Tips for Studying Last Minute

Exam is around the corner, time is definitely running out but you have not covered revision for half the syllabus yet? What should you do?
That’s right folks, the clock is ticking unbelievably fast and you are starting to panic. You wish you could convert your brain into a sponge and soak up everything directly off the books… but alas, that is purely wishful thinking! So, the next best thing would be to roll up your sleeves, switch on that studying mode and start studying in earnest! ‘Fret not, many out there are just like you, so here are some useful tips to help you gear up for that dreadful but all-too-important exam :


1) FIND YOUR PRIME TIME (Are you an owl or a lark?)

Not everyone can study at anytime of the day – some find their minds fresher and function better in the early mornings, some just the opposite; whatever work that needs to use their minds can only get done at night. Prime time simply means the most effective time of the day where you are most productive. It could be 1, 2 or 5 hours a day, (but for your own sake, if this is a real last minute thing, please stretch it for as long as you can!).


You may think that sitting on your desk staring idly at your books 24 hours a day, sacrificing meals, tv and sleep, will solve all your problems. Right? Wrong! All it does, in actual, is just to alleviate your feelings of guilt for not studying enough so that even when/if you failed your exam, you can tell yourself that you have tried your best. You will actually be surprised to find that studying in pure focus for just 2-4 hours in your most productive timeframe will produce much better results.


So, find that unique timeframe of the day and reserve those few hours for concentrated studying. (No, don’t waste your best hours on TV or computer games, they will just suck your energy and leave you too exhausted for studying afterwards.)


2)    DON’T STUDY HARD (HUH??)

As opposed to popular belief, studying more may not necessarily mean better results in your exams. The smarter way to study is, study the right thing. Selective studying means you don’t have to read and memorize the entire textbook. You will only have a brain-traffic-jam of facts and figures, which will only confuse you further, and makes you forget what’s really important.


Study the important parts – textbook explanations may be lengthy and to some extent, irrelevant. They may be useful for learning the first time, for deeper understanding of the subject. Not, however, for revision purposes and especially for last minute studying.


Make it a habit to practice picking out important points when you read a textbook. You may create your own short notes or cards that you can refer to at a glance and remember easily. You may create acronyms for long lists of words that you need to remember in a certain order. You may highlight different colors to separate categories in your books, for example, yellow means formulas, orange means short summaries, green means important names of people or places, blue means important dates; etc.


Some can even just read all the titles and subtitles (and skip the body) to jog their memory of the entire chapter. It’s sort of like mind-mapping. This technique, however, can be applied only after you have earlier read and understood the chapter thoroughly and it has to be done in pure focus so I might say, may not work for everybody.


Find your own way of selective studying. What works for others may not work for you. Once you have found a way that suits your own, stick to it and use it often.

3) PAST YEAR QUESTIONS (PYQ)

The most conclusive way of making sure you are studying the right stuff would be to attempt past year questions (PYQ). Get your hands on as many past year papers and exam papers of other schools and states as you can. There are a few benefits of doing this :

- PYQ often repeat similar patterns over the years so you can observe the way questions are being asked, the structure of questions and how they are mostly applied. So after that when you look at the book, you know what exactly to pick out in a long paragraph of facts. This will make your revision easier if you know what the questions want.

- You can observe the marking scheme in detail, so you know the correct way of answering a question to get full marks. (Many students think they know the answer but make the mistake of not answering them correctly, or conveniently skip some important steps required, thus losing marks unnecessarily).

- Practicing PYQ makes you familiarize with the flow, format and style of the exam questions. Thus eliminates the surprise factor and makes you more comfortable and less nervous in the real exam.

- You can observe the popular topics and subtopics that came out so you know what to focus on in your revisions. (Spotting topics is not really an advisable way of studying so do this only as a last desperate resort, if you literally have been sleeping in class for the entire year!)

4) STAY AWAKE

“I really want to study but I keep falling asleep once I open my book! How??”

As mentioned in point #1, you should always study at your prime time, i.e. the best hours that your brain is at its most fresh, clear, and focused state. Only then you can ensure that you do not fall asleep while studying, thus wasting all your efforts. However, if that is not possible, you still need to set aside some time of the day for quality study. In this time, you must by all means, stay awake!

Many students fall asleep while studying because they choose to study just before bedtime, or they sacrifice sleep for the past few weeks just for last minute studying. In any case, how do you solve the problem of falling asleep while studying? The answer is : DO WHATEVER IS NECESSARRY!!

Some will find themselves fresher after they wash their faces; some prefer to go for a jog. You may cycle around the park, watch a sitcom, play a computer game, play with your dog, you may even pinch yourself awake! The point is, you can do anything; do whatever you have to, but bear in mind, you must have the discipline to stop doing whatever you like and go back to focus on studying after that.

5) STAY AWAY FROM DISTRACTION

Distraction varies from TV, cell phones, computer games or social networking websites, to family environment, social functions or even mood swings. Research shows that Malaysian children spend an average of 19 hours online every week. (Source: Norton Online Family Report 2010).

Now how do you expect to have time for studying if you spend 3 hours a day online? This is only an example. Not to mention the endless social functions you have to attend almost every weekend, the oh-so-exciting-TV series that you can’t miss, the twice weekly football game with the guys, the girlfriend who throws a tantrum if you don’t call her up to chat an hour a day, the daily afternoon nap that will get you cranky every time you miss it. Oh, and what about the mom who keeps nagging and the baby brother who never stops crying? And after everything is done and quiets down, you find that you are either too tired or simply, “not in the mood to study”.

The keyword here is : CONTROL.

Whatever the distraction is, keep it under control !! BAN yourself from Facebook / Myspace if you have to.

Discipline is of utmost importance to achieve this task. Nothing can distract you if and once you set your mind to it. I don’t have to elaborate further. You know what you need to do.

Well, I hope at least some of you desperate students out there would find these tips useful to your last minute studies. However, one important point to note is that the No.#1 factor in making last minute studies successful is DETERMINATION & EFFORT. As the old saying goes, “where there’s a will, there’s a way” (and I will add this : “where there is no will, there will be procrastination and delay. In other words, a million excuses.”) Sad to say, if there is no determination or effort to start with, no amount of useful tips in this world will be of the slightest use to you. All your efforts in searching for the magic tips to study last minute and articles such as this, would be nothing but futile.

So, hang in there folks, and make the best use of the remaining time you have ! Good luck, y’all! Ganbatte ne!!


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