Studying for 12 hours or 14 hours a day is very unhealthy; yet we force ourselves to study almost all day in the days before our exam to finish our syllabus. The trick is to make the study time shorter but more effective.
For those of you who neglect your textbooks all through the year, exams turn into a nightmare. It becomes a race to see how fast you can cram a year’s worth of syllabus. With the Board exams around the corner, there are many of you probably doing the same.
During a time of such intense exam pressure, you first need to realise that studying for 12 hours a day is not something very healthy and you can rarely, if ever, adapt yourself to doing something like that.
What is most effective is studying with full concentration in small pockets and taking short breaks in between. Your focus shouldn’t be on HOW LONG you studied but on HOW MUCH you studied.
Here are a few tips that can make your long study sessions the most effective and help you concentrate the most:
Study smaller quantities of syllabus every day instead of taking on huge portions. If you hurry with all the chapters you haven’t yet covered, you will be able to memorise very little of it for exam day.
The optimal period of continuous study is 2 hours. Each period of 2 hours can again be broken down into slots of 25 minutes of solid studying followed by 5 minutes of break.
If you need to continue studying, take longer breaks of around 20 minutes after every 2 hours.
When you are on ‘break’, you should keep your mind free from any exam related thoughts or stress. If you use the break time to discuss the syllabus with friends or plan your next round of studying, then your mind is not on a break.
If your mind doesn’t take a break, the next round of studying is not going to be as effective.
Study material in a syllabus can be divided into core material and elaborative material. While core material consists of important principles, theorems, formulae, important diagrams and graphs, elaborative material consists of examples, quotes, illustrations etc.
As much as 80 per cent of the questions asked in an exam are likely to come from the core material. So, if you are struggling with unfinished syllabus, concentrate on the core material of the different subjects.
Moreover, study the question patterns of the last few years and make sure you are not spending too much time on topics that are highly unlikely to be asked in the exam.
Before you schedule your study list for the day, you need to take into account that the subjects we learn can be divided into three categories:
Memory dependant subjects like Biology, History and Geography, which contain a lot of material that need to be mugged up.
Problem-solving subjects such as Maths and Physics.
Interpretation based subjects such as English Literature and literature papers from other languages.
For most effective studying, you should alternate between each category of subjects in long study periods.
Reading the chapters and highlighting important portions help a lot, but when you write down the important points you read in a piece of rough paper or your notebook, it helps you retain information even more.
Read important points aloud and write them down after. This makes sure that you don’t just SEE the points, but you HEAR them and WRITE them too.
Proper note taking is very important for effectively completing the syllabus at the last minute. There are two scientifically proven methods of note-taking that work the best-SQ5R and Cornell Notes.
a) SQ5R is short for Survey, Questions, Read, Record, Recite, Review and Reflect.
- Survey: Skim through the textbook and mark important areas. Don’t take more than 7-10 minutes
- Question: In your textbook, turn the headings and subheadings into questions that could be asked in the exam. Jot down possible questions at the side of important portions of text
- Read, Record, Recite: Go through the text again and record important points in your own words separately. Put them in bullets or in boxes for better visual representation. Recite the points you noted to yourself
- Review: Ask yourself the questions you noted and see if you can answer them properly
- Reflect: Repeat the above steps and reflect on the topic you learned till it’s completely memorised
b) Cornell Notes is an effective three-column configuration of taking notes which makes memorising and recalling information much easier. When revising, one can easily cover the right column and try to answer the questions on the left.
Stick a couple of chart papers on your wall and cupboards and write down dates, formulae, mnemonics and tit-bits of important information that are very difficult to learn.
Keeping these in front of your eyes all the time will help you learn them more easily than trying to mug them. Create flashcards for the difficult bits and carry them around. You can go through them while commuting, or standing in a queue somewhere.
If you are studying untouched chapters or uncovered syllabus in the last few days before the exam, you need to know that the three Rs are very important.
Any new information you learn needs to be Recapped, Reviewed and Reinforced within 24 hours. If you fail to do so, you lose 80 per cent of the information you learned. Science says so.
Most students stay up late till night to finish revising before exams. You need to remember that it is proper sleep that turns your short-term memory — what you just studied — to long-term memory — what you can recall sitting in the exam hall.
So, sleep 7-8 hours every night to make sure all of your day’s studying is actually retained by your brain.
These 10 tips to effectively study for longer periods and finish your syllabus in the last few days will keep you crack your board exams.
One quick test that can tell you how much you have learned is trying to explain the concepts of a topic to someone who doesn’t know it yet. It could be a sibling, parent, grandparent or friend.
The moment you face trouble trying to explain a certain concept in layman’s terms, you will understand you need another revision.
So, keep aside the stress, and get down to work! All the best!