Friday, 25 September 2015

Eat, Drink, (Study), Sleep, Repeat!

We all have our own little ways when it comes to exam preparation, and for some of us these techniques have proven to be successful over and over again. Whether that involves religiously scrolling through mountains and mountains of revision notes right up until the exam itself, or whether it’s making sure that we have our lucky exam socks on that haven’t been washed since the miracle success in the chemistry exam of ’98!

However, for the vast amount of us, we still haven’t quite worked out a routine which works best for us individually when it comes to exam preparation. We may have all of the knowledge around the theory that we need, but by the time the exam comes around the corner, and the questions are in front of us, our minds just go blank…

For this reason, I’ve compiled a short set of tips for people who may be unsure of how to physically prepare during the last few days leading up to the exam.

Number 1: Brain Food.

Often with revision, students get into the habit of spending so much time on focusing all of their energy into the study material, that they forget to keep fuelling the body with the nutrients that your brain needs in order to focus to its full potential.

More often than not, a revision diet therefore consists of energy drinks, sweets, takeaway pizza and that left-over blueberry muffin from the multi-pack that you promised to yourself you would have as a treat for finishing your exams…

All of this is of course understandable, as who wants to spend time cooking when they have to pass an exam in two days?! However, there are a few alternative options that are just as quick and easy, that also provide your brain with the right kind of fuel that it requires to help you study more effectively.

Foods high in vitamin C, E and zinc are excellent brain foods, and can include nuts, dried fruits, berries (blueberries are brilliant) and smoothies; most of which can be snacked on whilst revising so are very east options. Alternatively, incorporating broccoli or sage into any meals have also proved to improve cognitive power if you do get chance to cook!

Number 2: Stay Hydrated.

During revision and the exam itself, it is also important that you keep you brain hydrated as much as possible. Resisting the temptation to indulge in copious amounts of energy drinks and coffee is a good start when battling through the revision stage, as they can lead to lower levels of concentration, especially if consumed regularly. Instead just stick with a bottle of water. Water is by far the best form of hydration that your brain can get as well as the healthiest!

Drinking water during exams has also been proven to impact positively on cognitive performance. A recent study of exam students at two Universities in London found that students who drank water during their exams scored 5% higher on average than those who had no drink at all.

Number 3: Study!

Perhaps the more obvious of these tips involves the fact that you will need to do some degree of studying before your exam (sorry, I don’t make the rules). However, perhaps not so obvious to a lot of people is the amount of time that should be spent studying in each sitting.

One of the most effective forms of revision involves completing much shorter study periods of 20-30 minutes, with small breaks in between where your eyes can have a break from whatever media of revision being used. This break can be used for making a cup of tea, grabbing a snack or visiting the restroom after drinking all that water! After a few minutes, your brain will be ready for more and you can get your head back down.

It is also important to ensure that when it comes to these revision sessions, you do not have too much content to cover in a short space of time. Leaving revision too late is a common factor, and the concept of “cramming” is all too familiar with a lot of students…

Starting revision early and having a revision plan is an invaluable technique to use in the build up to an exam and will enable you to cover all of your revision notes in much greater detail as opposed to rushing and scanning over them with just hours remaining.

Number 4: Early Night.

One of the most vital exam preparation techniques is being able to get a full night’s sleep before heading to the exam.

Assuming that you have stuck to your revision plan and have covered all areas of your notes meticulously, there shouldn’t be the need for you to carry on studying into the early hours of your exam date. Instead, it is much more important that you have that much needed rest, as this will allow you to think much clearer come the morning of the exam.

Even if you do leave your revision a bit later than you had hoped, it’s worth making the decision to put down your book, close your laptop and pack away your revision notes, having a good night’s sleep and getting up a bit earlier in the morning to carry on if needs be.

And finally: Repeat.

Whether it’s for a future exam or whether it’s for your first day at work! Once you have figured out a routine that is successful, keep using and developing it, ensuring that you consider the 4 points above.

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