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Top study tips for exams

Meld Magazine

Thu Jun 02 2011


Let’s face it, there are no short cuts or magical formulas when it comes to scoring well in exams. But you are already halfway there if you’ve got some good solid strategies in place. This week, we get Monash University learning skills advisor Dawn Gilmore and your university peers to share their top study tips for exams. Jowee Tee reports.

Tips from the expert

1. Love what you do

Possibly the best way to study is finding the joy of learning and developing an interest in your subjects, even if the subject isn’t something you chose or liked in the beginning.

You can do this by discussing subjects with lecturers and enthusiastic peers, and let their passion rub off on you. Look for people who are leaders in the field – if you haven’t heard about it yet, the TED Talks provide a wonderful source of inspiration. And hopefully this can really help you to take to studying not so much as a chore, but as a real interest.

2. Set clear goals

As with most things in life, quality is more important than quantity. So ‘task-oriented’ study will probably be of more benefit to you than ‘time-oriented’ study.

Task-oriented study is about setting clear tasks and prioritizing your work. A goal like “I’m going to read three chapters of Physics, then do two practice exam sheets today”, is a lot more achievable and effective than saying “I’ll spend two hours on Physics this afternoon”.

3. Use acronyms

Acronyms help you remember a series of events, points or concepts better. Taking the first letter of every word in a sentence to make up a funny sounding word can also really help you remember better. For example, King Phil Came Over for the Genes Special can be a memory peg for remembering the five points “Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Genus, Species”.

Other mnemonic devices like making up rhymes or songs for your study could also help. However if you’re not the rhyming sort, or take too long coming up with one, it’s best to forego this one.

4. Make it a game

Give yourself points or rewards for completing goals on time; or for time spent concentrating on your least favorite subjects. Like a grand prize of 2 hours of Call of Duty after, or an episode of How I Met Your Mother.

5. Take a break

It’s a good idea to stand up, stretch and move around to give yourself a short break after every hour of study. A break can also mean five minutes of playing with the cat, Facebook or admiring the scenery outside the window.

Just remember to be disciplined and keep your breaks to no more than ten minutes.

5. Eat right

Did you know bananas can help with improving your memory?

“Bananas help you recall information,” Ms Gilmore says.

So eating one the night before your exam would help improve memory for the exam the next day.

And stay away from caffeine if you can. It may give you an instant burst of energy, but it also means you “crash” immediately after as well.

For more tips, visit Monash University’s language and learning online resource.

Photo: Aun Ngo

Photo: Aun Ngo

How do other students do it?

Multiple use of colours for highlighting. I use five: one for main argument; one for secondary arguments or statements; one for keyword/concepts; one for author/thinker/theorist; one for the name of a text. Makes it easy to locate ideas, thinkers, arguments in my readings.” – Tim Tillack, Bachelor of Arts, Monash University

I read out loud, because I find hearing things read back to me helps me remember better.” – Su Wan Tan, 20, University of Queensland

” …Banning Facebook…” Nadia McComb, Social Work Student, Monash University

I love whiteboards. I like to make some scribbles and short notes on the whiteboard. That way, whenever I walk in and out of the room, or when I wake up in the morning, I can always see some of the things I have written down. Makes studying easier and more pleasant too.” – Matthias Lu 20, School of Medicine, Monash University, Sunway

“I’m a huge fan of the Pomodoro Technique when it comes to taking breaks and such. Classical or instrumental music is also more conducive for reading/studying/work. Also a clean, comfortable environment, and tidied workspace.” – Wan Kimm Cheng, Graphic Design Graduate, The One Academy

How do you study? Share your top tips in the comments section below.