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LEARNING HACKS We encounter exam situations again and again in our everyday lives, whether at school, at university or at work. They often trigger stress and panic, but with good exam preparation they can easily become an exciting challenge.
Now that I’m about to graduate from high school and already have numerous big exams behind me, I should actually know how written exams work and how to master them most successfully. Nevertheless, I keep catching myself developing anxiety about the exams. This is not a bad thing because I have prepared myself well and know that this fear is a positive thing – after all, it shows that I am motivated to do well in the challenge ahead. It can even help your brain to work at full capacity. To find out how you too can best prepare for your exam, read on.
1. Start studying as early as possible
If you’ve read my other study hacks, you’ll notice that I always emphasise one aspect: a good learning schedule. And the earlier you start, the better. If you learn the important material several weeks in advance and repeat it regularly in between, you will not only have less stress the night before the exam, but you will also go into work feeling more relaxed. Furthermore, it is a great help to already pay attention in class, because teachers often already give small hints for tests and exams.
2. Imagine the exam situation
The mere thought of exams causes panic in some students. To help alleviate this before the big day, you can imagine yourself being in the exam situation at home a few days beforehand. Imagine how the exam might be structured, what types of questions might be asked. Maybe the teacher has a certain pattern …? Now look for (old or new) exercises, set a time limit and try to solve the exercises without any aids or interruptions. At the same time, you can test how well you have mastered the material.
3. Pack your bag the night before
Nobody needs stress on exam morning or the feeling of having forgotten something. So the day before, think about what you need for the exam and pack everything. Don’t forget enough food and drink, as well as writing paper, fountain pens, pencils, erasers, crayons and – depending on the subject – other drawing utensils, as well as a calculator and a collection of formulas. I also recommend a small lucky charm and something sweet to motivate yourself. Also lay out your clothes for tomorrow so that there is no time pressure in the morning.
4. Go into the exam well rested
When you have studied and prepared everything, you should go to bed early that night. Setting your alarm 10 minutes earlier has never hurt for a time buffer. Start your exam morning with a healthy breakfast. This will give you energy. If it gives you confidence, you can reread what you have learned, but if you have studied well, this is not necessary. Instead, distract yourself, listen to your favourite music, talk to friends. And above all, don’t put yourself under too much pressure. You have prepared well, that’s all you can do. Take a deep breath and rise to the challenge.
More tips for your exam preparation can be found on topuniversities.com.
5. Ask questions
Skim the assignments immediately after you have received them. Be sure to ask questions now if a word or phrase seems strange – at this point it doesn’t matter what others might think of you. Questions may not be answered later. Don’t waste valuable time afterwards and start solving the assignments promptly. However, take enough time to read thoroughly. Especially if you can choose between different assignments – you should be very sure which one you choose, because you can’t change again later on.
6. Understand the tasks
If you don’t know immediately what a task wants from you, think of the three levels of difficulty: I (recall knowledge), II (apply knowledge), III (think further with knowledge). Can you assign the task to one of the three levels? Then you know whether it is a question of learning knowledge or application knowledge or whether you have to find a solution yourself. The operators are also helpful. They usually give specific instructions on how extensively you have to complete an assignment.
7. Make the best use of time
Make sure you take a watch with you to the exam (no smartwatches, they are usually forbidden) and make a rough plan in your head during the exam of how much time you want to spend on which task; if you exceed this by a large amount, you should turn to the next task willy-nilly. Do tasks that are difficult for you and have no significance for the following tasks (!) at the end. You should avoid toilet or meal breaks as far as possible for short examinations, but you can use them to give your head a short rest if you are working for several hours.
8. Check reading
Plan a small time buffer at the end of the work. Of course, this is not always possible, but most teachers have planned a few extra minutes in the student’s working time. Be sure to check that you have completed all assignments (including sub-assignments), as you do not want to give away valuable points. Check your results for errors and spelling, because such deficiencies can also have a negative influence on the evaluating teacher. Only when you have eliminated all possible sources of error you can hand in your work.
9. After the exam
When you come out of the examination hall, you can be relieved and proud of yourself, no matter how it went. All the pressure is off you because you know you’ve done it. Maybe the tasks were easier than you thought, maybe it was more difficult. But it doesn’t matter now, because you did your best and there’s nothing you can do about the result anyway.
Only when you have recovered mentally from the exam should you turn your thoughts to your next exam. Did your study methods work well? Did you start studying early enough? Were you rested enough? Were you able to concentrate well or did you black out? (Tips against blackouts can be found here.) What can you do better next time? Although there is no guarantee that the exam will go perfectly if you follow all these tips, they will give you security and confidence – and these have always helped me in exam situations.