Books & Study Life

How I prepare for exams

I mentioned that I am going to share how I prepare for exams. Next week I have two exams: British History 1485-1603 and European History 1815-1914. We are going to take the exams online and it will be an open book exam. So, in theory it would be easier, but, in practice, is not. I took the mock exams and the first one was not great, I think I would have done better in an offline scenario. I wrote too much and did not allow sufficient time to make a plan. But, the tutors were very helpful and I understand what I need to do to make sure I do better next time. While the grades were not exactly bad, they were not as good as I wanted them to be. Overall, taking the mocks was really good for practice.

How I prepare for exams

How I prepare for exams: Revisions

Planing for the subjects I am preparing for the exam is vital. Hence, this is on display on my wall in the office; the main ideas for each topic I’m revising for exams. Due to the changes with COVID-19, we need to answer only 2 questions instead of 3 for each exam and that is helpful, especially as the libraries were closed and finding the right books for a specific quote was just not possible, as many older books are not digitized.

I listened to many lectures. It happened to attend a lecture in person, in Michaelmas, and now I looked through the lecture handouts, and I listened to them again, if they were uploaded. It was helpful to listen again to a lecture, as when I attended, I was not sure what information I will need for the essay or exam preparation. Of course, there are many new lectures uploaded and I listened to as many as I could, taking notes as I went along.

I looked back on the seminar notes I took and the seminar handouts I was given.

In Hilary I had a study group with two colleagues, in our common room at university. It was great, really helpful, especially as the topics interact with each other. I took some notes during the session and now I looked again over them. We also organized another study group, online, and today we have the third one, just a short recap of all the topics. The last two study groups are online, which is a bit strange, but we do get a lot from them.

Besides all this, I looked back on my essays and some of the research I did for them. I made plans for each topic with the key points and main ideas. Of course, I was sure I wrote all the dates and things like that, even though I know them by heart, considering how many times I’ve seen them in the books I read.

Of course, I read, not only the books I read before, but looked on new ones. As my tutor suggested, I made sure I pick a proper movie for this period, such as the Napleon mini series.

How I prepare for exams - on the day

How I prepare for exams: On the day

One of the things that made me flustered when I took the mock was that I was still at home for the exam. So, when I will have the exams, I will make sure that I wear a cute dress. This will help me get into the proper mindset for the exam. I will also apply a bit of make up, just foundation and lipstick.

My exams are in the afternoon, so I’ve decided to make a Body Shop face mask in the morning, just to slow things down and make sure I relax a bit. I will listen to music or a lecture. Also, just before the exam starts, I will take another 10-15 minutes off and have an eye mask, which will help me relax. It’s likely 30 minutes spent relaxing instead of doing revisions will actually help more, as I will be able to concentrate better after that.

Last on the list is coffee. I will make a mix of standard coffee with decaf, so I don’t overdo it with caffeine, as I did during the mock exams. My husband will make sure I’m properly supplied with coffee throughout the whole 4 hours of the exam.

Pretty much this is it from how I prepare for exams, from revisions to what I plan to do on the day.

8 Comment

  1. Good luck with the exams, Anca! I have full faith in you that you will do well. You’re organised, studious and you have been reading a lot of history books in the last year. Having a short relaxation break before the exam is a good idea. As you say, it will help you concentrate on the task later. Ask you husband to give you some good quality dark chocolate, it also helps with concentration and energy levels.

    1. Thank you Galina, that’s so nice of you to say. The idea of the dark chocolate is great. I might bake some biscuits or just eat it like that if I don’t have time to bake. xx

  2. I love reading this. It’s really good and interesting to know how you prep (it’s been a long time since I’ve had to prep for an exam!). I love that you’ll be wearing a dress and make up for the final!

  3. I think it’s really important for a student to develop a system of studying and preparing that works best for them. It sounds like you’ve done just that.

    I remember when my younger daughter was an undergraduate, her preferred method was to give me lectures from her notes (over the phone, while I worked jigsaw puzzles), sometimes quizzing me in the process . Something about preparing and sharing that way really helped her to learn the material. As a result, I use to joke that I probably could have scored a passing grade on many of her exams.

    I wish you clear thoughts so you do well when you take them!

    1. You know, I’m pestering my husband to read my essays and listen to me, watch movies and documentaries with me and so on. We make the same joke, that he could pass the exams too. That’s funny.
      Thank you xx

  4. I admire your organisation when it comes to preparing for exams! I like the idea of listening to lectures again, because sometimes we just don’t pick up some stuff the first time and we do when we review it again. Also taking care of yourself the morning of the exam is great – it’s something we often forget to do because of the stress!
    Hope your exams go well when you do take them, Anca 🙂

    Julia xx

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