As part of our ongoing series of high school study tips, this article outlines our seven essential tips for exam preparation success. From creating a study plan, how to analyse mistakes and seek feedback, these tips put together by our highly experienced tutors aim to give students the skills required to minimise stress and aim for success.
Study Tip 1 : Create a study/revision schedule
Organisation is a key facet of learning. You’ve heard your teachers say this over and over again. To ensure you maximise the effectiveness of your study time, have a plan.
When it comes to everyday homework, noting your work in your diary is the first necessary step. Do not rely on your memory to recall all the work that was set through the day.
Once you get home and started on your homework, prioritise your tasks around other household events such as dinner or walking the dog. These should provide good ‘study breaks’. Consider those tasks that require the most focus and cover them first if possible. Your focus is likely to wane as it gets later.
Be sure to tick of each task as completed. This is a great motivating technique. Highlighting what you’ve achieved encourages you to push through the remainder of the tasks.
Constant revision is the best way to ensure retention of knowledge. You should set aside some time every week-night for revision of previous work. This should happen after your homework as homework will be the first priority.
Revision does not need to be too lengthy and in fact can be as short as 10 minutes. The idea is simply to remind the brain of things that you have already learnt.
A simple schedule might be one subject per night. For example: Monday – Maths, Tuesday – Geography, Wednesday – English, etc.
Draw the schedule up and post it somewhere as a reminder. Do your best to stick to it but don’t be too worried about interruptions. Various school and family events are going to interfere with it on a weekly basis.
Finally, when it comes to study prior to examinations, a specific study schedule is also very important. In this case, you should try extra hard to stick to this schedule as you need to ensure you cover all your content before entering the exam room.
Again, check your examination timetable and create a study schedule that is simple, easy to stick to and allows for sufficient breaks. It must also ensure that all subjects are given sufficient time and must consider the timing of the specific exams.
This is where your teachers can be very beneficial. Ask any of them to sit with you and help in creating a schedule. They will be more than happy to do so and will be impressed by your proactivity and diligence.
HSC Study Tip 2 : Take breaks
Trying to concentrate and work whilst tired makes for very ineffective learning. Although you may still be learning, the amount of time you are spending on a task will not be producing the learning results you achieve when alert. You are better off taking a break and coming back to it later.
We all need balance. Getting some physical activity in between study sessions provides this balance and the extra oxygen taken into the body assists the brain in re-energising. This physical activity need not be strenuous. A simple walk around the block might do.
Also, your breaks don’t need to always involve exercise. Meeting friends for a coffee, getting up for a snack or even playing with the dog are great for refreshing the mind. Often, simply walking away from a problem (I’m specifically talking Maths here) allows the brain to switch off and then return with a different perspective on how to solve it.
As noted above, ensure break times are allocated in your revision and study schedules. Quite often when working we might not realise we are getting tired and that our ability to think and problem solve has been slowed. Hence it is important to force ourselves to take breaks.
Study Tip 3 : Create your own summary notes
Summary notes don’t need to be exhaustive but they do need to be your own. In creating them, you are thinking through all the relevant information for that subject.
Building those notes into creative forms such as mindmaps, flashcards, etc. allows you to break information into smaller, relevant pieces and then make connections between those pieces. This is a lot more effective for learning than simply writing and re-reading paragraphs of summarized notes.
Study Tip 4 : Sleep!
We all need it. To avoid it or minimise it in an attempt to gain more study time is counter-productive. As noted above, tired study is ineffective study.
Ensure you get your usual amount of sleep, even during examination periods. Also ensure you don’t stay up too late studying on the night before an exam. Many a student has suffered poor performance entering an exam tired.
Your sleeping patterns may change during examination periods and the most effective time to study will vary from student to student. However, everyone still needs to get adequate sleep, whenever that might be.
Study Tip 5 : Ask questions
Both in class and at any time prior to assessment tasks, ask questions. Ask one hundred questions. Your teacher won’t care and in fact will again be impressed by your diligence and desire to do your best.
Most students are quite shy and would rather not be the one to ask questions and perhaps show that they don’t understand. But keep in mind it is your education and your future. Take control of it and ensure you are giving yourself the best opportunities. Part of that is never leaving a class with unanswered questions or unclear information.
Also, as you have undoubtedly been told by your teachers many times before, by asking a question, you will be helping others in the class because very rarely will you be the only student wanting that question answered.
Study Tip 6 : Test yourself
As part of your revision and study schedule, ensure you spend time doing examination style questions. This is the best way to approach your exams. As you get closer to your exams, do the questions under exam conditions. Take away notes and put yourself on a timer. Practicing under exam conditions can have you better prepared before entering the exam room and may indeed reduce any pre-exam stress or tension.
Study Tip 7 : Analyse mistakes and seek feedback
When most students get their assessment tasks back, they are happy to check the result and put the task away somewhere, never to be seen again. However, as the saying goes, ‘you learn from your mistakes’ but only if you identify those mistakes.
Take the time to go over your task and identify where you made mistakes or fell short in a response. Read the feedback provided by the teacher and, if necessary, ask for more. Asking for further feedback is not badgering the teacher for more marks, it is simply taking the responsible step of wanting to maximize your learning. Yes, it’s going to take more of your time but it will pay dividends in the long run.
Need help preparing for your exams? Contact our high school & HSC tutors for assistance.
Our small team of Inner West tutors are qualified, dedicated teachers experienced in providing not only the highest standard of teaching in the areas of literacy (English) and high school maths tutoring but also the engagement and motivation needed to maximise secondary and HSC student’s learning. We can assist with NAPLAN sample test and exam preparation.
All our staff are also experienced academic and pastoral mentors, enabling them to advise and support in many areas such as organisation, structuring revision schedules, creating a suitable working environment, subject selection and more. From advice on subject selections, how best to prepare for exams and assessments and possible tertiary and career options, through to organisation and effective study environments, our staff can assist your child with specific, experienced advice and suggestions to maximise their engagement and learning.
Our homework club and study sessions provide students with a supervised and assisted learning environment in which they can complete set work from school, prepare for assessments or simply revise and study.