside commitments if you really need to and if your family and friends know how important your studies are to you they should understand why you might have to turn an invitation down. Or why you haven’t hoovered the living room carpet for a few days!

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Image: Juggler/kosmolaut/CC BY 2.0

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