Exam term tips

Exam term welfare

Here are some helpful tips to help you get through exam term:

  • Balance your time. Plan ahead to reduce pressure. Set yourself realistic targets. Establish a routine.
  • Take real breaks. Intersperse your revision sessions with other time–off activities, such as sport and social occasions. It’s estimated that most people have a concentration span of between 30 to 45 minutes so it could be helpful to work for that length of time, followed by short breaks. Opt for whatever time–off activity suits you best, whether that is a cup of tea, seeing a friend or going for a walk.
  • Don’t work for too many hours. Try not to work in the early hours of the morning and don’t work too many hours in one day. If you do, it is likely that your efforts will be undermined because you end up feeling more and more tired, and can’t take in and process information efficiently.
  • Balance your space. Maintain a balance between time alone and time with others; sort out in advance when you will be able to do things together. Consider dividing your room into work and non-work areas.
  • Work in the place which suits you. Cambridge is full of places in which you can study; have a think about which spaces you enjoy using in Colleges, Departments, Museums or public areas. There are also over 100 libraries in which to study: visit the University Library’s website listing all the libraries available.
  • Keep healthy. Ensure that you maintain a balanced diet. Eat three meals a day rather than snacking, don’t sacrifice a proper diet for more time on revision. Remember to eat plenty of fresh fruit and drinks lots of water. Too much caffeine in coffee, coke and chocolate, as well as alcohol and sugar will make you more susceptible to stress and anxiety.
  • Exercise regularly. The adrenaline we build up under stress needs a release. Sports and exercise (whether walking, cycling, swimming or rowing) is one of the greatest stress busters. You don’t have to be very sporty to get exercise–a walk every evening might help, or a kick around or rounders match with friends.
  • Make sure you get enough sleep. Don’t rush straight to bed after revision, if you do, you may have difficulty sleeping with thoughts rushing about your brain. Do something that requires attention. Sport or an evening out is good as by the time you have gone to bed you’re unlikely to be thinking about work, and are so tired that you’ll fall asleep before your brain gets a chance to start thinking again. Try relaxation exercises, yoga or meditation.
  • Separate others’ expectations from your own. It is great to succeed and aim high, but keep things in balance. Aim to do your best, but recognise that none of us can be perfect all of the time. Keep things in perspective. These exams might seem like the most crucial thing right now, but in the grander scheme of your whole life, they are only a small part. Try changing the thoughts of “have to” to “choose to”.
  • Recognise and tackle procrastination. What do you gain from it? Similarly, stand back and weigh up your workload and plan your day. Don’t let emergencies overtake those tasks that are more important but immediately less pressing.
  • Do not keep things bottled up. Communicating with other people whether it is pouring your heart out or just passing the time of day, is a great way of alleviating stress and worry. If you have a particular problem, do not be afraid about seeking help from others. Try friends, family, your Tutor or a help–line may help, and don’t forget you can always contact the JCR or CUSU for support and information.
  • Listen to your body and feelings, work with them rather than against.

Student suggested tips

  • Take one whole day out of your week and plan to do something special.
  • Group revision sessions.
  • Stay clear of people that stress you out.
  • If you are being unproductive take some time out and visit the Fitzwilliam Musuem and enjoy some culture.
  • Go to the bar each night for, just one drink, at last orders.
  • Have a reward system. Finish the essay topic and then eat jelly babies or have a break!
  • Have someone who knows what you are meant to have done in a revision slot who you know will ask afterwards.
  • Look through past papers to see which questions come up most often and concentrate on those areas.
  • Get into a routine! Otherwise you wake up late, go check your email, go buy biscuits, visit a friend with the excuse of borrowing books… and won’t get anything done.
  • Exercising is always good, stimulates your brain… go for a walk or a jog or just get out.
  • Don’t work in front of a computer that has internet–in fact, if you use a computer to study, delete all games and disconnect the net!
  • A stressball.
  • Get a studybuddy.
  • When revising, visualising whatever it is you’re trying to remember using the “Roman Room” technique to connect different points (i.e. placing meaningful objects in an imaginary (or real) room which act as triggers for remembering things). For example, a bottle of ginger beer with a snail in the bottom could remind a law student of the case called Donoghue v Stevenson, which involved a lady drinking a botle of ginger beer and (allegedly) becoming ill after discovering a dead snail inside it! It sounds a bit silly and time–consuming but it does work for some!
  • Get involved with whatever the JCR or CUSU is doing to relax during work breaks!