Exams are unfair. They’re unpredictable, fearsome and an odd combination of stressful and boring (how is that even possible!?) And we all know the gruelling marathon that revision can be. However, just like any game there are winning strategies which can gain you an unfair advantage, and I’d like to share with you a few of my favourites.
1. Pressure On, Pressure Off
Human beings just can’t keep the pressure on indefinitely. Those who say they can are either lying or are one deadline away from imploding in the library. A great trick to maintain sustained study is to divide your time in to 45 minute study blocks. Set your alarm for 35 minutes, then keep studying. When the alarm goes take a 10 minute rest period (timed once again). During the rest period you should ideally move around a little and socialise. Keep repeating this cycle for your entire study duration. I know many successful authors and professionals who swear by this technique.
2. Eat Real Food!
Your brain accounts for roughly 2% of your overall body mass, yet it consumes a disproportionate 20% of the body’s daily energy. If you want your brain to perform at peak, you need to give it the right raw materials. Consume a steady flow of fresh fruit and vegetables, good carbohydrates (brown rice, sweet potato, quinoa, etc.) healthy oils and protein. Avoid processed foods. I’ve coached students who had their performance entirely turned around from simple changes to their diet. Even small changes in brain performance can lead to big exam result boosts. Don’t consume sugary treats, they make your brain sluggish and scatty.
3. Block Access to Distracting Websites
You’re studying hard, the knowledge is settling in, but just as you get on a roll you hear the familiar ‘ding’ of a Facebook update… Your friend is waiting, and he has some hilarious cat videos for you. This scene could be true of any social media site, news websites, blogs, etc. A great tip is to block the offending websites using your parental control features on your browser. You can even download software which blocks the offending sites by timer, so your exam time is distraction free.
Beautiful caffeine is my favourite performance enhancing drug. Studies have shown that caffeine increases focus, endurance and even performance in IQ tests. Whenever I have a writing deadline, I always have a pot of green tea by my side. Play around with your favourite caffeinated beverage until you find one which has just the right kick, then give yourself a good dose on exam day.
5. Find Your Sacred Study Space
Our mind reacts to cues and craves routine. When we spend time in a place, we tend to fall in to the behaviours usually associated with that space. Find yourself a sacred study space where only intense study is performed. A spare room or an office is perfect. If you keep the space sacred and only use it for serious study, you will find the space evermore easier to revise in. Conversely, don’t study / revise in places where you’re used to socialising, sleeping or looking up naff stuff on the internet (bedroom?)
This is as vital on exam day as it is on the study days leading up to it. Low sleep, quite simply, leads to low quality mental output; whereas, a good night’s sleep can give you the mental edge. It is not commonly known that students and teenagers biologically require more sleep than adults, so don’t be ashamed to take ten hours rest if that’s what you need. On exam days, settle for nothing less than a perfect night’s sleep. Whoever thought you would be sleeping your way to exam success?!