Last minute tips and tricks to ace exams.
It’s that time of the year again.
Last year I wrote a blog post on acing examinations which was not very specific but aimed solely on how to study. Today I am going to attempt to write and explain to you some of the last-minute exam tips and hacks I’ve learnt over the years and I’m still learning. Since most of you will be appearing for your University and Board examinations, I thought I’d help you ease off a little. And as I always say, do not let these marks define who you are.
- LEARNING: Most of you might be at the revision stage right now (kudos to you, I have no idea how that feels) but I’m sure or I hope some of you still have to learn the subject material. So how do you do that when you’ve got revision to do?
- You start by picking one topic a day and scheduling it with other topics you have to revise. Don’t learn every thing on the same day. If you’re short on time and studying one topic a day wont cut it then use what I call, “Divide and Conquer”. This means that you study a new topic in the morning and take up another new topic sometime in the evening/night. You revise your subject material in between the ‘learning’. This avoids cramming. Your brain needs time to process new information so be kind and revise instead of continuously hammering your brain to function.
- Before you start a chapter, go through the previous years question papers and see if the chapter is worth spending time on. Since time is paramount, you can’t waste it on a chapter that’s only going to amount to 2-3 marks. Don’t come at me, nerds, I know even 1 mark is extremely essential. But you’d rather lose 10 marks than 1, right? Prioritise what’s important. You’ll realize that you’ll be feeling less stressed and are able to study more. If you find some extra-time, go ahead and tackle the 2 mark chapter.
- DO NOT STUDY THE ENTIRE CHAPTER. When I gave my boards, I was of the opinion that I HAD to study everything. Every chapter has certain topics that are more important and always have a chance of being in the question paper. Focus more on them. If you’re certain about a particular question, practice writing down the answers. You’ll be surpised how much time you save in the exam hall. Which brings me to my next point:
- Practice writing. I have always advocated using a pen and a paper while studying. Really, it works wonders. Keep making sub-points while you’re studying. Seeing answers written on paper have a higher chance of staying in your mind. I don’t know how it works but recalling answers become 10 times easier. Be creative, use diagrams, flowcharts, acronyms, anything that will help you retain information. You might feel you’re wasting time writing down answers but then when you sit down to revise, it’ll take you less time.(If you followed my advice of writing answers, you’ll already have a set of notes prepared. SEE WHAT I DID THERE? HA!
- Something I discovered this year was studying using Youtube. I gave my first year MA exams and was OBVIOUSLY behind schedule. Since I was required to read a lot of plays and novels and all that cool stuff, I realized watching videos on certain dramas helped. For instance, I read and watched, Dr.Faustus. I was not very sure of the context of the play and watching Youtube videos helped. Visual learners are in for a treat with this. I’m sure there are several videos on various subjects out there. Check out Salman Khan Academy, CrashCourses if you’re short on time and can’t find a quick fix.
- ORGANIZE: I am still understanding what organization stands for. But I’ll try to break it down.
- To-do-list: Make a list of the things you have to study for the day as soon as you wake up. This helps a lot. You kind of get an idea of where you stand and what you need to do. Also, ticking off things from the to-do-list is the single most best feeling in the world. Take it one day at a time. You have to try to stick to the list you’ve made if you want to avoid wasting time. BUT and there’s a big but, do not make a list that’s ambitious. I know you want to make the most of your day but always keep sometime for relaxation. Being well prepared is not directly proportional to 16 hours of studying. Even if you study for 4 hours with breaks in between, you’re doing fine.
- Test yourself. I think the best way to find out what you’ve learnt is to attempt question papers right after you finish a chapter. This works pretty well for me. You can dig up previous years’ question papers and see if you’ve understood the material. Again, this might not be the case for you. Maybe you’re better off answering questions after a revision. Great, do that.
- Study with a friend. I remember studying with my best friend for my 10th boards and during under-grad and we used to update each other on what we studied. Not only does it give you the encouragement you need, it also makes studying fun. And if you’re someone who is competitive, you’ll make sure you study way more than your friend does.
- Take regular breaks. Since you’re studying a few days before the exam, it might not be possible to take breaks often. What you can do is study for 2 hours and take a break for ten mins. No matter what you do, your brain needs time to process. Jumping on to different topics won’t help. I’d rather spend 10 mins watching cupcake videos then cram. (At least, I’ll learn something). I don’t think I need to say this but keep yourself hydrated at all times. Keep snacks and drinks at your disposal to avoid wasting time.
- If you’ve been trying really hard to study and are not able to focus at all, leave it for the time being. Just go for a walk or listen to music and come back to it. Forcing yourself is never going to work. If you find yourself still struggling, move on to the next chapter or a different subject. Tackle it again the next day or after a day or two. Sometimes you have to take a detour to find yourself home. *mic drop*
- FOCUS ON YOUR WEAKNESS: We all have THAT one subject that makes our insides curl and gives us nightmares. For me it was maths. I HATED IT. I no longer have to study numbers( Thank heavens for that) but I still get jittery when I think about it. Try to devote each day on such a topic. I know it’s hard but that’s the only way you’ll be able to score well. If it’s maths for you, then practice maths more than you would normally do. If it’s history or geography, study half a chapter or a full chapter everyday. The idea is to stay in touch with the subject so that it doesn’t feel overwhelming a day before the exam. If you score very well in all other subjects but don’t score well in one subject, your total goes down drastically. That’s exactly what we’re trying to avoid.
- STOP COMPARING: I cannot stress how important it is to realize who you are and what your battles are. Your dreams are different from your friends. You’re not the same. Don’t get bogged down by what your friend is accomplishing or plans on doing. It’s easy to feel lost but losing yourself in the process sucks more. Just do your thing.
Please remember, these exams don’t carve out a future plan for you. Sure, it helps you get into a good college et cetera but they’re not everything. Don’t burden yourself with what others expect of you. Focus on what you want the most and never compromise on your mental state over something as trivial as exams. I say this from experience. Most of the things you’re worrying about won’t even matter in the future. Give your 100%. That’s all.
The above tips are very subjective. One formula does not work for everyone. I hope It was of some use to you. Do you have a study hack I could use? Let me know!
Cracking interviews is hard but preparing in advance is half the battle won.
Disclaimer: I am not an expert. I am still learning how to adult. Whatever I say in this blog post is just a sum total of my experiences while giving interviews. Call it a case study. (You can call it whatever you want).
Congratulations! You finally got the interview call you’ve been waiting for or in other terms losing your sleep over. You’re excited and nervous. While it’s not rocket science that you should prepare yourself before an interview, it is also essential to keep certain little things in mind before your big day. Following aren’t tips but just a few reminders that in my opinion set you apart from other candidates. (You see I spend a lot of time observing people because a.) I’m easily bored. b.) I get good material to write on):
- Appearance: From what I’ve seen, there are two kinds of people. Those who dress for a red carpet event and those who look like homeless drug addicts. It’s not wrong to dress either way but since we’re trying to make a statement by not drawing unnecessary attention, we should stick to basics. The idea is to look professional. (Put on those nerd glasses for special effect). You might wear something that’s in vogue but if you end up looking like you slept in those clothes, it’s not going to work. First impression is HIGHLY important. Choose subtle, warm tones and if you cannot wear heels do not wear them. You wouldn’t want to trip right in front of the interviewer. (I’ve seen this happening and it wasn’t a good sight). Unless, you’re interviewing for a fashion magazine or something in that field, you’re allowed to be creative.
- Being on time: I’ve already mentioned the importance of giving a good first impression and punctuality is one of the prerequisites to that. For once in your life, start early. The advantages of reaching early are plenty: a.) Since there are a number of external factors involved such as weather, traffic, your car breaking down, your uber driver being an idiot etc you have to play it safe. Now is not the time to take risks. So in case something goes haywire, you can still make it on time. b.) You get time to compose yourself. Go through your notes. Look around. Soak in the vibes. Do breathing exercises. Whatever it is that helps you calm your nerves. c.) You can interrogate the person before you who came out of the interview. It’s enlightening to say the least. You get a gist of what’s about to hit you and you get time to mentally prepare yourself. I think it’s one of my favourite things to do. (Also, when you’re waiting for your turn and it kind of gets dry, you can start clicking selfies. #Adulting #IHaveNoIdeaWhatImDoing #SoNervous).
- Organise yourself: We’re all a mess. Well, I am. I never have anything sorted. It’s not humanly possible to have everything in control but there are a few things we can take control of. The company you’ll be interviewing at will give you instructions about the documents you should be carrying. Here, make sure you have everything organised in a file in a chronological order. Get photo-copies of all your documents and certificates just in case they need to keep it. What happens is when you’re inside the interview room and you’re being grilled, you can’t spend time thinking which certificate is where. Not only do you look clumsy searching for the document that should be in your file, you come across as being unprepared. If you know where your documents are, you can easily present it when asked. ( I once dropped the entire file inside the interview room and well the rest is history).
- Don’t talk too much: No, really. Just answer their questions as articulately as you can. If they ask for an explanation, you can drop that thesis you’ve prepared. There’s a difference between being confident and being cocky. It’s okay to brag here and there as long as you can support your statement. For instance, you might be asked to describe yourself (I loathe this question), don’t say you love food and you can eat 10 chicken nuggets in a minute. No one cares. What you can say is you love food and you love trying out different cuisines and you would like to be a food blogger someday. Avoid giving vague answers you can’t account for. DO NOT say you’re a voracious reader if you’ve only read Twilight or 50 shades of Grey .While I was giving interview for The Telegraph You internship programme, I mentioned being an avid reader and my dream of wanting to author a book someday. I got asked a lot of questions about the types of books I read, the genres I liked and if I wrote a book what would the title and genre be. Employers are smart. They can look right through you and won’t hesitate in calling you out. They are looking for people who can contribute to their organisation and prove to be an asset. Keep this in mind.
- Prepare some basic questions: 1.) Describe Yourself. 2.) Where do you see yourself in 5 years? (Reading a book and crying over the death of a fictional character) 3.) What are your hobbies? 4.) Why do you want to work in our company? (Because you’re hiring?) 5.) How can you contribute to our organisation? You get the drill.
Since I love embarrassing myself on public platforms, I’m going to tell you one of my interview stories. So this HR of a reputed company asked me, ‘Where do you see yourself in 5 years?’. My reply will make you cry,’Urm..I haven’t thought of it’. I never got a call from them after having cleared all the rounds. In my defence, it was my first ever interview and I wasn’t too keen on having a future. The question hit me like a ton of bricks and I didn’t know what to say. I mean, I don’t know what I’m going to do after I write this blog post, leave alone thinking in future tense. Alas, that’s life. We have to make scenarios in our heads of all the things that MIGHT happen. Jokes apart, I learnt my lesson the hard way and I’ve got no regrets. Things happen for a reason.You might not have a clear idea of where you’ll be after 5 years but just imagine how you see yourself. Employers love asking this question.
- Stop trying to be different: Logically speaking, you’re not the first person the employer is interviewing and you won’t definitely be the last. Employers have seen it all. Trying to be someone you’re not is digging your grave. You should just have confidence in who you are and believe in giving the best. At the end of the day, you’ll know you got that job because of your competency and personality. And that, my friend, is the single most best feeling in the world.
- Do your homework: Study about the company, their clients, their strategies. Another thing you can do is present to them an idea of what you would do had you been in their place in terms of marketing strategies or launching new products etc. This shows that you’re passionate about working in the said company and you’re willing to go the extra-mile without them asking you to. (I haven’t yet tried this but I will when I get the chance). Try this and let me know?
I love this quote from Jim Lehrer:
There’s only one interview technique that matters… Do your homework so you can listen to the answers and react to them and ask follow-ups. Do your homework, prepare.
- Zero-Expectations: I hate to break it to you but try to be realistic. Don’t get me wrong, you should have huge expectations but only of yourself. You can’t vouch for anything else. Life is not a wish granting factory and somethings don’t go our way. You might have given your best and still you weren’t selected. Don’t lose heart, keep trying. There’s enough sun for everyone. You have something in you to have gotten this far and maybe better and bigger things are in store. This way when you do get the call, you’ll be happier.
There is no specific rule to cracking an interview. It depends on the employer and the interviewee. Subjectivity is a prominent factor dominating interviews. No two people will have the same experience giving interviews at the same company. It all boils down to what you have to offer. The above points are only for reference. Some may work for you, others might not.
If there’s something I really believe in, it is working hard to get what you want. Nothing in the world is out of your reach. You need to be willing to grab it, you need to be ready to sacrifice your sleep, you need to show up everyday. It won’t be easy but it’ll be worth it.
“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them“- Walt Disney
Exam anxiety is a universal problem faced by every student before every exam ever. It’s not a very good feeling and one would want to avoid feeling anxious especially before an important exam.
“Before starting my math exam, I was so consumed by anxiety that I couldn’t even remember what date it was.” –Me during my 12th board exam.
You’re prepared for your final term. You studied everything you possibly could, you didn’t leave out any chapter and you’re thorough with each probable question. But then these little monsters called Anxiety start creeping in and you find your confidence hitting an all time low. You feel butterflies in your stomach or rather the entire zoo, your palms get sweaty, you feel nauseous or worst case scenario pukish. Exam anxiety is a universal problem faced by every student before every exam ever. It’s not a very good feeling and one would want to avoid feeling anxious especially before an important exam. The fear of making mistakes, forgetting formulas, not being able to complete the paper are all too common. It happens to the best of us.
A study suggests that people who are highly anxious tend to perform worse even though they’re well prepared. The good news is you can very well fight anxiety. It’s curable to say the least.
Below are a few tips that might come in handy next time you take an exam:
- Sleep, Sleep, Sleep: A well rested brain is able to function better. The whole idea of pulling an all nighter does no justice to your mind and body. Never compromise your sleep especially before an exam. You’d rather remember what you’ve learnt instead of staying up late and cramming your brain with information you will most likely forget. A good 6 hours sleep is a must.
- Breakfast: I cannot stress how important it is to have proper, healthy breakfast before you leave for school/college. Get up early walk around a little and treat yourself with food that is rich in fibre and carbohydrate. This gives the body the energy it requires. Losing out on energy leads to lower concentration levels which means you might start to panic and that’s exactly what we’re trying to avoid, right? Go eat that apple.
- Don’t discuss: I remember studying every chapter before my geography exam and the morning before the paper, I started discussing it with a friend. My confidence which was high at that point of time was ruthlessly shattered in a few minutes because I wasn’t able to recall the answers to some of the questions asked by my friend. Note that it wasn’t because I didn’t remember but because I got too overwhelmed which led to delay in recall. This lead to even more anxiety. Moral of the story is there is no need to discuss anything when you reach school/college unless there’s something important. Keep to yourself and try to take deep breaths and relax.
- Revising: The most common mistake I made and I observe most students make is trying to revise everything the morning before the exam. It is a very daunting task, takes a lot of time and is intimidating. Failure to cover all chapters leaves you with a sinking feeling thereby leading to doubt and worry. Instead while you’re studying( a day or week before the said paper) make notes of all the important points. Just a brief summary of the chapter in your own words. This method has two advantages, a.) It helps in easy memorization, b.) You have your own notes prepared and it’s a lot easier to go through them by just looking at the points.
- Be prepared: Here I am talking about being well equipped with the stationary you will require during the exam. You wouldn’t want be to panic because you don’t have a pen that works. It will not only cause more anxiety and stress but you will lose out on a lot of time.Always keep an extra pair, just to be sure. Bonus points if you keep everything ready the night before. This avoids unnecessary stress in the morning. It is also very important to reach your school/college early. For those who have different study centres, it is imperative that you take a field trip to figure out where your classroom is. This will help you to familiarise yourself with the classroom setting and your brain will be well rested.
- Set realistic goals: While it is important to set high expectations of yourself , it is equally important to be realistic about it. This doesn’t mean you should not expect a good score but that things might not always go your way. Building castles in the air seldom takes you anywhere. You cannot expect 100% result every time. All that matters is that you gave your best shot. Don’t think about getting a 98 or 100 but about doing better than what you did. Remember, one test won’t alter your life. By having a clear mindset, you will be able to study better.
Some other tips you should remember:
- Write down your anxieties. Studies have shown that those who write down their insecurities performed better than those who didn’t. For every negative trait, write a positive one.
- Listen to music that is soothing and calming. You can do this while you’re on your way to school/college. Music always makes me relax. Keep reading the notes you’ve prepared while simultaneously listening to soft music. It really helps.
- While in the middle of writing the exam, attempt questions you’re most confident about. This gives you the boost that you need. Then proceed towards questions that you find hard or tricky. Also, since you don’t have forever to complete the paper, don’t waste too much time on one question.
- Avoid getting distracted by the person sitting next to you who is writing ten times as fast as you are and who just asked for another sheet of paper. It’s okay. Maybe she has a train to catch, you never know. Concentrate on your work.
- Take breaks if you get too worked up. Close your eyes and try to calm down. Think about things that help you relax. Think about your pet waiting for you at home, or think about how much you’re going to sleep once you reach home. Learn to de-stress.
- Give your best. Don’t let anxiety take all the credit.
Do you have any tips to beat anxiety? Comment below!
DISCLAIMER: Before I begin, I’d like to make it clear that I’m no expert or know-it-all when it comes to effective studying but the following are a few tips or hacks that helped me during my university exams in college. If you’re someone who studies at the last-minute, then keep on reading! Also, all the tips are very subjective. Some might work for you, others may end up being a total fail. It all depends on the kind of learner you are.
First things first, it is extremely important that you don’t panic. I understand that’s not possible but stressing out makes it all the more difficult. You have to take an exam in 2 days and you haven’t started studying or even worse you don’t even know what’s in the syllabus. So what? Try to relax , take a few deep breaths and forget about what “could” happen. Focus on the task in hand which is figuring out what you have to study.
- Stop Procrastinating: STUDY. KEEP YOUR PHONE DOWN AND STUDY. It’s crunch time and you hardly have any time left. You should understand that you’ve wasted your entire year on TV shows and eating and now is the time to get your act together.
- Study smartly: If you’re a Calcutta University student, you’d be familiar with the pressure and load that the syllabus entrails. Do not get intimidated and be practical. It is not humanly possible to study everything (unless you have a photographic memory then why are you even reading this?). Choose the topics that you think are important. Usually the professors inform you of the chapters that are more significant than the others. If you’ve accidentally paid attention in class then brownie points for you! If you didn’t, like most of us, then figure out what needs to be tackled first.
- Study Partner: Having a friend or a study partner or a study group makes studying a lot more easier ( I wouldn’t say fun because let’s face it you have an exam in two days). If you’re stuck, your friend can always help you understand the topic in a better way. I realized this worked best for me because I knew I wasn’t alone and also constant motivation and break from rigorous studying. Here’s a little picture for motivation 😉
- Refer to previous years’ question papers: One of the most essential studying tips is referring to past years’ question papers. Understanding the question pattern is half the battle won and looking back on earlier questions gives you a decent idea of what the probable questions can be. I’m sure you did this for your board exams back in school so just continue with this tradition. I’d suggest looking back at last 5 years’ questions.
- Understand more, cram less: Mugging everything from the page number to the index of your book without understanding is NOT going to fetch you marks, leave alone getting good grades. Cramming is an ineffective study method. You’re not a parrot who is to repeat everything in exact form. Try to grasp the content that you’re seeing, make your own interpretations and remember the key points. It not only saves time but helps you broaden your mind about the subject. If you’ve understood the topic well, you can write.
- Time Management: The most common pre-exam mistake we all make is studying for hours at a stretch. Stop it right away. Take a topic, study for an hour at first. Try to finish majority of the portion in that one hour. After that, take a break of say 5-10 minutes and then continue again. Start another topic, study for an hour and take a break. The break helps you retain what you have learnt and allows your memory to take in more. It is essential to stick to your time schedule. You learn faster and retain better. Remember the break should not be more than ten minutes. (Utlilise your break by checking every social media possible because social obligations)
- Write and Learn: I’m aware that writing and learning a few days before exams is impractical but it has helped me immensely. I’m a visual learner and I prefer jotting down everything I’ve learnt. Writing down what you’ve studied means putting down all the key points from your memory. I think it’s a great exercise as you find out how much you’ve learnt and at the same time you have effective notes prepared that you can leaf through on the big day!
- Mnemonics: “A system such as a pattern of letters, ideas, or associations which assists in remembering something.” What am I even talking about? Well, Mnemonics means associating things to a particular pattern or events or names that assists in memorizing better. It improves memory. If there are sub-points that you need to remember but are having difficulty retaining then you can associate them to an event in your life or any pattern. Let’s take an example:
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