It’s getting closer to the end of year exams!  To ensure you do your very best we have put together 7 helpful study tips to make sure you get the best out of learning, revising and studying.  These tips* can be useful for all year levels.

*Tips are sourced from TSFX VCE newsletters.

TIP #1: Effective Time Management is Key

  • It’s important to record all major deadlines as assessments are issued.
  • Document the dates on a calendar that’s displayed in a regularly frequented area such as the bathroom or on the fridge door.
  • If you are a procrastinator, record your dates earlier than the true dates so that you are forced to work ahead of schedule. This will ensure that there is sufficient time to complete or polish up on assignments stress free.
  • Regularly revise materials throughout the year rather than re-learning in the weeks leading up to the examinations. It’s less time-consuming to spend short periods reviewing materials while they are fresh in your mind rather than re-learning materials “from scratch” before the exams.
  • We all have power hours or peak performance periods when we are in “the zone”, ploughing through tasks with maximum efficiency and ease. Identifying and utilising our power hours in the best way is one of the most powerful and least used time management techniques that can greatly cut down on study time without negatively impacting results.
  • Take a break in-between tasks to clear your mind and recharge. The human brain can only effectively focus for up to 90 minutes before it needs a recharge.

TIP #2: Active Learning is Best

  • When ‘teaching’ or explaining what you are learning in your own words and out loud, you are engaging in a technique known as elaborative rehearsal.
  • This technique helps transfer information from short-term memory to the higher levels of long-term memory.
  • ‘Teaching’ will improve how much you understand and remember. When trying to rephrase concepts in your own words, you’ll very quickly find out what you do and don’t know, therefore which topics or concepts require more time and attention.
  • Spend as much time in class listening to, and absorbing, the information being delivered and where possible, only write notes or copy examples when your teacher isn’t speaking.
  • It’s the actual learning and practising of questions that has the biggest impact on examination marks – not writing and/or rewriting notes and summaries.

TIP #3: Concentration Boosters

  • Don’t use any form of social media during study sessions.
  • Even mild dehydration can decrease concentration and test performance. Drink one glass of water within five minutes and your alertness and energy levels will greatly improve.
  • Conduct your studies by reading materials out loud.
  • Perform calculations as if you were tutoring another student -explaining what you are doing and why.
  • Studies have shown that peppermint stimulates brain activity and enables you to concentrate better. Therefore drink plenty of peppermint tea when studying.
  • Change the colour of the text in typed notes every 3 to 4 lines. Not only will this make it easier for you to keep your place, you’ll absorb more information and get through each passage faster.

TIP #4: Productivity Boosters

Losing just 1.5 hours of sleep reduces alertness by 32% and avoiding junk food can raise your productivity 20%. Exercise helps you to better handle stress, makes you more alert and gives you more mental energy.

Leave the last 5 – 10 minutes of each study session to review what you’ve learned, to note any questions you may have and to document which sections you are having difficulty with.

Allocate a time limit in which to complete each individual task. Work has a tendency to expand and fill the available time.

Don’t listen to music while studying. When you listen to music, you’re making your brain work twice as hard. Half your brain is trying to listen to the music and the other half is trying to study. The result? A loss in concentration and productivity which means that it will take you longer to complete each task. If you must listen to music, choose music that doesn’t have lyrics in the languages you speak.

Set up study groups where you are given the opportunity to teach others what you’ve learned.

Decrease the temperature in your study area. If necessary, layer up with clothes and open the window so you get a continuous supply of fresh air. Air from cooling or heating vents is recycled throughout the house and often has a lower concentration of oxygen, which reduces productivity.

Eliminate your least favourite tasks first up and you’ll find the rest of your day to be more pleasant and productive.

Clutter is extremely stress-inducing. A messy desk makes you feel overwhelmed and anxious and makes it much easier for you to procrastinate.

TIP #5: Beating Procrastination

The beginning is always the hardest! Divide large tasks into smaller, more achievable milestones. Start with a small simple task and get some momentum happening.

Set realistic and manageable goals so that you know what you want to achieve and you can see clear evidence of your progress towards your final goals.

Set early deadlines for tasks. Rather than leaving things to the last minute, ‘fake’ deadlines will compel you to complete tasks earlier than required, leaving you with enough time to go over your work before you hand it in.

Turn tasks into challenges or games. For example: “ I bet I can get this done in 30 minutes.”

Remove as many barriers to starting your studies by leaving your desk clean, tidy and uncluttered each evening. Then spend 10 to 15 minutes on the hardest task that needs to be completed on the next day. The thought that you’ve already started can reduce feelings of being overwhelmed and reduce procrastination levels.

TIP #6: Maximising Learning

Learn in 15 – 20 minute blocks with breaks totaling 10 minutes each hour. Taking breaks on a regular basis results in better recall of information. During each break, relax or engage in something physical and or fun. These crucial breaks will give your mind a chance to rest and doing something different will actually stimulate it. Do not use technological devices during your breaks.

After learning a topic, test your knowledge and further ingrain information into long-term memory using practice testing. Examples include:

  • Asking yourself questions and answering them. Flash cards are great for this.
  • Doing practice questions without the aid of notes or textbook materials.
  • Sitting tests in a testing environment.

By actively retrieving the information, it is better stored in long-term memory. Testing also provides accurate feedback of what you really know.

Seek advice and different perspectives from as many sources as possible, especially from official VCE exam markers. Attending lectures and revision programs can also save lots of time when preparing for exams.

TIP #7: Sleep and Learning

During the night, your sleep follows a predictable pattern, moving back and forth between deep restorative sleep (deep sleep) and more alert stages and dreaming (REM sleep).

  • REM sleep = Rapid Eye Movement. This sleep replenishes the mind.
  • NREM sleep = Non-rapid Eye Movement. This sleep replenishes the body.

During REM sleep, your brain consolidates and processes the information you’ve learned during the day, forms neural connections that strengthen memory and replenishes its supply of neurotransmitters – making it easier and faster to remember facts when studying. Adequate sleep is therefore crucial for the memory storage building process. The more REM stages per sleep cycle, the greater the amount of information that is stored in long-term memory.

Most teenagers require 9.25 hours of sleep each day which gives five complete REM cycles to meet the demands of daily development and learning. Aim for at least nine hours per night during high stress periods and when preparing for tests and exams Get at least 7.5 hours per night and stress levels and study loads are manageable.

Blue wavelengths of light from the screens of smart phones, TVs and tablets suppress the production of melatonin, delaying sleep onset and making us feel alert. These devices should not be used 1 to 2 hours before sleep.

Go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day – including weekends. Do not alter this routine by more than one hour. The quality of sleep is much higher if you fall asleep before midnight and by making sure your bedroom is completely dark at night.

Cutting sleep in order to study longer hours actually lowers test and examination marks. Start your exam preparations earlier so you can get to bed on time, especially on days when you’ve been learning large volumes of new material. You’ll remember more the next day and decrease stress levels as well.