Some of the most common mistakes students can make when revising for exams include starting too late, rereading notes as supplied by the teacher exclusively, and spending too long reading one specific topic when there are many more to learn. One thing many revision problems have in common is passivity.
Many students commit the error of sticking to topics as taught in class, taking little time to challenge themselves or try out a random or novel order of study. If you are keen on obtaining off-the-chart results in your next set of exams, consider bringing creativity into the equation by exposing yourself to potential questions in unexpected ways.
Teaming Up with Classmates
Nothing can be more fruitful (so long as you stay on track) than revising as a team. Even when core revision topics are provided by your teacher or lecturer, when you study alone, you may end up prioritizing some topics more than others.
To test your knowledge fully, spend time studying alone but also organize in-person or Zoom study sessions with classmates. You can agree to ask each other a specific number of rapid-fire random questions (say five per person) every evening, keeping the call to a set time—no more than 10 or 15 minutes, for instance.
Agree to ask each other ‘random doubts’ one night a week. Your questions can comprise anything that seems inadequate or that you cannot explain yourself through your notes or online research.
Finally, during your calls, you should each provide one fascinating piece of information that can enrich each other’s knowledge of pertinent topics.
Using an Online Name Generator
Most students take a greater interest in some topics than others; it’s only human to have your preferences and strengths in specific areas of your study.
To encourage yourself to revise topics of lesser interest and to ensure you are as fully prepared as you should be, consider using a random name picker. Simply write down various topic headings and work for a set number of minutes on the topic chosen by the generator. This can be particularly useful if you have more than 15 to 20 areas to study.
For an extra-challenging game, insert the topics for more than one exam into the generator. This will really get you thinking on your toes and require full alertness, since you may be called upon to recall facts from totally disparate areas of knowledge.
Doing Past Exams
One of the best things about important exams is that you can usually access past papers. These exams provide an excellent way to test yourself in a surprising, new manner; one that does not involve the specific areas of interest of your teacher.
Past exams do one very significant thing: they force your brain into ‘active recall’. The latter is very different from simply recognizing material in that it forces you to retrieve existing information from your brain instead of passively adding more information to your memory bank.
When you are answering the questions on a past exam, you may notice that although you know one or more pertinent answers, your writing lacks depth, detail, or vital statistics and information. Once again, you should rely on team members from your study group to mark your test and give you objective feedback about weaknesses in your answers.
Take a Cue from the Spaced Learning Method
If you’re into novel study techniques, then you may have heard about “spaced learning.” This revolutionary means of memorizing study material involves alternating short, intensely focused periods of learning with breaks (during which you can carry out a host of activities ranging from dancing to throwing a few hoops). In a typical spaced learning session, the teacher presents students with material three times, with two breaks for physical activity in between.
In the first study session, the material is presented for the first time. During the second, the same material is presented, but with blanks that students have to fill in.
Finally, in the third session, the class discusses what they have learned to promote a deeper understanding of the topic.
How Does Spaced Learning Work?
Spaced learning has been found to enhance memory and learning. Its success is attributed to repetition and the way it encourages students to recall a body of knowledge they have “set aside” during their break. Try out this method by interspersing study sessions with activity to get your circulation going and to allow your mind to retain more information.
When you get back from your exercise session, randomly cover words or phrases and see if you can recall them. You should also check out online spaced learning tools like The LetinerBox, Anki, and TinyCards. These tools play a similar role to that represented by a teacher in a spaced learning class.
Enrich Your Diet with Brain-Boosting Foods
Lifestyle choices such as getting good sleep quality and consuming a healthy diet can help with memory and keep stress at bay. A study by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh on adults aged 18 to 25, for instance, has shown that Omega-3 essential fatty acids can improve working memory.
Foods containing these essential fatty acids include wild fish and grass-fed beef. Vitamin C, meanwhile, has been found to boost cognitive function. Vitamin B5, folic acid, and Vitamin B12 can also boost cognitive health. To increase your Vitamin B5 and B12 intake, you can choose from a wide variety of sources—including eggs, dairy products, fortified breakfast cereal, fish and shellfish, chicken, beef, and liver.
To up your folic acid intake, try sunflower seeds, seafood, liver, whole grains, and dark, leafy vegetables. Consume more Vitamin C by tucking into citrus fruits, bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflowers, and white potatoes. Include a few of these foods in your shopping list and try to include one or two of them in your daily meals in new dishes you can randomly select from your favorite recipe site.
In order to achieve greater success in your next set of exams, embrace creativity and the unexpected. Work with others and test yourself with random questions. Use a name generator to decide specific areas you will focus on during a particular study session.
Do as many past exams as you can and ask trusted study mates to grade them for you. Finally, try out new methods like spaced learning and prioritize a brain-boosting diet.