13 Tips to help you get started with Studying & Reduce Exam Anxiety
What do we mean by Study Skills?
The dictionary defines ‘Study’ as:
- The devotion of time and attention to gaining knowledge of an academic subject
- A detailed investigation and analysis of a subject or situation
The best way to think of studying, is a time that you dedicate beyond the classroom, to understand even more about a subject.
What’s the difference between studying and revision?
Everyone has a different experience of studying and revision – your experience will usually depend on the information given by your school. Some schools have a huge focus on building your study skills and other schools will only focus on revision.
The key difference between studying and revision is that studying is something that you can do throughout the year and throughout your school life. You can do it at any point in time. Revision is what you usually do in the last few weeks or months building up to an exam or a test.
To Revise means to ‘Revisit’ so, in theory, you can’t revisit some information if you didn’t study it in the first place. Many young people feel anxious about exams and revision because revision feels daunting. They never had a chance to study the information so revision means they are ‘studying’ the information for the first time.
In this blog, we’ll explain some of the key things that you should consider when setting up a study routine.
1. Have a clear goal in mind
It’s important that you start with an end goal in mind. What are the grades that you’d like to achieve? Which subjects are you struggling with? Which subjects do you find easier? How much time can you realistically dedicate to studying? What are your predicted grades at school? What are the grades that you would like to achieve ie. your personal target grades? You may decide that there are only a few subjects that you want to study each week because you don’t have time to study every single subject.
2. Small chunks make a huge difference
You don’t have to study for long periods of time every day. Similar to revision, it’s important to take breaks when you’re studying. This means studying in 20-50 minute chunks followed by 10-15 minute breaks. You may decide that you want to study for 1 hour a day or just 30 minutes per day. You may don’t have to study for a huge period of time and you may be selective about what you study eg. you may choose to only study the things that you found difficult in that week. This means that you use your study sessions to ‘troubleshoot’ and get a better understanding of those areas that you struggled with at school that day or that week.
3. Set up a study timetable
Where possible you should dedicate a couple of hours each day to studying and a study timetable can help you achieve this. The aim of a study timetable is to remind you about the best times to study and to give you an idea of the subject/s to study each day. It removes decision fatigue because it means you don’t waste half an hour deciding on what to study and you just jump straight in and start studying a subject based on what you have written in your study timetable. When creating your study timetable it’s important to consider the best time of day to study. Do you want to study during the week? And weekends? Mornings? After-school? In the late evening? Do you want to have some days off?
4. Some things are more urgent than studying
In an ideal world, it would be great if you could follow your study timetable and make time to study every single day. However, this might not be realistic due to various more urgent tasks that need to be completed eg. completing your coursework, pieces of homework or revising for a test. Be realistic and be aware that some days you will need to focus on what is ‘urgent’ and you won’t be able to study. It’s urgent that you revise for upcoming exams so you get a decent grade and it’s urgent that you complete your homework so that you can submit it on time. On days like this, studying will just have to wait.
5. Paying attention in class
It’s much more effective to pay attention in class than to spend time studying and re-learning at home. The point of studying is to gain a better understanding of something that you’ve already been introduced to. If you pay attention in class, you’ll find that you don’t have a huge amount of studying at home. This is because you are already making sense of things in class and you have fewer questions.
6. Make clear & concise notes
Research shows that you are more likely to remember things when we have made hand-written notes about it. It’s important that you make clear and concise notes in dedicated notebooks that you can use purely for study and revision. One notebook or folder for each subject is highly recommended. However, the contents for each notebook will probably look quite different. You may make notes using mind maps, diagrams, or summary posters in one subject, highlighted notes in another subject, index cards for another subject. In maths, you may simply practise questions under that topic and have a notebook with all the formulas, definitions, and examples. You don’t have to use the same ‘study style’ for every single subject. You can choose what works best for you.
7. Textbooks & Past papers
Before you make notes, you need to decide on the resources that you’ll be using for learning. Most exam boards create a specific textbook to help their students prepare for the upcoming exams. They also make sure that the past question papers are readily available to students that want to prepare for the exams. It is highly recommended that you use these textbooks and past papers to help you with the exam preparation.
8. Make the most of different resources
In addition to textbooks and past question papers, you can use a wide range of resources to help you with studying. In science, you may prefer to use a combination of textbooks and youtube videos. You may have a specific language website or audio guidebook that you use for languages. In Maths, you may have a website that provides past question papers based on each topic. In History or Geography, you may prefer to watch summarised video clips and make notes while you watch it. The most important thing is that you decide the learning format that is most effective and efficient for you – no time wasting! For our favourite pick of over 250 free learning websites, visit www.thelearningdirectory.com.
9. Create a topic list
Most people study the topic that was most recently covered in class. Some people study topics based on the contents page for their textbook or the syllabus list for the upcoming exams. You may decide to shorten the list by only studying the topics that you’ve found really difficult. It’s important that you have a summary list of the topics that you will be covering in your study time, as well as topics that you want to study in more detail in the future. You can check these off as you go. The list serves two purposes. Firstly, it gives you a sense of accomplishment, so you know how far you have come. Secondly, it gives a sense of direction so you know which topics you still need to cover in the future.
10. Create an environment that works for studying
Do you like to study with music on or are you more effective working in silence? If you listen to music, what kind of music? What are the potential distractions that you might have when studying or revising? How can you reduce those distractions? Do you prefer to study or revise in a local library or do you prefer working at home? Do you prefer to study with friends or on your own? Can you work in your room or do you need to be somewhere else in your home? Do you need to turn off your phone, does it need to be on silent or do you just give it to a parent because you know that it’s too distracting? Everyone is different and everyone has their preferred way of studying. You must take the time to understand what works best for you and keep making changes whenever you realise that it’s not working.
11. Ask for help if you get stuck
If you’re stuck, and you’re struggling with a topic, then there are a few things you can do: You can take a short break or try a new technique and if that’s not working, then you must ask for help. One of the key benefits of studying is that it gives you a sense of ownership of your learning. You can choose what you want to study, when you want to study and how you want to study. This independent way of learning has many advantages but one of the disadvantages is that you may forget to ask for help. If you find that you’re struggling with a topic then make sure you ask for help. This can be from a parent /carer, a teacher, or a tutor. You don’t have to do it all on your own.
12. Be mindful of when to switch to revision mode
Studying gives you the luxury of digging deep into topics and sometimes even exploring new topics and discovering new things that will not be coming up in the exam. Once you build momentum with studying, you might actually start to enjoy it! However, it is different from revision and as you approach your exams, you will need to switch gears and move into revision mode. Revision does not give you the luxury of exploring new topics and discovering new things. When you’re revising, you cannot afford to waste any time. When you’re revising, you’ll need to focus on the exam at hand. You must focus on the topics within the exam, make sure you test yourself and assess your knowledge and make sure that you address any knowledge gaps in a way that helps you feel prepared for the exams.
13. Assess your knowledge: How do you know if you are studying in the right way? How will you know if the time that you’re putting into studying is worth it? The only way you can know is to test yourself ie. assess your knowledge. This is a key part of studying. You can make notes all day but it’s pointless if you can’t remember or apply what you’ve learned. So how can you test yourself? Most textbooks will have an end-of-chapter quiz section and many websites will have a questionnaire or exam-style questions that you can use to test your knowledge. Make sure that the quiz has accompanying answers so you know if you’re getting it right. One of the main advantages of quizzing yourself during your study time, is that you don’t have the pressure of trying to get everything 100% correct. The most important thing is that you make a note of the quiz questions that you struggled with and study this again. If you’re still struggling, then make sure you ask for help from a teacher or a tutor. Assessing your knowledge regularly will help you build more confidence, it will help you become more secure in your knowledge, and it will ultimately make revision for exams much easier.
So What is the Key advantage of studying throughout the year?
When you choose to Study a new topic, you are deciding to gain a full understanding of that topic. It makes exam revision much easier because you’ll have a better understanding when you’re revising and re-visiting a topic. If you study all through the year, revision will be much easier and you’ll probably find that it has a hugely positive impact on your exam grades.