22 October, 2018
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It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. The golden week of SWOTVAC/StuVac/Dead Week is here.
Whatever you call it, this is an opportunity not to be missed. You can catch up on all those missed lectures, study your heart out. Orrrr…. You can lose any motivation and check-in to holiday mode a few weeks early.
I get it, you’ve worked long and hard for months. You really do deserve a break! But you also deserve to do well in these exams, make all your hard work pay off. So here are my tips for getting the best out of SWOTVAC.
This may seem like an easy step, but there are lots of sources of information and things to consider when planning to make the most of your study time. The first place to start is with your course profile – these should tell you how many exams you will have for each subject, their content, style and more!
If in doubt, most subjects will also have a review lecture – these will have more detail on the content of the exam – what exactly you are going to be assessed on. Get used to the question types in the exams too – multiple choice, short answer and long answer are fairly simple.
But will you have to graph things? Do you need a calculator? What even are assertion-reasoning questions? I should probably find out that last one in time for my ethics exam! Work out the number of questions, the marks for each section and how much weight your exams will contribute to your final grade!
Next up, don’t forget to triple check your exam timetable. Look at times and locations, and make sure you actually know where the venues are! Watch out for any venues that may be on different campuses.
If the exams are somewhere you’re not familiar with, make sure you look into transport options – you don’t want to be late because you couldn’t find parking! You can also factor extra transport time into your study plans.
Make sure you’re familiar with the things you’ll need to take into the exam – pens, pencils, are you allowed notes? Do you need a university approved calculator? Lots of universities are cracking down on the use of smart watches in exams. Some universities are banning watches entirely, so make sure you check your uni’s regulations!
The final thing to check is your courses guidelines for illness and misadventure – what happens if you miss an exam? What happens if you’re late? What happens if you do fail an exam? Hopefully it won’t happen to you, but it’s good to know just in case!
Making the most of SWOTVAC starts well ahead of the week itself. Start planning now! Grab a calendar and mark out your exams. Then armed with the knowledge you gained in Step 1, you can work out exactly what you need to be done before the exams.
I find the best way is to work backwards from the exam date – have general review sessions where you cover all the examinable content closer to the exam. Anything you need to cover in more detail you should plan to attack early on so you have at least 2 passes at the tricky stuff!
Some people approach their study in modules – cover each topic for a few hours each day so you can consolidate your knowledge as you go. Whatever you plan, make sure it’s going to work for you!
When you’re planning study sessions, make sure they’re specific and manageable. Don’t block out 8 hours straight with no real plans. Give yourself achievable goals, and time for breaks!
Nobody can study for 12 hours straight – take 15 minutes to grab a snack, walk around. Anything to stretch your legs and break your focus for a bit. Make sure you include time in your plan to go over any previous papers. Your plan should be sustainable – don’t burn out too early!
Make sure you’re planning on getting enough sleep and not working into the wee hours of the morning – this is largely unsustainable.
The other thing to organise ahead of time is your food – stock up on snacks and wholesome food. I enjoy the fine art of procrasti-baking, so I take a few hours at the start of SWOTVAC to do some big batch cooking – soups, curries, anything I can cook up in large quantities and freeze. This reduces the procrasti-baking (although the occasional accidental muffins still happen) and also means I’m not stressing trying to make time to cook or relying on junk food and takeaway!
And now, it’s time to start working! Make sure you have achievable goals each day and get into a schedule. Wake up at the same time each day, start working around the same time, rinse and repeat!
Work in short bursts, and take breaks around the same time each day. Don’t forget to eat all those healthy snacks you bought! This schedule will make it easier for you to maintain your productivity throughout the week and into exams.
This routine also matters at the end of the day – get into the habit of sleeping well! Sleep hygiene is really, really important for success in exams. Sleep helps convert short term memory into long term memory, improves concentration and performance exams and is just generously awesome!
Sleep hygiene involves the routine you get into before sleep and how to promote better sleep. Thinks like avoiding stimulants close to bedtime, avoiding backlit screens before bed and getting regular exercise can all help you sleep better. Check out more info on getting a good night’s sleep here.
You work hard, so make sure you factor in rewards! They can be big or little, but match your reward to the effort you’ve put in! After a few hours study watch a TV show, walk to the shops for coffee, do some yoga.
If you’re worried about getting distracted and not going back to study, set an alarm – 15 minutes of break then back to work with you! Enlist your friends to help keep you honest! Put that group banter to use and work together to stay on track.
Another common reward is food – I have friends who eat a cookie at the end of every page of notes they read. I would not recommend using food rewards that liberally though! But taking time to eat, especially if it’s something tasty, is a great reward.
Pencil in something nice like a Sunday Café brunch at the end of the week to look forward to. Try to add in some healthy snacks to your rewards. Things like sultanas, veggies and dips all make great rewards too!
Save the big rewards for closer to get exams when you need them most – go watch a movie with friends, take a half day off to really recharge. Head to the beach, go for a bushwalk – whatever you need to add to your calendar to give you something to really look forward to.
Planning for what you’re going to do in the holidays after your exams are finished is a great way to spend your breaks – doubly rewarding!
Well, those are my tips for making the most out of SWOTVAC. Remember to start early, make a plan, get plenty of sleep and reward yourself for all your hard work. Good luck and study well!