A Guide to Studying Techniques

Rebecca has written a blog post with lots of helpful tips about how to study for exams, such as your ALevels or GCSEs. These tips are also helpful for lots of other things you might need to study for! For example, at Oxford we have Collections, which are mock exams at the start of each term (there are several blog posts on TOG about Collections).

As exams are slowly creeping closer, I’m sure a lot of you will be feeling stressed and under pressure. This is a completely normal reaction so you don’t have to worry! However, sometimes, feeling too stressed can impact upon your ability to study effectively, reducing your ability to motivate yourself and sometimes even leading to burnout. To prevent this from happening, it is important to balance your time effectively between studying and doing things that you enjoy. Here are some simple tips to help you to study efficiently but also still make time to do nice things:

1. The Pomodoro Technique

How this technique works is that you study for 25 minute periods and take a 5 minute break after each one. After you have completed 4 of the 25 minute study slots, you take a longer 15 minute or half an hour break. During these breaks, do something that you enjoy such as going for a walk or spending time with friends of family to give your brain a break. Working in small periods with regular breaks helps to maximise your focussing ability and makes working not feel like a long time either so you are motivated to keep on going!

2. Look, cover, write, check

Only reading through your notes is not always the best technique to help you retain all the information you need to know for your exams. Rewriting key points from your notes from memory instead is good practice to ensure that the fundamental knowledge you need is cemented in your brain. For some people, creating mind maps may be beneficial when using this technique in order to link certain pieces of information together. For this technique, it also might be a good idea to use a whiteboard and pen to save paper and so you do not have excess notes to keep on top of.

3. Past Paper Questions

Not only is it important that you retain the facts and knowledge required for your subjects, it is also essential that you are able to apply it, as this is what you will have to do in your exams. By practicing past papers under time constraints, not only will you become more accustomed to interpreting and understanding exam style questions, you will also feel more comfortable with working under time pressure. Furthermore, marking the exam questions you complete is also necessary to help you to understand what the examiners are looking for and to improve your exam technique. Additionally, attempting to complete a mark per minute (for ALevels or GCSEs) is a good method to ensure that you manage your timing efficiently.

4. Using colours or visual aids

If you are a visual learner, highlighting your notes or reproducing them as well as diagrams in coloured pens may be beneficial for you. It may help you to associate specific information with particular colours, increasing your ability to memorise and recall key points.

I hope these tips are helpful but do remember that not all studying methods are best for everyone. Choose one that you have tried that you feel works for you and I assure you, it will help you to feel much better about your revision! Good luck, you can do it!