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Siyavula's top study tips for exams

Doing well in exams gives you the best chance of meeting your future goals. Here are our top tips for doing your very best in your upcoming exams!

By Ros Clayton
on August 21 2019
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Our top study tips
Our top study tips

Photo by Christian Erfurt on Unsplash

Get enough sleep

It might seem like sleeping is wasting time when you could be studying. But your brain needs rest in order to function at its optimal level. While you sleep, your brain stores information that you learned during the day. So make sure that you get enough good quality sleep by:

  • Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. Keeping a good sleep routine will help you to fall asleep more easily and sleep more soundly.
  • Not using your phone before bed. The light from your phone can make it hard to fall asleep. Try reading a book or magazine instead.
  • Getting at least eight hours of sleep. If you don’t sleep for long enough, your brain won’t have time to process what you have learned. You also won’t be able to absorb as much from your studies the next day. You really need to be at your best during exam time, so allocate at least eight hours each day for sleep.

Eat well

What you eat has a big impact on your ability to concentrate, learn and perform in your exams. Studies show that eating a good breakfast has a positive impact on learning. Eating vegetables and drinking milk are also associated with good learning outcomes. Sugary drinks, fast food and sweets are shown to have a negative impact on your ability to learn. So put away that energy drink and eat a healthy meal!

Study effectively

There are many study techniques to choose from, but some don’t really contribute much to exam results, while others are much more likely to improve your marks. Which are most effective?

Techniques that have a low impact on exam results are re-reading, highlighting, and summarising. So you shouldn’t be spending a lot of time on these activities. While they may seem attractive because they are easy and fun, they aren’t a good use of your valuable time. Rather make a few key notes and move on to the next phase of study.

Techniques with moderate effectiveness are self explanation (talking through a concept, by yourself or with others), and “elaborative interrogation”, which just means asking “Why?” questions about the content. Therefore an effective study technique is to ask yourself questions about how the new piece of knowledge fits in with what you know, or talking through your understanding of the topic. This technique is useful if you have a study group. Working together and explaining ideas to each other can be very helpful. Even if you don’t have a study group, just putting your understanding of a new idea into your own words (verbally) is a moderately effective study technique.

The most effective study techniques for improving exam results, and the ones that are likely to be effective for most people, are:

  1. Distributed practice (not cramming, but studying over a longer period of time)
  2. Past paper practice

Self-testing is one of the best ways to learn something. The act of trying to practise something will reinforce your memory. Even if you get it wrong, the act of trying to retrieve information is important. In fact, failure to recall something (and then seeing the correct answer) can be even better for creating long-term memories.

You should spend most of your study time on more effective study techniques, especially past paper practice.

You are probably used to doing past papers, either at school or on your own. But once you have done the most recent papers you have nothing else to do - there is no point in doing the exact same exam again. And if you should be spending most of your time doing past paper practice, how do you get enough different questions to practise? That’s where Siyavula’s Exam Prep can help you!

The benefits of Siyavula’s Exam Prep

Unlimited number of questions

Since past paper practice is one of the most effective study techniques, you should be doing a lot of it. Siyavula’s Exam Prep is based on official exams, but the technology behind it produces a virtually infinite number of slightly different questions, covering the same concept. Therefore you can do the papers over and over again, while testing yourself on something new each time.

Detailed solutions

Exam memos can be hard to understand. Siyavula Exam Prep provides detailed solutions that explain where the answers come from, so that you can learn from them. After reading the solution you can try the question again. You will get a different question in the same format and covering the same concept, so you can really test if you learned from your mistakes.

Self marking

It can be difficult to mark your own work, and research shows that students tend to give themselves more marks than an examiner would. Exam Prep does all the marking for you so you really know where you stand.

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Topic feedback

It can be hard to know exactly where to focus your energy. The Siyavula Exam Prep dashboard shows your performance in the various topics as a percentage, which changes each time you do a question. This allows you to see how you are doing, and where you need to focus your revision efforts.

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The longer period over which you prepare, and the more past papers you do, the better your exam results will be. So get Siyavula Exam Prep now, and prepare for your best exam results!

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