Studying, Essay Writing and Exam Advice

As someone going in to her third year of uni, I feel like I’m qualified to go around giving some advice on studying and exams. I’ve been in education since I was 5- so I’ve been doing this for nearly 15 years, now.

While this is going to have some general advice, there’s going to be some specifics for each part of the process. And keep in mind this is all personal- if I don’t include something, it’s most likely I forgot, or just haven’t found that way efficient for me!


          TAKE BREAKS: my rule is to to take a break at least once every hour for five minutes. I walk around or do some stretching, make myself food, get some snacks- even watch a short video, or watch five minutes of a video. If you’ve got a comic or poetry collection on hand, treat it as an incentive- do some work, spend 5 minutes reading. Taking breaks gives your brain time to rest but it also means coming back to work with a fresh look on things. That’s when I do my best editing!


          EAT AND DRINK REGULARLY: as I mentioned before, snacking and eating food is something I do during breaks. However, it might be a shout to just keep some fruit, crisps or even a little bit of chocolate on hand during moments where you don’t have energy. ALWAYS drink water when you’re doing work, and when you go into exams, make sure you take a water bottle in there with you. They’ll always let you go to the toilet during an exam, and if they don’t, don’t be afraid to kick up a fuss.


Speaking of…. GO TO THE TOILET. If you need to go, please go. It’ll just be a distraction if you don’t.


          LISTEN TO MUSIC AS YOU STUDY/WRITE ESSAYS: this could honestly range from heavy metal to ambient sound to instrumentals to pop music. Anything that helps you focus is key. I can listen to anything as  I do work, but I have a post recommending my study playlists if you’re interested! I’m also partial to the Hufflepuff ambient playlist.


BRAIN STORM; AKA, START YOUR ESSAYS ASAP: as a long time procrastinator, this is one of the most difficult ones to follow. STILL: start those essays! I always start mine over a month in advance, where I decide on the question I want to do and begin finding quotations, analysis and solidifying the books and extra texts to go along with the essay. Even if I only start writing the essay itself a week before it’s due, all that early work means I have a solid basis, and my ‘too much’ gene always means I have several solid sentences to go off for my actual paragraphs.


          HAVE EVERY ESSAY BOOK ON HAND: when you’re writing bibliographies especially, having the books with you really helps. As I write essays, I always add in the footnote details as I go along– even if they are brief at first- so I can have a rough idea of how many words I’m up to, and also so I don’t miss out any footnotes when I finally fill them out properly. It saves you a lot of time once you finish the actually body of the essay.


USE FLASHCARDS: they aren’t for everyone, but I always find flashcards most helpful for me, especially for memorising quotes and definitions. My method: type all my notes up –> retype them, the time with only the most important information- cutting out unnecessary words –> write this info down onto flashcards –> now, do another set of flashcards, this time with only theories, definitions, important quotes, etc.

By shortening and repeating this information so many times in the process, the information is embedded more in your head than you first realise. The selective process means you’ll remember what’s more important than anything else. I’ve also found flashcards the most efficient methods- especially for English, History, and Maths, which are all based in theory, quotes and numbers.

Also– this method is very time consuming! If you decide to use it, don’t leave it to the last week. I always leave at least a week to do the flashcard part- my notes are always already all on there before I start studying, typing them up as I go along throughout the year.


DON’T STAY UP LATE THE NIGHT BEFORE AN EXAM. I promise- and pardon my French- you’re not going to remember shit staying up till 4am. Start revision early the day before, then make sure you’ve put it away by 8pm. Don’t beat yourself up.

I never revised past 9pm throughout all my years at school, and I only ever checked over my flashcards just before the exam/on the bus ride into school. You’ll not be on top form and half the stuff you think you’ve memorised will flee the building out of exhaustion if you stay up late. Making yourself sick for the sake of an exam that’s only 1/2/3 hours long just isn’t worth it.


And those are my tips! I have loads more I could say based on my own personal experience, but they are even more specific to subject and unit- film and English in particular- and my English studying habits are so bizarre now as I’m majoring in the subject. I always go for the health based advice: people make themselves so ill during exam season, it’s really taught me how to keep a level head and treat myself well.

Have you got any tips? Feel like any of these are decent?

Thank you for reading!


One thought on “Studying, Essay Writing and Exam Advice

  1. Pingback: Connie’s Personal 101 Guide for Personal Survival University – seasonsofwords

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