Many of our aspirations in life require that you pass a test before you can get there. Whether you want to be a Doctor, Lawyer or want to start driving; they all require that you pass formal examinations beforehand. And passing exams requires study.
Visit my article on 6 ways to boost your productivity to also help you ace your test.
The finite details and knowledge needed for every exam are different but the main principles are the same whatever exam you will take.
As a medical student, if there is one thing I know it’s how to study effectively.
Studying is as easy or as difficult as you like it just depends on your attitude. No one likes studying (at least I think they don’t) but if you need to do it here are some helpful tips.
The time required for you to study is completely relative depending on your own circumstances.
A large number of factors are dependent here. The major factor is the difference between your current knowledge and understanding of the subject and the level of knowledge and understanding that you need come test time. Find out what this difference is by doing practice exams or from your experience. You now have a rough estimation for how long it will take you to study.
I like to give myself plenty of time so I can maintain the rest of my lifestyle such as leisure, reading, martial arts, gym and getting a good nights sleep.
Always start earlier than you think you will need. This has happened me many of times. You need to have an insurance policy to take account for sick days or if you have forgotten about other important events closer to test time.
By giving yourself a head start you will be ensuring that you have room to manoeuvre if any last minute changes are needed.
Figure out your best study technique
This comes from experience but you can aid your quest by trying out different methods to see what style fits you best. Starting early will allow you time to experiment with this.
The way you study depends on what you are studying for. Some subjects like history require more rote learning to memorise facts and figures. Other subjects like maths may require a greater understanding of methods and calculations for problem solving.
There are tons of different ways to study and there are many extravagant methods in there if you are willing to try. Some people swear by spider diagrams, others by recording their voice/ lecture and listening back to it.
Many people spend endless hours making fancy colour coordinated notes. I personally find this to be a lot of effort without much more benefit. I prefer to read my lectures and to try and remember the content. I then like to test myself to see how much I have remembered. This is just what suits me best.
You can mix and match to keep things interesting but if that might make matters worse then just stick to one style.
Whatever your preferred technique is, find it and utilise it for all its worth.
There is a difference between your subject and what will be on your test. You can spend endless hours studying but if you’re not studying what is relevant to the exam then you are wasting your time. Find out what specific parts of your course will be tested and in what way.
Try to get as much information out of your examiner/teachers as possible. You want be given your best possible chance at succeeding.
Look at the most recent exams and ask people who have done it before or are repeating on their experience and advice.
But be careful as the exam format and content may have changed. This is common as schools/ examining boards are always trying to prevent too much past content being available on a specific subject. There are only so many ways that you can ask a question on photosynthesis.
Use other resources
Go online and see what is available in your area of study.
This is no longer the 1960’s and while some of the best content is published in textbooks, there are an endless variety of resources available online. Youtube is a great example. Watching one particular video could explain a concept to you in a way that means you’ll remember it forever.
If you’re just studying from one book then you will never know if there is a better explanation available. Of course if there is an assigned text book for the exam then you should focus on that.
Also be wary of wasting time online as it is easily done. Stay focused on the task at hand.
Talk to other people studying for the exam
As well as getting help from teachers and experts, classmates can be a great benefit too. If you’re struggling to comprehend something then hearing it from someone who is ‘on your level’ can work.
Often we have a better understanding of one particular area compared to the rest. If you need extra work on something you should get in contact with other people in your class. If you can explain something to them that they struggle with in an easily understandable way then they will be more than happy to return the favour.
A great way to see if you have fully grasped a concept is to try and explain it to someone else in a coherent manner. If you can do this then that is a good sign from which you can build on.
You don’t have to join ‘study groups’ if you don’t want to, I rarely do as I prefer to work alone. But, talking to somebody else who can possibly lend you a hand is always a good idea and you could learn something valuable.
Once you have sufficiently gathered your knowledge you should begin testing yourself as the exam closes in. This helps to tie up loose ends and to see if any area needs more work than previously thought.
Practicing exam style questions under exam conditions is the best way to study as its the closest method to the real thing.
Practice questions under timed conditions to see if you should slow down or you need to speed up. Track your progress and this should give you a confidence boost to achieve your goals.
Prepare the right way
You want to do more than just what is required.
What I mean by this is that if you think that if you study every night for 3 weeks and you “should pass” then you are leaving too much up to chance.
Are you really going to risk failing? Any number of things could happen on the day of your exam. You want to do more than enough so that you can afford to fall back a bit if something doesn’t go according to plan.
Put in the work
No one else is to blame if you fail or don’t achieve the mark you wanted.
As I said in the beginning find out how much work is required for you to achieve your goal and just do it. There is no way around it. You want to be leaving that exam knowing that you did everything you could.
Good luck studying and if you really want to ace that exam you will.