If you feel like you haven't been studying during this period, but the exams are nevertheless pressing on, here are a few tips to get you back to studying and through the exam period!
At the start of each semester there usually is a good intention to study your course literature carefully and make detailed notes that will help you through the exam period. Despite the good intentions, what oftentimes happens is that we end up reading the entire course material super stressed right before the exam. To avoid last minute panicked cramming, here are some useful tips on how to keep to the good intentions and make them reality before your exam period is upon you!
1. Use the table of contents to plan your reading
Before digging in to your reading material, read through the table of contents for the book. See how long each chapter is and estimate realistically, how much you will be able to read (and remember!) in a day. Also, when you start reading, never skip the introduction or overview of the chapter/article! It's a a great tool to open the subject to you and also to give you an idea on what you are going to learn. The concluding chapter(s) are also worth a read - at least they can usually give you a few solid lines on what the chapter was about and thus help you put down some notes on what you've just read/learned.
2. Utilize your network
Sit down with your student friends who are about to take the same exam and talk about what you find easy/difficult about the material. Also, if you know someone who has already taken that exam, ask them how they felt about it and what they think was relevant in the material.
3. Focus on an overview
It may sometimes seem like lecturers want you to know the trivia in their exams, but usually they want you to get a good overview and general understanding about the topic. When you are nervous about an exam, it can be hard to find the main points in your material, and every word in the book/article starts to look important and crucial. If you suddenly can't see the forest for the trees, use the introduction and conclusion chapters to help you gather the main elements from your material and build your notes around them.
4. Know what you are up against
Most of the time, there are old exam questions and even mock answers available. Ask your teacher, lecturer or course buddies for old exam questions and tips. Who knows, maybe you'll even get to answer a question that was in the exam previously! Anyway, previous exam questions will give you an idea on what you should be able to answer as well as to the level of detail the lecturer in question may require from your answer.
5. Make lists on key elements
Leafing through your book in panic right before the exam will not help you remember the material. Rather, when you are studying, make a list of the key points and elements in each book, and leaf through those key points before sitting down to take the exam. The idea of the key points is to help you remember the rest of the chapter while you are in the exam - not to provide new information or details about your book.
6. Create a visual overview
Visual notes are not for everyone, but if you've never tried or already know that you tend to remember visual notes better than text, then go ahead and make your notes visual! Doing a mind map on the main points on your material may help you get a better overview than just writing notes. Also, colour coding your notes is a good idea to separate topics and categorize them in your memory.
7. Remind yourself: you will do well
Now is not the time to panic - tell yourself that you will pass. Don't spend your time and energy worrying about not having started to study for the exam sooner. You can't go back in time to fix that, so rather focus on what you have prepared and what to do with the remaining time before the exam.
8. Keep the exam stress at bay
When you arrive to the exam, you've probably been working at a high intensity for the last 24 hours, if not more. When you sit down, take a deep breath, look through the exam questions and then tackle the one that you feel confident or at ease about first. Write down a list on what you remember about that topic and build your answer around that. Your mind is probably still going a 100 miles per hour, but try to keep the stress at bay by carefully planning your answer and letting your memory work its magic in peace.
9. Take it easy on the day before the exam
Last minute cramming is a highly common tactic among students worldwide, but it usually will help you pass only just, if at all. To avoid being tired or stressed on the exam day, reserve the last prep day for light reading through your own key notes and elements, maybe taking a walk, eating well and getting good sleep. Some students also find it the best to just leave the exam material be for the last day and chill - maybe that works for you too?
10. Clear your head
Not just the day before the exam, but during your study period, too: remember to relax and clear your head. For some, it's doing sports, for others it's a movie night, a long walk, having friends over, or just lying on the bed and staring at the ceiling. In any case, after a day of studying it's important to let yourself wind off by doing and thinking about something else. This will not only keep your stress levels lower, but helps you learn and remember your course material as well. Oh, and don't forget that good night sleep plays a big role! :)