How to effectively prepare for exams
By Mbali Dhlamini
It’s that time of the year again when the first part of what you have learned so far in the academic year will get tested.
This is often a very stressful time. It also doesn’t help if you are unsure of how best to study to ensure that you get maximum marks for the exams which will, ultimately, result in graduation and a degree.
The transition from high school to university is a difficult one to make for all students. The extensive workload, the fact that no-one is checking that you are keeping up with your school work, and the increased freedom are some of the major hurdles to navigate.
Based on best practice and research that explores how the human mind works, there are a number of tools available, regardless of level of study, to ensure greater academic success.
The person who properly understands the thinking available and the manner in which they can be used will have a definite advantage, particularly when implemented in relation.
The best starting point when one seeks to find the most effective way to study is to start by paying attention to the information at hand. Attention needs to be paid to a subject regardless of where the information is coming from at that point. This can be during a lecture, from textbooks or other learning aids which have been provided like videos and audio clips. It is about being present in the moment to ensure that you absorb as much as you can. We have many distractions; put them away, especially your phone.
Practice your work
Any information that enters the brain while the student is studying will not remain there by one just using the simple repetition or rehearsal technique. Find personal examples of the work to make the information easier to remember. When it is tied to existing memories, it sticks more.
In order to fully enhance the performance of the memory, there are various encoding strategies, called mnemonics, available. When you create your own categories of similar concepts and study them in those groups, you will have a far better chance at understanding and remembering what you are studying.
Choose a conducive environment to study
It is important that a student makes use of a conducive environment to study. Researchers have found that studying in a similar setting to the one in which the actual exam will be written will help you to remember things better. Other environmental elements such as noise levels, lighting and adequate fresh air will allow you to remain alert and make the process easier and more comfortable.
Get enough rest
It has been shown that those of us who go to sleep after an intake of large amounts of information are more likely to retain that information and remember. The positive influence of sleep on how the brain functions can be seen when you look at the consolidation of memory. Researchers have found that cells of the hippocampus; which is the portion of the brain that helps those names get into memory in the first place, that were activated during initial learning are reactivated during subsequent periods of sleep. Therefore you need to ensure that you get enough rest and sleep during studying In order to avoid being sleep deprived and your brain being unable to function effectively enough to retain information.
It is important to understand that when the storage of information fails the retrieval of that information becomes impossible to achieve.
We fall into the trap of pseudo forgetting which occurs when the information was not known or stored to begin with. This explains the feeling of going blank during an exam despite having looked at the chapter which the question is drawn from, just before entering into the exam hall.
When this happens you only recall exactly what the brain managed to capture during those final rush minutes of looking at the chapter before the examination started. In reality, you feel like you have gone blank when, in actual, fact the information was just not stored.
There are several elements at play when it comes to studying and retaining information, all of which relate to neural processes and the basic functioning of the brain. The better we understand this and the better we become at working with this in mind, the better our chances of performing well during exams
Follow @Mbali_Dhlamini on twitter