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Exam Preparation Week 3

Updated: Sep 10, 2021

I hit the “superwoman wall” real hard

Welcome back! Another week, another blog!

This week I decided to go off the Methods tangent a little bit and discuss the topic of general exam revision and a very important lesson that I learnt through this period - the story of how I hit the “superwoman wall” real hard.

Rewind 4 years ago, October 2017, I was gunning for it i.e. doing practice exam after practice exam, writing essay after essay. I set myself a goal to do 1 English practice exam every morning and 4 more practice exams of each subject I was doing (Methods, Specialist, Biology, Chemistry) every afternoon. I decided to skip lunch because I was always too sleepy afterwards. I studied until 2am to make sure I ticked off everything on my list. (“No way” - you may say.)

I didn’t last long. I thought I was doing myself good but I wasn’t.

Burnout came to me like that one guest who you didn’t invite to your Christmas dinner but you knew would come anyway. I was so exhausted after a week. My stomach started hurting because of all the meal skipping and staying up late. Worst of all, I could see myself starting to dread exam revision and treat it like a chore.

So I decided to change. Instead of trying to squeeze as many practice exams as possible, I scheduled breaks. Instead of skipping lunch since the carbohydrates made me sleepy, I devoured happily a light and hearty salad. Instead of staying up late to finish everything on my list, I started out each day trying to reduce my workload so that I went to bed consistently at 11pm.

The one message I wanted to deliver with my story is about setting goals and achieving them. This is especially important during exam revision because there is no longer a timetable that you follow and no teacher is going to usher you around reminding you there are still practice exams to be done. Exam revision is when you take charge and set goals for yourself. When setting your goals of how many practice exams you do and when you do them, I would recommend being mindful of the following:

What time is your actual exam?

I like to call this the trigger effect (there’s probably a much better scientifically worded phrase for this) When you do practice exam for a certain subject at a particular time/location, or even while smelling a particular aroma or wearing particular clothes, on the day if you repeat the same trigger you’d likely perform better! So how I managed to apply this theory into my practice is I would take note of the time of my actual exam and try to schedule my practice ones at that time of the day.

For example, I always started my day with writing essays for English (9:00AM) then took a break to go on to Maths Methods Exam 2 (11:45AM)

What is your energy level like throughout the day?

In other words if you are an early bird don’t attempt staying up till 2am because your brain will give way to exhaustion! You need to be aware of when you are at your best and your worst in order to maximise the efficiency of your exam revision. (However if you like staying at night a bit too much and only start working at 12pm every morning I would recommend gradually adopting an earlier start to your day.)

I was certainly an early bird so I purposely scheduled hard, important subjects into my mornings and early evenings and spared the afternoons for easier subjects which required less “brain power”.

For each practice exam schedule in another half hour or an hour to go through and reflect

I can’t emphasise this enough but quality >>> quantity. I only felt productive when I was able to learn something from each practice exam.

Instead of gunning through 4 practice exams a day, I performed much better by doing 2 exams and reflecting on them afterwards.

For some more insights into how I managed practice exams and revised to my advantage, head to week 2 and week 3 posts and share your thoughts!

That is a wrap for this week! I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s blog and have taken away with you one or two points on setting goals for this exam revision season. Have fun studying and stay sane!

Have a question?

In the final weeks before exams Helen will be hosting 2 Live Q&A sessions to help everyone get fully prepared for exams. If you have a question on how to best get prepared, have been stuck on an exam question or want to clarify an area of content send it through here, and Helen might answer it live!

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