Once the Easter holidays are over, things start to get very serious very fast. The countdown to the Leaving or Junior Cert, A or O levels, or college exams is ON! Study is now your main focus and here are 6 steps to make those final weeks easier.
It sounds rather obvious but it is really important to take care of yourself over the next few weeks. Make sure that you are eating, AND eating nutritious food. Good food is a great defence against colds & flu which will sap the energy out of you. Drink lots of water – finding it hard to drink water, add a slice or orange or lemon or even a drop of miwadi or ribena. Banish those energy drinks, they are counter-productive.
Instead make sure that you get lots of sleep. Pulling all nighters might sound like you’re working really hard, but your brain needs really good deep sleep to function optimally. Getting plenty of sleep in the weeks coming up to & during the exams will allow your brain to easily access all that information that you’ve stored.
Avoid any stressed out friends or those moaners that I call energy vampires, they will only be happy when they’ve dragged you down to their level. Instead keep up your social life with likeminded pals and make sure to take regular exercise – the endorphin release is wonderful and will help you to study better.
Every formal exam follows a pattern. It has to in order to ensure uniformity and consistency. The secret is to understand the pattern of the exams and replicate it. The answers lie in the past papers. Go over the past exam papers to understand how questions are set and phrased. Read sample answers to understand how to answer the questions. You will learn how long or short an answer should be, when to add quotes, how to use definitions etc.
Write out your answers to get experience of the time involved in writing an answer & to get your arm and hand ‘match’ fit for the event. Managing your time well is vital in the exam so practice it.
Teach the wall – what I mean here is if there are concepts or items that you are unsure of, imagine that you are teaching it to a six year old. Once you can explain it easily to a child, then you know it!
This is actually my favourite tip of all and one that we use in the Hummingbird learning Centre. Imagine yourself taking the test and feeling confident that you know all the information. Picture getting all of the answers right, and focus on how relaxed you feel. Then see yourself getting your results and you have a massive big smile on your face. When you imagine a happy ending, that’s often what happens, because you make the decisions that lead to it without even realising. This is a very powerful exercise and should be practiced very night before you go to sleep. Your brain will then figure out everything it needs to do in order to get the outcome that you desire, so be sure to frame your desired outcome in the positive!
Yeah, ok! I know that you know how to breathe! As simple as it sounds, concentrating on your breathing can make a big impact when working to overcome test anxiety. Relaxation is really the key to exam success because when you’re stressed; your mind has a tendency to go blank. Once you relax, that information floats to the surface—because it’s there, it’s just a recall issue associated with stress. The body cannot give you a stress response and a relaxation response at the same time. It can only give one or the other. You can make your body have a relaxation response by concentrating on your breathing. It’s a skill like any other skill— the more you do it, the better you get at it and then the more control you have over it. Knowing how to breathe purposefully in this situation will really help you. Here is a really easy, yet super effective technique:
Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds, and breathe out for 8 seconds – repeat as necessary.
Practice so that you know it – it’s a skill that will benefit you throughout your life.
Anxiety levels are high among everyone at the start of a test. Rather than jumping into the questions as soon as the test is handed out, look at the test and wait for the room to settle before picking up a pen. Breathe. Now, read each of questions, then stop and take a breath. Then go back and review those questions and make sure that you’ve read them fully. Run the answers as a movie in your head first. Once you are satisfied that you can answer the question then start to write. Because you visualised the answer first, it will easily flow as you write.
There is no substitute for actual study. You have to do the work but you can either work hard or work smart! If you are easily distracted then invest in some supervised study hours. Many private companies and schools run supervised sessions, where there really is nothing else to do but study. The breaks are scheduled and you can socialise during these with friends. Break times can also be useful for getting clarification from someone if you are unsure about a subject or topic – pick their brains!
At home, study in a quiet place. Log out of social media and ask everyone to respect your space. Turn off your phone & leave it in another room. Schedule your breaks & stick to it.
Give yourself little treats for work completed – perhaps a movie with pals or a lie in or a long soak in the bath or go watch a match – you choose.
Elaine Sparling is the CEO of the award winning Hummingbird Learning Centre®. Based in Adare, Co Limerick and Tralee, Co Kerry, she works with clients on a one to one basis and can be contacted on 087-2996054 or through their website www.hummingbirdlearning.com. We are currently developing a week long Irish Course for summer 2016.The online version of our popular workshop The Secrets to Successful Spelling™ is available through this website and our Facebook page and we have also launched our Study Success Program™ for second & third level students.