STUDYTIPS The weeks prior to exams can be a stressful time for all students (and their parents!) and knowing how to properly prepare is the key to avoiding stress and acing every single one of your exams.

According to Kathy Martin, Principal of Ivy Academy, the most common barrier to success encountered by school students is a lack of effective techniques for study and exam preparation.

The common techniques of cramming or merely going over one’s notes is just not good enough – a fact students soon realise when they finally enter the world of tertiary studies.

“At this stage, students should already be well into preparing for their mid-year examinations.

Now is also the time to set one’s sights on what’s to happen after the year end exams – this should not be left for later.

Parents should encourage children who are undecided about their future to take advantage of the career compass assessment which is offered by Boston City Campus & Business College.

Trained counsellors will consult with them following completion of the computerised assessment.

In this assessment they are asked to answer a variety of questions which step by step brings them closer to unlocking the answers to their future,” says Martin.

In the meantime, courtesy of the Ivy Academy and Boston, here are some suggestions to increase your effectiveness and be fully prepared for this year’s exams.

· Manage your stress

One part of bringing stress under control is to plan your time and make sure that you keep up with weekly class readings, homework and assignments.

This is separate to revision, practice of numerate subjects, and actual swotting that must also be included in your plan.

As exams approach, create ample time in which to study. Plan a study programme and stick to it! Create study blocks on your plan, and schedule these in peak study times, shown to be in the mornings or early evenings.

Do take regular breaks.

Research has shown that the brain can only fully focus for 25 minutes on a single task. Use breaks to catch up with friends, but don’t lose focus!

· The importance of state-specific learning

Current research shows that information is locked into the state of consciousness in which it was learned, which means that the mood or state we are in when we study is the mood or state we should be in during exam time so as to best remember the information studied.

Try to create a study environment that will be similar to the environment in which you will sit for exams.

This usually means a quiet environment with few distractions.

Light, regular exercises before studying and before exams also has a significant effect on memory retention.

· Pitfalls of perfectionism

During exams, it is not uncommon for students to fall into the pitfall of perfectionism.

Don’t set your goals too high, but rather approach exam time with an attitude of well-prepared optimism.

While saying to yourself "I have to make an A for this exam!" can be achievable and motivating, at other times it can be destructive and self-defeating.

Fearing that one cannot make that A on an exam might actually lead some students to procrastinate on studying, or suffer from panic-attacks come exam time – and these actions will cause you to achieve less than your best.

Try and make it your goal to study your hardest and do your best.

Once you have handed in your exam, forget about it.

It’s time to study for the next one!

· Rejuvenate yourself, relax and enjoy the experience

Eat a nutritious, well-balanced diet. Your body will need those extra vitamins and minerals.

And don’t skip meals! On the concept of getting enough sleep, we know it doesn’t work for everyone, but try to make your sleeping patterns as regular as possible.

Relaxation takes effort, but it does work! Practice some relaxation techniques such as diaphragmatic breathing where you close your eyes, breathe in deeply and out slowly and completely.

At the same time place your hands on your abdomen expanding as you breathe in and contracting as you breathe out.

Laughter is also proven to have a physiological calming effect. Watch a Trevor Noah clip, read a funny book, or pick up where you left off with a comedy series.

“These tips are only some of the things that you can do in preparing for exams.

There might be others that work even better for you.

Speak to your teachers and fellow successful students – they may have other ideas on how to approach exam time.

Whatever it is, whatever strategy works for you, put it into practice and good luck!” concludes Martin.

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