How to Get Excellence in Your Exams: 4-Week-Plan
You heard us, two weeks have passed already, and it’s now 4-weeks-until-exams. Sheeeeesh.
If your mood for this announcement is GAKJHSLdaskklahsdjfklflashjdlJKalksjhlksjhdkldjhfalsdjhflaskfdhlaisuf,mndakjLIASHKJ – you’re not alone.
How did this happen? If you haven’t already, now would be a good time to check out our last article, released two weeks ago, going through the steps you should take to get into exam-mode 6 weeks out.
Make sure you still do all the steps we advised there, but don’t spend too long getting up to date. That stuff was for two weeks ago. Get it done, but maybe just a little speedier.
If you haven’t gotten around to starting yet, don’t stress. You still have a good chunk of time to meet your exam goals, and give yourself the best shot you can at achieving.
With four weeks to go until exams begin, this period is all about getting the hardest concepts covered, and gaining a strong overview of everything that’s expected of you in terms of knowledge and understanding. In about a week or two, you can start practicing specific applications, doing past exams and making sure you’re confident in your performance strategies.
But for now, follow these steps to stay on track.
1. Gather your materials
You’ve got a lot of notes for your exams. Or maybe you don’t, and you have to sheepishly ask Becky for some. Whatever your strategy, compile them together into one place, and sort them by subject.
Now, your task is to prioritise ya stuff. Don’t just blindly dive into the notes and start highlighting like a madman/woman – work with intention and direction! Priorities can be divided up into:
you know it’s gonna be in the exam but you know nothing about it.
still needs some work, but it’s not end-of-the-world urgent.
the really tricky/masterful/specific stuff that may or may not come up, but would be good to have in your back pocket for any curveballs.
Prioritise the urgent stuff first, then the important, then save the unimportant for the days before your exam.
Keep a diary and a pen handy to add things in as you go, because as you know, you don’t really know what you know until you try to start knowing more.
(PSA – Our walkthrough guides do this step for you – they’ve streamlined everything you need to know for one subject standard into nifty-pretty-booklet-form. Buy one if you’re strapped for time.)
2. Make a study schedule.
If you’re serious about studying for exams, “just winging it” isn’t going to cut it.
You need to make a plan, and carve out some time for all the stuff that’ll ultimately sustain you throughout this period (sleep, friends, family time, self-care, exercise, food, etc).
The best way to do this is by creating a realistic action plan for study. There are heaps of resources on how to do this, and WikiHow has a really great article, which will take you through the process step-by-step if you’re at a loss with where to begin.
But the general recipe for a successful plan is:
Realistic – don’t pretend you’re gonna study for 8 hours everyday, Becky. Start small and stick to it
Goal-based – establish your goals clearly before you create the schedule, so that you have intention and direction everytime you sit down. EG: “I’ll study 5 pages of the walkthrough guide, and then create a summary sheet of my findings afterwards” or “i’ll complete and mark one practice exam for Bio”
Distributed – study is much more effective when you break it up. Mix up your subjects between sessions, so that your brain isn’t burned out thinking about quadratic equations for too long. Study in lots of short “sprints” as opposed to longer, inconsistent “blocks” of work. You’ll remember a lot more this way.
Visible – spend some time making your study schedule something you actually like looking at, and put it somewhere you can’t escape it. If you make it pretty looking, you won’t feel so blue about following it, and the satisfaction of colouring tasks off as you do them is unbeatable.
3. Chunk your work into mini-topics, and start with the hardest ones
You’ll need to study for different subjects in different ways, so it’s a good idea to sketch out a study plan for each of your externals.
For English, it might be more beneficial to explain the concepts aloud to someone else to get a better feel for your ideas. For Biology, it might be better to make flashcards of key terms, and test yourself until you know them by heart.
Each “chunk” of study should have a different purpose (i.e one could be “do a practice question on pH calculations” and the next could be “learn 5 new language features”).
In any case, make sure that you’re scheduling your tasks so that the hardest components are tackled first.
This will help you avoid putting them off until it’s too late, and relieve some of the sick-fluttery-wtf-feeling in your stomach you get every time you think about it.
The simple act of engaging with the concept is enough to remove some of that anxiety, and help you realise that understanding is actually an achievable feat.
Break your subjects down into sub-components, and then tick them off as you become more confident in each. For example, if you’re studying for an English exam and a Biology Exam, your checklists might look like these:
– Plants and animals
– Asexual reproduction
In your study sessions at this point in time, dedicate your focus to targeting no more than one component at a time. This way, your brain won’t be trying to cover too much in one session, and over time you’ll work through the entire standard bit by bit – and return to the parts where you struggled most later on.
4. Get help on anything you don’t know now
You’ve likely got your mock exam results back by now, and if you’re anything like me, you probably flipped straight to the mark at the end of the booklet, looked at your fateful final grades, and ignored the rest.
Dig up those old mock exams results and find out where you went wrong, and where your grades let you down. Now – make sure you schedule tackling those concepts first into your study plan.
Now’s the time to ask your teacher about anything you’re unsure about before it gets too late. Look at your feedback and come up with some key check points for following the advice. Identify your weaknesses and seek support from someone who knows. Asking now will save you a lot of stress down the line.
Better yet, buy our walkthrough guides, which give you a full rundown of everything you need to know for one subject standard.
5. Attempt past exams, and then mark them yourself
People often assume that you have to actually know all the content before you attempt a past exam. In actuality, attempting past exams before you know anything is the best way to get started. They will:
- Give you a feel for the structure and common questions
- Help you identify your weak points
- Failing the question actually helps you to get to the right answer quicker next time, and helps you create new neural pathways that register the correct information more powerfully than you would otherwise.
Print out a variety of past exams from each of your subjects, and begin your study sessions by completing them under timed conditions – no matter how much you know for each. Then, mark yourself, and highlight the parts you failed. Work out why you got to that answer, and then find out what the real answer is, and write it down in your notes. Next time you try, your brain will recognise where you tripped up earlier, and get you to the right answer quicker!
- Start slow. It is much more beneficial to ease yourself into your studies, then to go super hard, burn out, then forget everything.
- You only need small sessions – but make sure they’re focused and deliberate. You don’t actually need to be spending hours and hours on your work at this point, but if you are studying in big blocks, make sure you’re taking regular breaks.
- Spend the last five minutes of your study session briefly reflecting on your study session, and writing down what you want to achieve/go over/practice for tomorrow’s session. This will save you time and energy trying to work out a direction the next day, and instead you’ll just be able to sit down and get stuck into the work right away. This is a killer hack that will truly make your study sessions a lot more efficient.
- Time your study sessions, to give them some structure, direction and a time-cap. This means you won’t burn yourself out, and if you’re getting distracted or losing focus, you can push through knowing you only have a small amount of time to go.
- Diversify your study methods. Don’t just highlight. Practice active revision techniques, and switch up your methods between subjects.
In a month’s time, you’ll be more than prepared.
Remember to take regular breaks from your studies, get out and socialise, stay active, get some nature in ya, be a bit lazy when you need to, and treat yourself with patience and gentle encouragement.
You can do it.