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How to Survive Your First Exams

Date:23 October 2019
When the only empty seats at the UB are at the window sill, it's time to enter crisis mode.
When the only empty seats at the UB are at the window sill, it's time to enter crisis mode.

Ah, exam season… the season of stress, anxiety, and mental breakdowns. Halloween wishes it was this scary. But, does it really have to be this way? The answer is no. With some proper planning and dedication, your first exam week can be incredibly easy.

Here are some tips and tricks to survive your first exams:

1. Sleep

This is the #1 golden rule. Sleep is your most important buddy, it’s your best friend. It’s very easy to fall into the temptation of leaving all your studying until the last minute, and cram it all into an all-nighter. I admit, I’ve done it (way too many times). So, from experience, I can guarantee you: there is nothing worse. It takes no genius to figure out that our brains need sleep to function properly. Think about it like charging your phone. If you go into an exam with your brain at 20% battery, chances are you’ll drop to 1% during those three hours, and everything will become harder and slower. It’s best to go in there at your 100% to give you the best chances of success. Having a proper rest before your exam not only helps to improve your focus, but it also helps reduce anxiety and stress (apparently). Warning: don’t over-sleep though! 8 hours is a good time. If you sleep too much you’ll feel groggy.

2. Eat healthy

I can literally see everyone rolling their eyes at this point. It may sound boring, ridiculous, stupid, or simply time-consuming, but I promise there is a smart reasoning behind it. It takes one basic Google search to confirm that eating healthy makes you feel good. But, even more important is fueling your body properly so that you don’t collapse into a pile of sickness during your exam weeks. When you’re stressed, your immune system’s ability to combat illnesses is reduced. Being sick while studying is just terrible. Unless you want to be that one annoying person at the UB who can’t stop coughing, I suggest you get as many nutrients and vitamins as you can from your meals.

Disclaimer: It’s me. I’m the person who’s always coughing at the UB. I’m sorry.

Eat yo veggies kids
Eat yo veggies kids

3. Take study breaks

Study breaks are crucial to keep you from having a burnout, or literally from just boring yourself to death. If you’re at the UB, chances are someone you know is there as well. Hit them up for a small break! It’s always nice to have a small chat, grab a coffee at the coffee corner, or even step outside for some fresh air in between your study sessions. Socializing is a great way to keep you energized and active.

4. Keep yourself active

Speaking about keeping yourself active… I don’t necessarily suggest doing the most extreme workouts ever (unless you’re a gym bro and that’s your thing). Instead, go for a light activity such as walking in order to stimulate your brain and your muscles. It’s necessary to keep your blood flowing properly. This is easy to do if you’re studying, however, if you’re in an exam, a small walk to the toilets should be enough for you to take a breather.

5. Prioritize

Yup, you guessed it. This means that studying comes first. Exam season only lasts around 1-2 weeks, so you’ll survive without partying for a weekend or two. If your friends want to hang out, switch it up and invite them to come study with you. They’re probably in exams as well. Prioritizing applies for studying as well. Before you dig into anything, make sure you have an oversight of all your deadlines and exams. Then, prioritize them by date, amount of work, and importance.

6. Study groups

Studying in groups is a great way to learn things before the exam. You can share notes, tips, and collectively help each other memorize the information that will be tested. Just make sure that you stay focused and don’t get distracted by talking. Otherwise, if this method doesn’t necessarily work for you (because it can easily become distracting), it’s always nice to have a group of friends to go to the library with. Just make sure to arrive early so that all of you can find seats and beat the crowds.

7. Double-check your exam times

Is there anything worse than waking up and realizing you missed your exam? Especially if you studied hard for that exam, it’s pathetic. Make sure that this doesn’t happen to you. Double-check your exam times, and set your alarms properly. Also, double-check the location! You don’t wanna end up wandering around the Aletta Jacobshal just to find out that your exam is all the way over at the Martiniplaza.

How you'll look speeding to the Martiniplaza after you've realized you went to the wrong building
How you'll look speeding to the Martiniplaza after you've realized you went to the wrong building

8. Study for the style of exam

Are your exams multiple choice or essay questions? Different types of exams require different types of answers, and thus, different ways of handling knowledge. If your exam is multiple choice, you’ll most likely need to know the exact definitions of terms and concepts. However, if you have open-ended questions, besides knowing the correct concepts, you’ll be expected to know how to apply them and give examples. Study accordingly, and prioritize the sections or topics that have most value or that you know you handle worst. 

9. Play to your strengths

We all have different ways of studying. For visual learners, color coding and visualizing study materials are incredibly easy ways to make sure the material sticks to your head. Make mind maps, charts, or simply stick your notes up to a wall when you’re reviewing. Your brain will make associations with the visual information, and you’ll remember things better. Do you learn by speaking? Then gather up a study group and teach your friends. The point is: play to your strengths. Recognize the type of learner you are and use that to your advantage. Not anyone can read a page and memorize it all.

10. Don’t panic

Remember that this is just an exam, and it is not a defining moment of your career (or your life for that matter). You still have options to do resits, and worst case scenario, it’s not the end of the world. Be calm! If you’ve studied, then be confident in yourself! You do know the information, and you know how to pass this exam. Don’t panic, and go into that exam as relaxed as possible. The stress will make it harder to concentrate, trust me.

What methods work best for you during exam season, any additional tips? Let me know below!

My official mood for exam season
My official mood for exam season


About the author

Hey! I’m Ariana and I’m a Costa Rican student with a passion for photography, dancing, and cute dogs. Aside from writing blogs, I’m doing my Bachelor’s in Media Studies. If you see me around smiling at my phone, I’m probably looking at memes (or cute dogs).


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