06 February, 2017
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As the GAMSAT® Exam draws closer, you are probably starting to get really stressed wondering how you are going to be able to remember everything AND get your essay writing skills down pat! When you study alone you are more prone to procrastination, anxiety, you take less breaks, and ultimately spend more time trying to work out difficult problems than you would if you were with others. So why not fill your breaks with the merriment and cheer of friends? Whether or not your friends are studying for the GAMSAT® Exam, getting together to perform any tasks like university assignments or general life admin for a few hours a couple of times a week is a great and fun way to mix up your study routine.
My experience of study with friends has been great. A few friends and myself get together 2 to 3 times per week from 10am to 4pm and we do pomodoros. Pomodoros are a time management technique that divides your day up into short work spurts interceded with breaks. It is premised on the idea that by concentrating on a task for a short period of time, you will be more productive during work intervals, then recharge with a short pause. We write silently and quickly for 25 minutes, take a 5 minute break, then go again for another 25 minutes. This continues for the whole day minus a lunch break generally of half an hour to an hour. In these short term 25 minute time spans, work out what you want to achieve. Want to write an essay? This can be done in 25 minutes and you can spend 5 minutes checking it when you return. For the days I attend these study groups I generally have a ‘timetable’ of what I want to get covered that day and try to stick to it. This avoids spending too long studying things you probably already know enough about, and also stops you from procrastinating as you only have two 25 minute blocks to learn the basics of Chem! I generally find pomodores most helpful in the afternoons right after lunch which is my slump time, and you can adjust the writing block times and breaks to your group’s needs.
During the 5 minute breaks, you can also discuss any study obstacles you have. Discussing your studies with friends is also really important. Your friends may be able to help you with an answer particularly if they are also studying for the GAMSAT® Exam. But even articulating your ideas to others can help you memorise what you are studying, or clarify what you want to say. Through answering their questions or giving your friends advice, you actually also develop your own critical thinking skills as you need to navigate, challenge and respond to different perspectives.
Another benefit of pomodoros with friends is that you are held accountable to someone other than yourself. So if you are spending more time on an essay than you should, your friends will know and this will force you to be timelier, which is ultimately great practice for the exam. A good tip is to have a board up somewhere where you each write down your objectives for the day. You could also have a ‘success wall’ where every time a task is completed, a star or something delicious is awarded. Or when someone fails to reach their target, make up some fun punishments like having to run a lap of the room! (Which will be good to get the creative juices flowing again anyway and probably be good for a laugh).
Most importantly, studying with friends frees you from the isolated self-absorbed study cave and overall improves your mood. Friends can provide you with comic relief while studying together - reducing your stress and anxiety levels. It is a good reminder that you are not alone in your GAMSAT® Exam journey, and if you surround yourself with positive friends, you will more than likely begin to view your chances at the upcoming exam more positively.
Here are some general tips to create the perfect pomodoro environment:
Get comfortable. As you will all be dedicating yourselves to hours in the same spot, make sure there is a standing desk if needed, good chairs/desk access, cushions, a place to stretch out on the floor, and a few fun things to play with in breaks.
Don’t go crazy with your group size – 4 to 6 is probably a good number.
Select someone in your group who will manage the timer and let everyone know when to break, and when to keep working.
Come prepared to the pomodoro session. If you know what you want to get done on the day, think about what you might need. A calculator? Examples from ancient Egypt you want to use in your essay?
Have a recap at the end of your session where everyone states what they have achieved that day and what they have learnt. This is not only a great way to pat yourself on the back for a hard day’s work, but also helps you re-memorise things you have learnt.
Hannah L has also provided many useful study tips. Food is definitely essential and there are plenty of fun, brain-stimulating snacks you can bring along. Try dipping fruits in yoghurt and freezing them, various dips, dried fruit, salads, and you can’t go past pretty much anything with Nutella.
Good luck for the GAMSAT® Exam, and happy studying! - Bibiana