I love a good Google, and my favourite image search is usually “little yellow cars”. I can’t explain why they make me laugh- they just do. My other favourite search (especially this time of year) is “study tips”. Not because I find them particularly helpful, I just find them funny too. Funny because so many of these so-called tips are heavy on what to do, but light on how to do it. Telling a first-time uni student to not panic, stay positive, set a routine, get organised, and manage your time, is like you telling me to change oil in a car (yellow, or otherwise). If I had to change the oil in my car, I wouldn’t know where to start! I probably wouldn’t even get as far as popping the hood before giving up in frustration, and returning the olive oil to the pantry. To prevent you from giving up in frustration when it comes to revising for exams, I’ve got some how-to tips for study problems most of us have but don’t want to admit. So let’s get started by first answering the following three questions honestly with a true or false:
If you answered “true” to all three, congratulations, you’re completely normal and in touch with your own limitations. By accepting these limitations, you can begin to work with them rather than fighting against them, leading to more effective studying and resulting in better grades. Now because you’ve already identified yourself as easily distracted, I’d better get to the tips!
There are many different flavours of procrastination. Some people procrastinate by getting out and about and taking $10 study breaks, but lately I’ve been more of a procrastinator at the keyboard. After all, just sitting down at the computer with the intent to study is half the battle, right? And just when I thought I had read everything on the internet, I discovered the internet archive! Want to see the USQ website circa 1997? You can! In fact, just for laughs, here’s a link http://goo.gl/o4R5Wr. And that my friends, won me a gold medal in the Procrastination Olympics. But procrastination gets dangerous when you’ve been scouring the internet archive for five hours, and that assignment is no closer to completion.
The solution? I tried waking up earlier, scheduling my day, and rewarding myself, but all I ended up doing was snoozing my alarm, being late for appointments with myself, and eating chocolate for breakfast. So in a moment of clarity, I removed temptation. StayFocusd (http://goo.gl/Q35ly8) is a free extension for the Chrome browser that lets you only access certain websites at certain times. And without the internet, what else is there to do but study, watch mid-morning TV, or go and exercise?! Needless to say, by comparison, study suddenly looked really appealing.
The fact you’ve read this far has impressed me, because, to be honest, even I’m drifting in and out- and I wrote it! That of course isn’t a reflection of the (incredibly insightful) content of this blog; it’s more a symptom of the fast paced world we live in- there’s always something that has to be done or something more interesting to do. It’s one thing to master the fine art of blocking internet sites, but what do you do when you’ve been going at it hard for a good 11 minutes, and your mind starts to wander?
The solution? A humble stopwatch, which, before it was an app, was actually a thing (http://goo.gl/9x9eav). When studying, I quickly realised that when you’re not really in the mood, nothing sinks in, so I decided to tame my short attention span. Here’s how I did it. When I first sat down to start revising, I committed to a period of time I would spend studying that day- let’s say six hours. As soon as I started studying I would start the stopwatch. At the first sign of waned interest, or in one instance a burning desire to do the laundry, I’d stop the stopwatch, get up, and do something else for a little bit. Then when the inevitable happened, and the new activity bored me too, I’d go back to studying and resume the stopwatch. Rinse and repeat until that six-hour milestone was reached. It will only take a few days of spending 14 hours to finish six hours of study to curb that tendency to take long intermissions, and just get it done!
I’ve yet to find a single event that slows down time like waiting for the exam room doors to open. In that time, you can feel every single nugget of knowledge you have studied for the entire semester slowly evaporating. Then, in your traumatised state, you are given the impossible task of finding the correct desk to sit at, which even though they’re alphabetised, has in some courses been harder than the exam itself. Finally, you are left waiting for the perusal time to start. That was always the part that got me the most. The sitting. The clock. The anticipation. The Nerves!
The solution? Many courses have their own bank of practice exams, so if you’re going to practice, you may as well PRACTICE! Why not simulate the whole experience? Before you start your practice exam go and stand outside for ten minutes (bring your stopwatch!) and stare at the door. As you stand there visualise how you will feel and what you will hear while you are waiting for your real exams to start. No matter how bored or silly you are feeling now, it’ll only be amplified on the actual exam day- so you may as well get used to it now! Then, without talking, go inside and sit at your desk for five minutes. Just sit there, and again, visualise how you will feel sitting in the exam hall waiting to get started. I like to stare at the clock, because that’s exactly what I do in a real exam. After five minutes, give yourself some perusual time, and then start working through your practice exam. I’m not sure if I’ve heard it somewhere before (or even if it’s true?) but I think professional sports teans use visualisation, and if it’s good enough for Dunedoo Swans and the Wee Waa Panthers, it’s good enough for me!
Got your own how-to study tips? Share them below.