11 Effective Study Tips - Exam Preparation and Success

Heike Verhoef - 22 Jan 22

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Photo by MChe Lee on Unsplash

Here is a list of 11 effective tips to make sure you get the best out of your study time and ace your exams.

1. Prior planning and good time management

Make a plan and stick to it. In matric, you have at least seven subjects to study for (and some have multiple papers to write). So, as soon as you receive your examination timetable, work out how much time you will need to study for each subject and plan ahead. Try time blocking. Time blocking is a productivity technique that allows you to plan out your entire day or week in advance by blocking out hours for specific tasks in your planner or digital calendar (don't forget to block outbreak time as well – see number 6 on this list!). Check out Time Tune and Google Calendar as fun aids to help with time blocking. Otherwise, if you are more old school, a notebook and pen work just as well.

The point of good prior planning is to avoid the need to cram. Cramming has become synonymous with exam time, but it is not an effective way to learn. Cramming increases your stress levels which hinders your ability to retain information.

You might find that as the exams progress you alter the planning you have done - allow this to happen. The act of planning out your tasks and goals means you have put in the effort to understand what you need to achieve and can reap the benefits of your good time management practices. You might find that you dedicated too much or too little time to specific tasks or subjects, so update your calendar as you go.

2. Use fun apps to track your progress

We live in a wonderful time of awesome technological aids to make even studying fun! Incorporating useful apps, designed to help you study, into your exam preparation can boost your performance and make studying much more fun. So, put your cell phone to good use while studying. No need to hide it away to avoid the temptation of social media and mobile phone games, use it to help you ace your exams.

Quizlet and Flashcards are popular apps made to help you study by letting you make your own flashcards or using those created by others.

You can also use your phone to brush up on the concepts you did throughout the year. Platforms like dorKk cover all the material you did throughout the year for Mathematics, Physical Sciences, English and more.

You can incorporate tracking apps like Study Bunny. Exam Countdown Lite is also a simple app to help you keep track of the exams you've written and what still lies ahead. Use technology to your advantage, it can make studying easier and more enjoyable.

3. Make sure you know what to study

Exam time is undoubtedly stressful, but if you make sure you know what to study you are already one step ahead! Make sure that you have access to all the relevant material and find out what is important and what is not - you don't want to waste time studying material that won't show up in tests or exams. If you sign up for dorKk you can watch qualified teachers (some who have actually set the grade 12 national examinations) covering all the relevant work and tips on what is likely to pop up in exams.

If you are lucky your teacher will give you a scope covering what you need to focus on. Go back to the notes you've made throughout the year, chances are your teacher has emphasised work that will likely pop up in the exams - if not, dorKk has got you covered. Work your way through the videos on the platform and you will certainly wise up!

Tests and exams usually come with specific instructions. So, make sure you understand what is expected of you ahead of the exam. This can guide you in studying smarter. Refer back to previous papers (or look some up online) to get this information.

4. Get a study buddy

Studying in pairs or groups is always a good way to mix up your studying and make it more fun. The best thing about a study buddy is the ability to learn from each other. It is useful to have someone to bounce ideas off of. Having a study buddy is also a good opportunity to quiz each other.

It might be difficult to always schedule sessions with your study buddy, but it is useful to have someone you can be accountable to. The gift of the digital age is that we can do this remotely. A good idea is to create a shared calendar so that you and your friend can check up on each other and help keep each other on track.

A virtual study buddy is another option. dorKk is a great study buddy. On our platform, you can work through a subject, presented by a qualified teacher, one concept at a time. Imagine the benefits of having a teacher as your study buddy!

Use your family or the people you live with to help you with your exam prep. Ask a family member to quiz you on your work. Quizzing is a great study technique and can help you build confidence and retain information better.

5. Listen to study music

You might be one of those learners who like to listen to music while studying. According to Study.com studying while listening to music can be soothing and relaxing and promote a positive mood, which helps manage the inevitable stress that comes with exam time. Background music can improve focus and aid endurance and for some learners, music can help with memorisation.

The kind of music you listen to can make a big difference. Avoid music that contains too many lyrics. This might tempt you into singing along! You can find "study music” playlists on YouTube and other music-oriented platforms like Spotify. Some of the recommended genres to listen to while studying includes classical music, instrumental jazz, ambient music, or lo-fi hip hop (check out the channel Lofi Girl on YouTube known for its endless video loop of an anime character called 'study girl' - it's bound to relax your mind and get you in a good study flow).

6. Take breaks

To study effectively keep your study sessions between one and two hours long. This gives you enough time to dive deep into the content, but it is short enough to avoid losing concentration and letting your mind wander, then take a break. During your break have a stretch, eat a healthy meal, chat with your family, or sit outside for a while, then hit the books again for another study session. Don’t break for too long – between 30 minutes to an hour is a good amount of time to break for.

Breaks allow your brain to process information effectively, so don’t overwhelm it by trying to get all your studying done in one full-day session of cramming.

Make sure you study effectively by following the other tips covered in this article so that you don’t have to spend hours and hours rereading or redoing the same content. So, keep your study sessions short and take breaks. Breaks are important, so don't feel guilty when you take them.

7. Take notes

Taking notes is a very important part of studying effectively. Don't just read through the material. Engage with it by taking notes, making annotations and putting the work into your own words. Making summaries is a vital study practice. Summaries of your work allow you to go through all the material faster and you eliminate irrelevant content as you make them.

Taking notes forces you to pay attention, not just reading without retaining any information. If you write your own notes and put the material into words you understand you make sense of the work, and your understanding of the concepts improves. You are bound to pass your exams with good marks if your note-taking skills are up to scratch.

8. And on that note... up your note-taking skills

Note-taking is not just rewriting your textbook. Imagine you are making crib notes, you need to put it into fewer words, you need to keep it concise yet thorough. There are so many ways to effectively take notes - none of which include merely highlighting your entire textbook. The key is to try and identify relevant information and do away with the fluff and irrelevant background information.

There are many note-taking methods. Take a moment to get acquainted with the different ways that you can take notes and identify a method that works for you. Crash Course has a very informative video on whether typing or writing your notes is better. For different note-taking methods, check out this video by Mariana's Corner.

9. Get additional support

There is nothing worse than studying for your exams and realising you don’t understand something, or you feel like you have missed something in class and now need to play catch up. dorKk is a simple solution to this problem.

Watching relevant videos on the material you need to study can be hugely beneficial while studying. Hearing it from another point of view can mean the difference between knowing something and understanding something. When you sign up for dorKk you get access to video lessons that cover the entire CAPS curriculum from grade 10 to 12 (other grades launching in 2022). This gives you the opportunity to refer back to previous grades in case you missed something in the year before, because the work carries through from grade to grade.

Listening to and watching videos on the material you need to prepare for examinations in addition to reading and writing will assist in information retention and ultimately acing your exams.

10. Set up your study space

It is a good idea to set up your study space to create an environment conducive to studying and learning. An ideal study space is quiet, comfortable, and free from distractions. Choose a study environment that promotes productivity. You can dedicate an area in your house and dress it up with all the necessary tools and materials you need to make studying easy and comfortable.

Alternatively, you can choose to mix it up. Studying outside on a nice sunny day can make the whole act of exam prep fun. Take some notes, or take your phone signed into dorKk lessons or a worksheet of maths problems and do a study session outside. Whatever works for you. The key here is to minimise distractions and promote productivity.

11. Lastly, eat healthily, get enough sleep, and move your body

It's not just what you do while you are studying that makes a difference, it's also what you do when you are not. Eating "brain food" is essential to get the best out of study sessions because the food you eat has an impact on your brain's health. A healthy brain means better memory and increased concentration. Brain food refers to certain nutrients that the brain needs to stay healthy. So, make sure to eat a lot of food that contains omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. According to Medical News, Today brain foods that fit these criteria include fish, berries, nuts, and seeds as well as dark chocolate and more. Most importantly, remember to stay hydrated.

Similarly, physical exercise can improve mental health. Activities like yoga, squash, a good run, or whatever fits your fancy can be a great break from studying and exam revision while triggering the release of chemicals that have a favourable effect on brain function. Exercise will help you stay calm and mentally relaxed thus ensuring that you get the best out of your study sessions. Movement and exercise is equal to good grades. Isn’t that lovely? Make sure to get up and move your body. Don't sit hunched over in front of your desk or computer for hours on end.

Finally, sleep! Sleep is vitally important when it comes to doing well in exams. School-going learners need at least 8 hours of sleep a night to allow the brain to function fully the next day. A good night’s sleep improves concentration, mood and energy levels which are important factors when studying and also writing exams. Pulling an all-nighter before a big test or exam might seem like a good idea but it can have an adverse effect on memory. Your brain is not performing at its best during the night and with little to no sleep, you do not allow your brain to process all the information you need to retain for an exam.

Follow these tips to help get the best out of your study session and ace your exams.

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