I have been a little quiet on the blog front recently as I have an exam for my LPC on Corporate Finance coming up. Instead of sitting in an exam hall, I will be taking my exam from home with a webcam watching me at all times for the whole 3 hours. I’m very used to sitting in exam halls where I have to rely on everything I have in my mind so when I was told that I would be allowed ALL of my notes for my next exam, I found myself having to completely reevaluate how to approach the exam. I have been sitting exams consistently for the last 10 years so have developed many approaches over time. I also studied A level psychology and learnt about memory and the importance of “encoding” the information… i.e. converting the data from one form to the other to make it easier to remember. I try to fit in as many methods of encoding to make sure the information gets stuck in my brain somewhere.
I thought some of you on here may also have exams in the near future so thought it might be handy to tell you how I approach my revision and how I adapt my approach depending on the format of the exam.
Do not just read!
I cannot express this enough. Just reading information and expecting to remember it is near impossible. We remember stories because they have a journey and create pictures in our head but trying to remember boring chunks of text on legislation or a formula are hard to remember unless you do something else with that information.
Ever been down the stationary aisle and found yourself admiring the spectrum of highlighters on offer? A recent revelation for me is PASTEL highlighters – all of your usual colours but in pastel tones that make everything look 1000 times prettier. I always begin by reading through the materials and highlighting key bits of information that I will focus on later when consolidating the information. So if you do fantasise over pastel highlighters and have an exam coming up, treat yourself – it will make the whole boring experience a lot better! Remember: do not highlight everything… as tempting as that may be!
Try to formulate distinct blocks
Break down the information into distinct chunks. For my LPC exams, I normally have 10 topics to remember so I will make sure to create blocks of info and even further, micro blocks, of distinct information that create bitesize chunks to remember. There is a technical name for this…. “chunking” …. which makes me want to say, I don’t skinny dip, I chunky dunk, which is true is more ways than one!
Again, time to get your highlighters out. When you have created your distinct blocks, use different highlighters to differentiate between the different information. For example, pink highlighters for (please excuse the boring legal terms)… insolvency, yellow highlighter for issuing shares on the main market, green highlighter for issuing shares on the alternative investment market – that kind of thing! If you have a closed book exam, you can think of the colours in your mind and the associated information or if you have an open book exam, you can easily locate the relevant notes by recalling the colour.
Type up brief notes
More often than not, you are provided with a mass of information and only 60% of the words are actually relevant for your exam. Typing is quicker than writing out notes so once you’ve finished reading and highlighting, type up the notes in a simple title and bullet point list format, keeping the information as brief as possible. I like to think of this as Stage 1 of condensing down the information to make it more manageable… and remember to type them up following your “chunking blocks” as your structure.
Create a spider diagram
I’m a visual learner and find a really good way to remember information is to create spider diagrams. I use my smaller chunks as the base of my spider body and the legs to expand on that small block. It’s a good way to remember numerous points stemming from one idea and also gives you the opportunity to create some really beautiful pictures! If you are creative like me, then the best way to make a boring topic that little bit more exciting is to make it pretty. I have kept so many spider diagrams that I am hugely proud of.
Create beautiful revision notes
If the information you’re trying to remember isn’t spider diagram friendly, then simply writing out the information from your typed up notes in a creative way is a good idea. I use different coloured pens, bubbles, felt tips etc. to make my notes look so pretty so that when I try and recall them in an exam, I can almost remember them like a work of art. They are also REALLY satisfying to look at once they are finished.
Familiarise yourself with past answers
Practice makes perfect after all. If there are past papers, then make sure to familiarise yourself with not only the content, but the style of answer and try to make sure that you can answer similar questions in the same fashion. It unlikely that the exam questions will deviate far from what has gone before, so if you’re familiar with the approach to take, this should make picking up the marks even easier.
We all know that revising for exams can be SUPER boring. Your brain needs time to soak up all the information so if you feel like you’ve hit maximum retention, then take a break and return when you feel ready. I normally spend half an hour revising, 15 minute break when I’m really going for it or I’ll try and revise for 3/4 hours and spend the rest of the day doing other things I enjoy to give my brain a chance to chill out. Obviously, you need to factor this into your revision timeline and if you’ve done no revision and have 2 days until your exam, breaks might not be the best choice. Another tip is that you brain remembers information during sleep, so make sure you get enough of it and don’t try to pull all nighters – they never work well! … at university, if I had an afternoon exam, I’d revise in the morning and have like a half hour nap which, at least in my opinion, was a really good way to remember info. Just make sure to set your alarm so you don’t miss the exam, eek!
So, that’s my recommended approach to revision. Do you have any exams coming up and if so, how do you find it best to revise?