9 mistakes people make when preparing for exams

Mistakes to avoid when preparing for exams

You’re on the home stretch. The holidays are so close you can almost feel the salty sea air invading your nostrils and that deckchair on the beach calling your name. There’s only one small catch: first you have to survive exam season.

Here’s what NOT to do when you’re preparing for exams:

1. Drinking too much caffeine before an exam:

Coffee (not to mention energy drinks) can play havoc with your exam conquering ability. Drinking too much can make you jittery, irritable, restless and unable to concentrate – add in an elevated heart rate and it’s a recipe for disaster.

2. Keep re-reading the assigned text:

The old-school method of just re-reading your coursework has long been debunked as the best method of study. Not only does this method make it difficult to retain information, it also lulls you into a false sense of security making you believe you know more than you actually do.

3. Choose one study method and stick to it:

Flash cards are great for multiple-choice, but terrible for short or long essays where a greater depth of information is required. Moral of this story: don’t forget to take into account the format of the exam before you choose your method of learning.

4. Expect to be spoon-fed exam answers:

Relying on your teachers to provide everything you’ll need in the lectures might score you a passing grade, but to ensure you ace your classes you’ll need to push the boundaries and take control of your own learning.

5. Fail to prioritise:

Ignore the traditional urge to work chronologically. Instead, focus on your weaknesses or the information most likely to be on the test – remembering there’s usually a bias towards the information most recently learned.

6. Ignore your strengths:

Are you a visual, aural, logical, verbal or physical learner?  It’s pointless, for example, focusing on video lectures when you’re a physical learner. Likewise reading through notes, when you absorb more information by asking questions. Use the techniques that play to your strengths. 

7. Leave studying until the last minute:

A last minute cram-session might stimulate your adrenal glands, but it’s unlikely to do much for your results. To give yourself the best chance for success start revising at least two weeks out from exams with a plan designed to cover all pertinent points and keep your stress levels to an acceptable minimum.

8. Ignore practice exams:

There’s a reason for the adage “practice makes perfect” – it’s true. While there’s no guarantee past exams will mirror the current version, they will help you identify any holes in your knowledge base and help streamline your study preparation.

9. Memorize rather than understand:

Basic facts are great, but you won’t be able to express your views in an essay answer if you don’t comprehend the subject matter.

What TO DO when studying:

  • Use practice exams
  • Prioritise your workload
  • Focus on your learning strengths
  • Take control of your own learning


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