Seven Things You Should Do To Help You Prepare For Exams
Okay, would everyone who likes Exams please put your hands up? That’s right; just raise them up nice and high. No, No, no one. Not one person. If you are a sane person, like me, you will hate exams. They are stressful, a lot of work and all in all a fact of life. That is right, a fact of life. When people leave school after 12, 13 years of school, they are often led into a false sense of security that their lives will be free from study and exams for ever. WRONG!!!
Look, the bottom line is that no matter what you do, in this day and age you are always going to be in a situation where you will have to do some sort of exam, whether it is to get your license to drive a car, to get a promotion at work or to get a University degree, we are always going to be faced with having to do some sort of exam. Even at my computer training centre, when you come to learn how to use Microsoft Office you have the opportunity to gain a certificate from Microsoft in using Microsoft Office, but to get it, you still have to do an exam. However there are certain things you can do that can help you prepare for you exams and give you a better chance of passing.
1. Ensure You Read All the Material Provided After Lectures
The number one mistake people make when they come and do any training, including computer training is that do not re-read and go through all the material they covered during the lectures within seven days of doing the actual lecture. So for example, if you do a one day computer training course, you need to go back through all the material within seven days.
Well there is lots of scientific research that has been undertaken that shows, if you do not reinforce the material you have learned within seven days of first hearing it, that you will 50% of that knowledge within the next seven days. If you do not review the material within 21 days you will loose 50% of the 50% left, which now means you will only remember 25% of the material covered. Some of the research I have read shows that for every 7 days you leave reviewing the material you keep loosing 50% of the remaining knowledge which means in about 6 to 10 weeks after the course you knowledge on the subject. If the material has not been review, the retained knowledge will be virtually none, which means you may as well not wasted you time in attending the course in the first place.
Have you ever been to one of those tax seminars or financial planning seminars? Have you noticed that they only give you enough information to remember the good things, they do not give you a training pack to remind you of the potential flaws of their services, that is because they use the same issues outlined earlier in which as time goes on, you will only remember the things you have reinforced.
2. Make Sure You Redo All The Practical Exercises
With many courses that you study for there will be practical exercises included. For example when you are doing our computer training courses, you will do a little bit of theory and then a practical exercise. It is extremely important that when you leave your training that you go back through those practical exercises as they will help reinforce the theory you have learnt.
Let say for example, you were studying bookkeeping. One of the things you are taught in bookkeeping is how to create a manual set of books such as the Journals, Ledgers and Trial Balance. During your course you would be given practical exercises to create your own Journals etc and it is extremely important that you redo those exercises in your own time to reinforce the elements you have learnt and the process as well.
Yet another example for university student, if you were studying say biology or chemistry, one of the requirements you have is to do certain experiments in a lab. It is absolutely essential that you practice those exercises as they will help reinforce the theory you have learned. In the case of University studies, most faculties will allow you to book lab time to practice your exercises outside the normal lecture time.
3. Do A Minimum of 4 Hours Study Per Week Per Subject
People often say to me how much study we should be doing each week. Well, in reality, it really does depend on the course you are doing. For example if you are studying medicine or law, you will find that you will need almost the same amount of time to study as you attend lectures, so you are looking at 40 hours of study time per week.
However, for computer training courses or IT courses where you are studying for Certifications you will find that if you allocate 4 hours per week per subject, that it will be sufficient to study the material and to become proficient at it. Make note though that the study period does not include doing your practical exercises, the study period is in addition.
4. When Studying Have Light Music On
As I write this I can hear all the parents in the world cringing and crying out saying, NO! Well in fact, if you listen to the right music, music can in fact increase your ability to retain the material you are studying. Briefly, research shows that baroque music at 60 beats per minute causes your brain to produce more alpha [calmness] waves. This happens on both left and right sides of your brain.
This simply means that you calm down and relax, in a way similar to when you whistle a happy tune, or when you daydream. This “alpha” state of mind is ideal for learning, creativity, or just relaxing. Baroque Music also makes the perfect background music for all training from pre-school to government “think tanks.” It is used in schools all over Australia. A quote from the teacher of a remedial class here in Australia: “It seems to slow them down so they can think.”
Corporate trainers can improve the effectiveness of training sessions dramatically by playing Baroque Music during a session.. A colleague uses the music as background for his memory training seminars and swears by it because recall and creativity are improved.
I also recommend listening to Baroque Music before you actually attend your exam as this will help you to improve you calmness and focus before undertaking the exam and as you have used this music during your study program, it will help prompt the material to come to the forefront of you mind.
5. Review Previous Exams
This is one of the most important things every person must do prior to sitting an exam and that is to review as many previous exams as you can. In most University courses, you will find that each year the lecturer will in fact lodge the previous year’s exams in the Library for use by the students. My recommendation has always been to go and photocopy the exam if possible and then study the exam as much as possible. Some universities and colleges allow you to do this others do not.
There are a few key reasons for doing this. The previous exams will give you an insight into the way the lecturers structure the exam questions and they also give you a very good indication of the sorts of questions that lecturers are likely to put on the exams, especially if you have three or four years worth of past exam papers.
I had one lecturer at the college I was studying at, that every year he would go through this one question on the board prior to exam as part of their pre-exam build up and then put that exact question into the exam papers. You would be amazed the number of people who did not take notice during the pre-exam briefings and consequently would get that exam question wrong. By the way, I was one of those people who got it wrong. So, it is definitely worth taking note.
If you are studying Microsoft Certifications or IT Certifications my strong recommendation is that you access pre-assessment material from companies like Self-Test Software or Transcender as they are a really good representation of the sorts of questions you will face in the actual exams. One thing to note though, do not rely just on the questions in those pre-assessment exams as if you do, you will not pass the exam. The pre-assessment exams are simply indicators of the material you need to know and whether you have a good understanding of the material. They definitely do not guarantee a pass. I have seen too many students over the years rely on these types of material only, to find they fail, because the exams have changed or have new areas not originally covered. Always make sure you check out the curriculum for the exam and that you know all the areas the curriculum specifies. Never assume that certain things will be in the exams as you most certainly will be wrong.
6. Have a Colleague Write Practice Exams and Questions for You
If you are doing long term study at a college or University it is always worthwhile to try to form a study group. Even if you are working in a corporate environment and working in a team that is doing study try to form a study group to help you with studies. The reason I recommend this, is so that you can all work together and right a series of practice exams and questions for each other to try to answer.
See, the key with passing any exam is practice. The more practice you have and exposure to the various ways questions could be possibly structured the more likely you will pass the exam. Getting each person in you study group to write practice exams and questions also helps them, as they need to know the correct answer and how to structure the correct answer, which helps reinforce the material for them.
If you are studying in a corporate environment and you have people who have done the exams in the past, get them to write a set of practice exams. It would be even better if you could get three or four colleagues to actually write some practice exams for you as they will give you such a variation that you will be able to identify areas you may not have covered sufficiently.
I have used this technique a lot in my own business and in other jobs I have held. I was working for a government agency many years ago and had to pass was used to be called in Australia an Austel exam. This required a technician to pass two exams. What we did in our division was to get our foreman and leading hand who had already completed the exams to actually write a series of practice questions so that we could become proficient with the sort of answers we would be faced with. The outcome was that I scored 100% on one exam and 96% on the second exam, so it certainly paid off for me.
7. Take Time to Meditate
Okay, I can hear it now, “Oh Yeah Hippy, Want Us to Meditate do ya.” Absolutely! Look whilst meditation has certainly been a thing of fringe groups in western society or associated with more eastern religions many researchers are now coming to the distinct conclusion that meditation can make a huge difference to our day-to-day lives.
The core advantage meditation will play in your studies is to help you to relax. The more relaxed you are the more creative and the easier it will be to learn the material for the exam. I certainly recommend that when you are meditating, that you use baroque music with your meditation as it will help increase the alpha waves which will help lead you to a calm feeling.
The bottom line is this, there is no shortcut to conquering exams but they do not have to be a life and death struggle if you put the work in. Whilst there is no fool proof way to pass exam, putting the work in will certainly mean you should see much better exam results and hopefully the outcomes you are looking for.
To finish off my article I want to highlight once again the seven things you should do to help you prepare you for your upcoming exams.
Ensure You Read All The Materials After Lectures
Make sure you redo all practical exercises
Do A Minimum of 4 hour Study Per Week Per Subject
When Studying Have Light Music On
Review Previous Exams
Have a Colleague Write Practice Exams and Questions for You
Take Time To Meditate