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Study Smarter not Harder

Many studies have been conducted to investigate factors affecting the academic performance of students. Dallas Moffat, Assistant Dean of Learning (Development and Learning Analytics) explores some of those factors in today’s blog.

Increased attention and research is being focused on the affect that anxiety has on students and it’s relationship with poor performance in exams. Some of this research indicates that changing study habits, actively learning, adopting problem-solving training and encouraging students to study with a schedule can reduce exam anxiety .

With the end of year exams upon us, I explore some exam preparation strategies so we can collaboratively assist our young men to be motivated and develop habits of study to adequately prepare them for exams and to avoid unnecessary anxiety and stress.

Regular Revision

Research indicates that last minute cramming is not the best way to approach an exam. To assist with time management, set up a timetable for your study. Simply re-reading your texts and notes will do little to help you learn the material. You need to make your revision active to improve your ability to store and recall knowledge. Revision is best done on a regular basis.

Active Revision

Use the following strategies to make your revision more active.

 Test yourself by thinking of a concept & writing down all you know about it. Check your answer and identify areas you missed or realise that you don’t fully understand. You will need to revise these areas.

 Revise with others – Studying with others, eg study groups, brings other people’s ideas and understandings to the group. This allows you to exchange, clarify and expand your understanding of the subject.

 Re-organise your notes – Look back over all your notes for common themes / ideas etc. Link these together to develop your understanding of that topic.

 Use visual aids – Draw maps, diagrams, flow charts, pictures etc, to see and create associations. These are generally easier to remember than ‘slabs of text’. Use highlighter pens.

 Past exam papers – Look at past exam papers and practise answering them. Practising past exam questions helps you to prepare for and predict the sort of questions that might be asked and to work out the best possible answers. Create mock questions and dot point your answers. DO NOT learn by rote.

 Review your course work – Look for strengths and weaknesses in your understandings. Fill in these gaps. Review lecturer’s comments from lectures or from your assignments.

Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique is a time management system that assists students break down their study time into 25-minute chunks separated by five-minute breaks. The research behind this technique is that the timer instils a sense of urgency. Additionally, the forced breaks help maintain active engagement. Watch this youtube video for a deeper understanding:

Handy Tips

Short Response and Essay

 Read and analyse the question
 Underline key words
 Recall what you know about the topic
 Jot down initial ideas
 Organise these ideas into a logical order
 Begin writing your answer
 Keep to your time allocation
 If you are running out of time, finish the question using dot points

Multiple Choice Questions

 Read the questions carefully.
 Identify key words.
 Look for conditional words such as always, never, rarely, should, can etc.
 There is normally one or possibly two answers that are definitely wrong, then the others have degrees of correctness.
 Cross out the answers that are obviously incorrect, then focus on the remaining choices. You need to identify the one that is most correct.

I wish all of our students the very best in their upcoming exams. And as always, if you require any assistance throughout this time, the teachers at Ambrose Treacy College are very supportive and willing to assist, as is the Learning Office.

Dallas Moffat
Assistant Dean of Learning – Development and Learning Analytics