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10 fool-proof tips for passing your exams

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Want to smash this term’s exams? Here’s how...

1.       Workin’ 9 ‘til 5...

I know you don’t want to hear it, but putting in a solid day of work (with a few motivational breaks) is absolutely the best way to get your brain exam ready. Work for a couple of hours in the morning, take a long lunch, then get back on it ...and when you emerge from the library a few hours later you’ll have a whole free evening ahead of you to do whatever you want and not worry about slacking. Yes, it might test your resolve to get out of bed before 11.30am – but you’d rather do this then end up missing nights out through the sheer volume of work you haven’t completed, yes?

2.       Eat less crap

Yes, it IS possible to eat healthily – and it can also be cheap and fast. Most students aren’t gourmet chefs. But how hard is it to stir fry some veg (pre-packaged for ease), grill a piece of chicken and pour over a bit of hoisin sauce? Answer: not hard at all, and you’ll feel a million times better than if you’d succumbed to the tasteless Basics pizza (for the third time this week). Good brain foods include oily fish, bananas and basically all forms of vegetable. Try out some of TNS’s most popular recipes here...

Recipe: Go Brazilian!

Recipe: Thai Green Chicken Curry with Coriander Rice

Recipe: Lamb & Sweetfire Beetroot Burgers with Feta

Video: How to make Spaghetti Bolognese

3.       Sweat out the stress

Yes, it’s cold and dark and exercise is probably the very last thing you want to think about. But instead of running around campus in the minus temperatures and causing yourself new levels of pain or not bothering at all, be sociable and join a gym class – think Zumba, Spinning or 20/20/20 – with a similarly gym-o-phobic friend. The result will see your relaxation levels increase by approximately 197%. Honestly!

Click here for tips on how to build exercise effectively into your busy day or here for a work out designed especially for freshers, that means you don’t even have to step out of your front door...

4.       Use visual aids!

Is it only me who gets excited about NEW REVISION PENS when designing intricate, increasingly colourful spider diagrams of interconnecting literary themes? Yes? Oh, right.  

5.       Take regular breaks

To see the outside of the library/ get a cup of tea/ rewarding sticky bun/ breathe. Just every two hours, not every ten minutes.

6.       Do other things

Like, for example, the aforementioned Spinning class. The single most important thing you can do at exam time is relax, and you aren’t going to work productively if you’re cramming for 12 hours every day. You absolutely need downtime. So go to the cinema/ shopping/ for a long walk/ for cocktails/ to the zoo/ seaside/ local museum – whatever floats your boat. You aren’t just allowed – you’re being told. And then get back to the books.

7.       Manageable chunks

Six novels to learn backwards, thematically, grammatically, contextually, intertextually, from 12 difference perspectives – by Monday? STOP. To be brutally honest, you are not going to have time to learn all the things that, in an ideal world, would already be firmly lodged in your brain. So (and apply this logic whatever subject your degree happens to be in, whether it’s Chemistry or Business or, in fact, English) work on the major themes across three of your six texts. Learn them well, with quotes. It is infinitely better to know three texts fairly well than one cover-to-cover and six barely at all. Thumbs up logic.

8.       Mix it up

Routine is good and can get you in the exact right frame of mind for productive studying (see Point 1.) However, spending five days a week straight in the library might drive you a little bits nuts. Here are some other places you could study: coffee shops, campus breakout areas, the local library, a different seat from your standard one, your friend’s living room floor, outside with a picnic (ok, maybe save that one for a bit later in the year...)

9.       ...And NEVER study in your room

Set clear boundaries between your work space and your play space and when you’ve finished for the day and left the library/ coffee shop/ wherever you’ve been you’ll find it much easier to relax – consequently boosting your mental health, productivity and (voila!) exam results! Amazing. 

10.   SLEEP

...But not too much, because you’ll feel sluggish. If you’re not one for early nights, aim to be in bed by midnight and set an alarm for 8am. Anymore sleep than this will be counterproductive.

We hope these tips prove useful. Follow them to the letter, loosely, feebly or not at all – hey, we’re not here to judge. (But if you do listen you’ll do better, so really...)

For other such nuggets of wisdom concerning your health, wellbeing and productivity at this time of year, check out our further study tips, as well as more generic tips on how to stay healthy during the dark, dark days of January. 

Good luck! 

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