How to prepare for your exams

Study Skills

Semester 2 exams are just around the corner for Years 7 – 11 so effective study skills become vital! Study skills are covered on a regular basis in classes by teachers, tutors and use of Study Skills Handbook (www.studyskillshandbook.com.au) this year. Study skills can be learned and apply to all subjects and work best when they are coupled with good time management and motivational techniques.

Two areas that will greatly assist students in studying for their exams are mentioned below. Parents and students are encouraged to discuss how they will implement these in the coming weeks:

Improving Concentration

Many students have difficulty concentrating while studying. Being able to concentrate while you are studying is essential to doing well in class and on tests.

Here are 10 suggestions for improving your study concentration:

  • Study in a quiet place that is free from distractions and interruptions. Try to create a space designated solely for studying – study at a desk, with good light and at a comfortable temperature.
  • Make a study schedule that shows what tasks you need to accomplish and when you plan to accomplish each task. This will provide you with the structure you need for effective studying.
  • Try to study at the time of day you work best. Some people work well early in the morning, others late at night. You know what works best for you.
  • Make sure you are not tired and/or hungry when you study. Otherwise, you won’t have the energy you need to concentrate. Also, maintain your physical fitness.
  • Don’t try to do two tasks at the same time. You won’t be able to concentrate on either one very well. Concentration means focusing on one thing to the exclusion of all else.
  • Break large tasks into a series of smaller tasks that you can complete one at a time. If you try to complete a large task all at once, you may feel overwhelmed and will be unable to maintain your concentration.
  • Relax. It’s hard to concentrate when you’re tense. It’s important to relax when working on a task that requires concentration. Meditation is helpful to many students.
  • Clear your mind of worrisome thoughts. Mental poise is important for concentration. You can get distracted by your own thoughts. Monitor your thoughts and prevent yourself from following any that take you off track. Don’t daydream.
  • Develop an interest in what you are studying. Try to relate what you are studying to your own life to make it as meaningful as possible. This can motivate you to concentrate.
  • Take breaks whenever you feel fatigued. There is no set formula for when to take breaks. You will know when you need to take a break.

Motivation

If you find that you lack motivation to study, welcome to the club. Just about every student experiences this problem at one time or another.

Motivation is important for good studying. When you are motivated, you will find it easy to stay focused over a period of time. When you are not motivated, you will not only find it difficult to stay focused, but you will find it difficult to get started in the first place.

Here are some ways to increase your motivation to study.

  • Reward yourself for studying. For example, after a successful study session, have a treat like a chocolate bar!
  • Study with your friends. Don’t make it party time, but you can have fun as you do this.
  • Remind yourself of your long-term goals. Achievement of your goals likely requires educational success. Educational success requires studying.
  • Eliminate distractions. If you are surrounded by things you would rather do than study, you will probably do those things instead of studying.
  • Develop interest in what you have to study. This will make studying more enjoyable.
  • Take breaks. When you feel that you need to take a break, try to stop at a point where you are at something that is easy for you. This will make it easier for you to resume studying after your break.
  • Establish a comfortable environment. You will be more inclined to study if you feel comfortable.
  • Establish reasonable goals for a study session. You probably won’t get very far if you look at your study session as “mission impossible”.
  • Use a motivational poster. Place the poster where you can see it as you study. The poster should include positive words and a picture depicting success. You can buy one or even make your own. You can also read inspirational stories about real people who have achieved success through effort.
  • Just do it. Once you do, you will feel a lot better than if you are worried about getting it done.

Study Habits

Successful students have good study habits. They apply these habits to all of their classes. Read about each study habit below and work to develop any study habit you do not have.

  • Try not to do too much studying at one time. If you try to do too much studying at one time, you will get tired and your studying will not be very effective. Space the work you have to do over shorter periods of time. Taking short breaks will restore your mental energy.
  • Plan specific times for studying. Study time is any time you are doing something related to schoolwork. It can be completing assigned reading, working on an essay or project, or studying for a test. Schedule specific times throughout the week for your study time.
  • Try to study at the same times each day. Studying at the same times each day establishes a routine that becomes a regular part of your life, just like sleeping and eating. When a scheduled study time comes up during the day, you will be mentally prepared to begin studying.
  • Set specific goals for study times. Goals will help you stay focused and monitor your progress. Simply sitting down to study has little value. You must be very clear about what you want to accomplish during your study times.
  • Start studying when planned. You may delay starting your studying because you don’t like an assignment or think it is too hard. A delay in studying is called “procrastination”. If you procrastinate for any reason, you will find it difficult to get everything done when you need to. You may rush to make up the time you wasted getting started, resulting in careless work and errors.
  • Work on the most difficult assignment first. Your most difficult assignment will require the most effort. Start with your most difficult assignment since this is when you have the most mental energy.
  • Review notes before beginning an assignment. Reviewing your notes can help you make sure you are doing an assignment correctly. Also, your notes may include information that will help you complete an assignment.
  • Tell friends not to call during study times. Two study problems can occur if your friends call you during your study times. First, your work is interrupted. It is not that easy to get back to what you were doing. Second, your friends may talk about things that will distract you from what you need to do. Here’s a simple idea – turn off your cell phone during your study times.
  • Call another student when having difficulties with an assignment. This is a case where “two heads may be better than one”.
  • Review schoolwork over the weekend. Yes, weekends should be fun time. But there is also time to do some review. This will help you be ready to go on Monday morning when another school week begins.

Study Skills for Mathematics

Mathematics is a unique subject. It involves symbols, formulas, specific procedures, textbooks that look different, and many unique words and terms. Consequently, it is important to use study skills that apply particularly well to mathematics.

  • You can’t learn mathematics just by reading and listening. Much of mathematics learning involves actively doing. This means that you must do all of your maths homework and assignments. This is essential to learning how to use formulas and procedures.
  • Mathematics is a sequential subject. What is taught on a given day is based upon what was taught before. Once you fall behind, it is very difficult to catch up. Cramming at the last minute will not help you. Be certain to attend every class and seek assistance regularly.
  • Mathematics is a difficult subject that becomes increasingly complex. You may have to spend more study time on this subject than on your other subjects. Regular homework is necessary.
  • Don’t try to memorise your way through mathematics. There are simply too many formulas and procedures. Try to master the key concepts. This will reduce the amount of information you will need to remember.
  • Once you learn a procedure for solving a problem, that same procedure can often be used to solve other problems. When presented with a new problem, try to apply your past learning to the new problem.
  • Learn the vocabulary of mathematics. Often a word used in mathematics has a different meaning than that same word when used outside of mathematics. For example, volume in mathematics refers to the amount of space within a solid figure. Outside of mathematics, volume can refer to a book or to loudness. Write new mathematics words and terms and their mathematics meanings in a special place in your notebook.
  • Read mathematics worded questions carefully and practice your comprehension of worded questions.
  • Mathematics is a subject that makes many students very anxious. As simple as it sounds, having confidence in yourself can reduce your anxiety.

Becoming a Flexible Reader

To become a flexible reader, you need to know how to select and use a reading style that is consistent with your purpose for reading. There are three important reading styles you should learn to use. Each has its own purpose. Knowing when and how to use these three reading styles will make you a flexible reader.

Study Reading is the reading style used by flexible readers when their purpose is to read difficult material at a high level of comprehension. When using the Study Reading style, you should read at a rate that is slower than your normal reading rate. Further, as you read you must challenge yourself to understand the material. Study Reading will often require you to read material more than once to achieve a high level of comprehension. Sometimes, reading the material aloud will also help you improve your comprehension.

Skimming is the reading style used by flexible readers when their purpose is to quickly obtain a general idea about the reading material. The Skimming style is most useful when you have to read a large amount of material in a short amount of time. When using the Skimming style, you should identify the main ideas in each paragraph and ignore the details in supportive sentences. Because you are only looking for the main idea in each paragraph you read, a lower level of comprehension is to be expected than when using the Study Reading style.

Scanning is the reading style used by flexible readers when their purpose is to quickly locate a specific piece of information within reading material. The piece of information to be located may be contained in a list of names, words, numbers, short statements, and sometimes even in a paragraph. Since you know exactly what you are looking for, move your eyes quickly over the reading material until you locate the specific piece of information you need to find.

Before you begin your next reading assignment, identify your purpose for reading. Decide if you are reading for a high level of comprehension, trying to get a general idea about what you are reading, or looking for specific information. Then use the reading style that is appropriate for your reading purpose.

Managing Your Study Time

There are only so many hours in a day, a week, and a term. You cannot change the number of hours, but you can decide how to best use them. To be successful in school, you must carefully manage your study time. Some strategies to help you do this include:

Prepare a Term Calendar

At the beginning of a term, prepare a Term Calendar. Update it as the term goes on. Here is what to do to prepare a Term Calendar.

  • Record your school assignments with their due dates and your scheduled tests.
  • Record your planned school activities.
  • Record your planned school co-curricular activities.
  • Record your known out-of-school activities.

Prepare a Weekly Schedule

Each Sunday before a school week, prepare a Weekly Schedule. Update it as the week goes on. Here is what to do to prepare a Weekly Schedule.

  • Record your daily classes.
  • Enter things to be done for the coming week from your Term Calendar.
  • Review your class notes from the previous week to see if you need to add any school activities.
  • Add any out-of-school activities in which you will be involved during the week.
  • Be sure to include times for completing assignments, working on projects, and studying for tests. These times may be during the school day, right after school, evenings, and weekends.

Prepare a Daily Organiser – Use your Planner!

Each evening before a school day, prepare a Daily Organiser using your planner for the next day. Place a tick next to each thing to do as you accomplish it. Here is what to do to prepare a Daily Organiser.

  •  Enter the things to do for the coming day from your Weekly Schedule.
  • Enter the things that still need to be accomplished from your Daily Organiser from the previous day.
  • Review your class notes for the day just completed to see if you need to add any school activities.
  • Add any out-of-school activities in which you will be involved the next day.

Reference: Mangrum-Strichart 2005, Study Skills and Strategies for Students in High School