Planning ahead is the key to doing well in exams. If I know I have an exam coming up, I make sure I revise the content and information well in advance. The earlier you start studying, the better your exam results are going to be.
I am auditory learner, so I make sure I attend all my lectures with notes I have prepared before the lecture and then within the lecture I listen to the lecturer without making notes and then after the lecture I podcast the lecture again and complete my notes. I try to stay on top of this schedule every week and stay on top of my work. When exam season is creeping up, I print off all my notes and make flashcards and read the information out loud to myself to memorise the content. Hearing myself or listening to others helps me to revise.
No cramming or all-nighters!
When you cram for an exam, you may remember it for the exam, but it will affect your recall and when you are working in practice you will not remember the vital information. One main thought that stops me from leaving revision last minute is: as the next generation of optometrists, we have the gift of preserving the sight of people and if we do not have the adequate knowledge how will we use our ability to find the next breakthrough or how will we spot detrimental eye diseases in practice?
Set the mood for your revision
Find the perfect time and place for effective studying:
- Time - plan your revision according to the times you are more alert, whether it is morning, afternoon, evening or night. Once you know what time you learn best, stick to this schedule and make it part of your routine.
- Place - some people prefer studying in a silent library, whereas others prefer a loud coffee shop. Find what works for you and stick to it. Personally, I prefer studying in my local library which isn’t too quiet or loud and I have other people around me working, which motivates me to work harder and stay focused.
- Eliminate distractions - if you feel as though your phone is distracting you, switch it off whilst revising.
Find a study buddy
What I found works best for me is to find a study buddy with the same learning style as me. We both set ourselves targets and then test each other on what we have learned to try to make revision more fun. Whenever we are learning lists of signs and symptoms of ocular diseases, we make up the funniest and wackiest acronyms to remember them by.
Study to teach
Regurgitating information on a test is completely different to understanding the concepts you are studying and being able to teach it to others. If you understand what you have been studying, you are more likely to remember it in exams and will retain the information for the future rather than learning thing parrot-fashion. Do not hesitate to ask your lecturers, why is such and such a thing like this? The more knowledge you have, the better your understanding will be.
Find past papers, complete all the questions and make sure you understand them properly. There are only so many questions that can be asked in the exam paper. If there aren’t any practice questions available, make up your own. Try to predict the types of questions that will appear on your test, think about the most likely areas the lecturer will focus on in the exam.
Get some sleep!
Being well rested and having enough sleep will allow you to be more productive the following day and revise well without feeling tired and demotivated.
My top tips for revision that have worked without fail are: plan ahead, refrain from cramming and all-nighters, set the mood, eliminate distractions, study to teach not to test, sleep well and practice lots of questions.