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Article written by Leah Minett, Birkbeck University, LLB Law.
With Christmas assignment deadlines looming and spring/summer exams not too far away, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the amount of revision and preparation required, but it’s important to plan ahead to avoid becoming unnecessarily stressed. Below are the top 10 tips to avoid stress when it comes to your university assignments.
It’s very easy to find yourself incredibly busy through the term – whether that be with a part-time job, social plans, or simply keeping up with your studies – but leaving your assignments and exam prep until the last minute will always make stress levels severely worse. For assignments that are released in advance, try to start making notes as soon as they are released, so that even if you don’t get round to writing them until closer to the deadline, you already have a clear starting point to work from.
Find a revision strategy that works for you
This is really important, as no two people are the same. While some people prefer to use flash cards, others will prefer comprehensive notes, Q&As, or post-it notes stuck to every wall in their home! It’s important to focus on how you learn best and stick to your own strategy that suits you. If you are unsure, there are many online quizzes to help you understand your revision style – why not try taking one of these to help you work it out? Finding your own way of working eliminates wasted time and ensures that the hours you are spending on your exam prep are far more productive.
Write clear, cohesive notes throughout the term
While it’s easy to just sit and listen during lectures, making clear notes at the time of the session will be incredibly useful at a later date when it comes to revising. Making notes while information is fresh in your mind is far easier than trying to go over a topic six weeks later. If you are someone that prefers not to write things down during sessions, why not listen to your lecturer, take everything in, and then take ten minutes at the end of the session to write a quick summary of what you’ve learnt? This will help you to focus on the most important bits of information, and will provide a very useful starting point when it comes to your revision at a later date.
Write a revision timetable
This is one of the easiest ways to ensure that you are maximising your study time. Having a timetable ensures that you are able to plan your time in advance, to avoid getting to the deadline and still having missed out sections of revision. When creating your timetable, look at the material you need to cover and work out how many hours you need to cover each topic. Make sure you split up the topics to ensure that you are keeping things interesting for yourself and not spending too much time cramming on one module.
Take regular breaks
This is one of the most important tips to reduce stress levels over the exam period. It’s very common to feel overwhelmed with the sheer amount of revision that you need to do, and it can often feel like you don’t have time to switch off and take a break. However, taking regular breaks improves productivity levels, so it’s essential to ensure you remain focused. Research shows that taking purposeful breaks (anywhere from 5–60 minutes) from studying to refresh your brain and body increases your energy, productivity, and ability to focus, so make sure that there are plenty of breaks scheduled in your timetable!
You are not going to be able to cover an entire module’s revision in depth in two days. It’s impossible. Make sure you give yourself enough time to study each topic in plenty of detail. If you know that you are juggling a lot, don’t leave your studies until the last minute – plan ahead and think carefully about how much time you need to allow yourself. Also, be realistic with regard to how much studying you can do in one day! It’s not healthy to cram 14 hours of study into one day, so make sure you are being practical when it comes to your revision.
Break it up into chunks
This relates back to the point about taking regular breaks, but having chunks of revision to get through is an easy way to break up your studies, and also gives a sense of satisfaction when you manage to get through each chunk. Similarly, break your studies down into different topics to keep it interesting and to avoid it becoming too monotonous.
Exercise and eat healthily
Looking after yourself and keeping well is essential during study time. Exercising and eating well is not a waste of your time, and will significantly improve your productivity levels. Moving and doing exercise can help to reduce stress levels and improve concentration, so make sure that you are getting up from your desk and moving your body regularly.
Did you know that 80% of your brain is made up of water? You won’t function well if you are dehydrated, so make sure that you are drinking plenty of water while revising, as this will keep you alert and ensure you make the most out of your revision sessions. While it can be tempting to consume copious energy drinks and coffees, water is the best thing you can drink to stay productive.
Be kind to yourself and get plenty of rest!
This is the most important tip on this list. It’s so easy to become overwhelmed and overworked during exam season, but being kind to yourself is the most important way to combat stress levels. Do not focus on what other people are doing: focus on yourself, and on what makes you feel the most productive. Take regular breaks, get fresh air, drink lots of water, and be kind to yourself. If you need to have an afternoon off revision to focus on reducing your anxiety levels, do it! Make sure that you are getting plenty of rest and sleeping enough! A minimum of eight hours of sleep every night will ensure that you are feeling more positive and productive when you wake up each morning. There is no right or wrong way to prepare for your exams, but the most important thing is to look after yourself and ensure that you get plenty of rest.