The Final Week Before Exams

Richard Clarke

With exams are just around the corner, it’s completely normal to feel a bit anxious about how to make the most of your study time.

As you know, we like to base any advice we give about studying on solid academic research, so here's some key findings from academic researchers, Prof. Dunlosky and his colleagues (Kent State University, USA) published in 'Psychological Science in the Public Interest'. It's relevant and applicable to the time you have left for revision this coming week, so read on!

What The Research Tells Us

  • Active Learning over Passive Review:Instead of just rereading your notes, engage in active learning. 

    Techniques like self-testing, summarising, and teaching the material to someone else can significantly boost your understanding and retention.I

  • Spaced Repetition Matters: Cramming all your studying into one session is less effective than spreading it out. 

    Spaced repetition, which means reviewing the material in several short sessions over the week, helps reinforce what you've learned and keeps it fresh in your memory.

  • The Power of Sleep: Getting enough sleep is vital for your brain to function well. 

    Aim for 7-9 hours each night to help with memory consolidation and cognitive performance, especially as you get closer to the exam.

Practical Tips For Your Final Week

  1. Engage in Active Learning

    Self-Test: Create flashcards or quiz yourself on key concepts. This can help you identify areas that need more attention.

    Summarise: Write summaries of each topic in your own words. This not only reinforces your understanding but also makes it easier to recall information.

    Teach: Explain what you've learned to a friend or family member. Teaching others is a great way to deepen your own understanding.

  2. Practice Spaced Repetition

    Regular Review Sessions: Plan short, consistent review sessions for each subject over the week.

    Mix Up Subjects: Alternating between different topics can keep your mind sharp and engaged.

  3. Take Regular Breaks:

    Use the Pomodoro Technique: Study for 25 minutes, then take a 5-minute break. This can help maintain your focus and prevent burnout.

    Stay Active During Breaks: Use your breaks to stretch, walk around, or do a quick physical activity to keep your energy levels up.

Cut Out The Noise

On a final note, the only person you really need to listen to is yourself. Only YOU know what YOU personally need to do. 
You do You, as they say. What anyone else advises is actually unimportant - including me :)

You know the areas of the syllabus you feel confident in, and those that need some further attention.

So good luck and keep going - this week can make all the difference.

All the best,

PS - here's the citation in case you're really fired up by this research!

(Dunlosky, J., Rawson, K. A., Marsh, E. J., Nathan, M. J., & Willingham, D. T. (2013). Improving students’ learning with effective learning techniques: Promising directions from cognitive and educational psychology. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 14(1), 4-58.)