The 5 Best Tips for Exam Success (From a Top Student)

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Hi friends, hope we’re all keeping well.

In my last post, I shared with you all the news that I managed to achieve the highest possible mark in my university matriculation exams (in Ireland, they’re called the Leaving Cert exams 🙂). I also mentioned I’m now more focused than ever in helping students achieve success with their exams and education.

So, as promised, this is the first post in the ‘Study Help’ post saga, where I go over tips, techniques, and advice I would give to students who wish to do well in their exams. This is the post I would link to students who want a short and sweet version of the best advice I would give.

Right, enough of the introductions, let’s just get straight to the good stuff.

1. 🧠Active Recall & Spaced Repetition🧠

For the love of god, please at least walk away from this post knowing about the concepts of active recall and spaced repetition.

Active recall is basically a much fancier term for ‘testing yourself’, and spaced repetition, like the name implies, is spacing your repetition of a subject over longer and longer periods of time. So in layman’s terms, you want to be actively studying by testing yourself on a topic over and over again, over spaced intervals of time, for example in 2 days time, then 1 week, then 2 weeks etc.

I’m not going to dwell on this part for too long since I’ve mentioned these 2 concepts already in other posts (if I make a future post solely focussing on active recall and spaced repetition, I’ll link it here), but honestly there are other really good resources out there to help you understand these 2 techniques, such as this video and this video by Ali Abdaal.

The best tool I’d recommend you use , if you want to fully utilise the power of these 2 concepts, is a flashcard application called Anki, but you can also use Quizlet as well if you’re willing to pay the fee. I’d just recommend Anki more since it’s free, highly customisable, and has spaced reception built into its algorithm, so you won’t need to worry about it.

🧹2. Organisation🧹

Get into the habit of organising your notes and books as early as possible. I found it really helped to keep me focussed and calm when my study environment wasn’t like a scrapyard full of random junk.

More importantly however, is to organise your study sessions so you can keep track of your spaced repetition. You can see my post here on how I use a retrospective study timetable to do this.

For organisation in general, I’d highly recommend using Notion. Like Anki, it’s highly customisable, so you can organise your things however you like.

It’s also useful because it helps serve multiple purposes like keeping track of spaced repetition, making study goals, and taking notes. Its interface is really nice as well, just thought I’d mention that🙃

🎯3. SMART Study Goals🎯

One of the biggest reasons why students don’t study well, is because of how vague their goals for that study session are. For example, just putting down ‘Study maths, French, history ’, and then getting straight to work is not a good idea.

What does any of that even mean? If you want to study effectively, you need to set SMART study goals.

For example, let’s take the ‘Study maths’ goal and revamp it using the SMART framework, I.e Specific. Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Based framework.

To make this goal specific, we can say ‘Go over Chapter 25 on integration, then complete the questions’. Here, we’re making the goal direct and more detailed. This alone can make a huge impact on your study session, but we’re not done yet.

To make this goal measurable, we can say ‘Go over all of Chapter 25 on integration, then complete 20 exam questions on it’. Here, we’re making the goal quantifiable so we can track progress/success. This can sometimes be too ambitious or too much though, so we move onto the next step.

To make this goal achievable, we can say ‘Go over all of Chapter 25 on integration, then complete 10 exam questions on it’. This is making our goal more realistic.

But let’s say we’re already fairly confident with our integration abilities, so studying it again won’t be of much help in the exam. Thus, we’re instead going to focus on a topic that we’re struggling with, so we can improve.

So to make this goal relevant, we can say ‘Go over all of Chapter 39 on Rules of Probability, then complete 10 exam questions on it’, if for example one of the topics we’re struggling with is probability. This is focussing on the big picture, and making sure we’re fully prepared for any topic the exam throws at us.

Finally, we must also set time constraints so we don’t lose ourselves in this one study session, and so we can stay motivated. For example, I would give myself a solid 45 minutes to complete this study goal fully.

All of this might sound like a pain in the ass to do for every study session, but if you do it once or twice, setting up goals like these will honestly become effortless so quickly.

🤩4. Maximise the Fun, (Minimise the Pain🥲)

God, I know I sound like such a massive nerd saying this, ‘have fun’ studying, but it’s honestly such a huge help and can really, really make a difference.

(Try) Make your study sessions as fun as possible, or find a genuine, sincere reason to focus on studying. Reaffirm your dream course, your dream job, or your dream life once you do well in your exams.

Play some music (I obviously recommend non-lyrical, from this post), study in a group with friends who are just as motivated as you, give yourself a reward after you complete a study goal, spend time with your loved ones, become competitive with your exam results (but don’t become a douchebag) etc. There are many ways to do this, but these are just some of the ways I personally conquered the pai-I mean, had the fun🙃

🧘🏻5. Discipline 🧘🏻

Motivation isn’t a characteristic, nor a trait. It’s a feeling we get sometimes that helps us be productive and achieve our goals. Thus, motivation isn’t the thing we should be focussing on improving.

Instead, focus on staying disciplined.

That means being consistent with your work, and being determined to stick with it for as long as you need to.

Honestly, everything in this post amounts to nothing if you can’t stay disciplined and follow the techniques consistently. You need to be consistent with Anki. With organising your notes and study sessions. With setting your SMART study goals. With minimising the pain.

Staying disciplined and consistent is an immensely valuable skill that’s transferable to all areas of life outside of school, so it’s really ideal that you focus on improving it now. Coincidentally, it’s also the single biggest advice I would give to any student looking to improve their grades.

Just stay disciplined, and everything will work out for you🙃

So, this was the short and sweet post of my study advice for students.

I’ll make more detailed posts on some of these tips in the future for sure, so you guys can maybe wait for that😃

Cool, stay safe, and I’ll hopefully see you guys in another post👋🏼

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