Getting that work-play balance (reupload)
Originally posted May 2018
Hope all of you are managing to enjoy yourselves and the beautiful weather despite the hecticness of exams!
Speaking of which, often during exam primetime, the hardest part of revising is making sure to maintain a healthy work-life balance. So if you’re struggling with either dedicating too little or too much time to revision, here are a couple of tips:
Work smarter, not harder
Revision isn’t about making sure to recover every single, nitty-gritty detail of your syllabus, but to make sure you understand the main concepts surrounding a topic and to practice the skills you’ll need to apply during the exam.
Therefore try to be critical about your revision session’s effectiveness as you go through, to help make sure you don’t waste time either blindly going over content or concentrating on what won’t be expected of you.
For instance, have you spent more than 30 minutes struggling to re-grasp a concept or practice a question? – STOP! Note it down, move on to another topic and revisit it later.
Is that area still not going in? – Ask for help, whether that’s friends, teachers or your professor. This will allow you to be a bit more efficient with your working time.
Address the core skills you’ll need
Consider an essay-based exam – would you simply memorise how to structure sentences or use punctuation? Or would you go over the main topic concepts and practice managing your time? To account for the type of skills you’ll need for the exam, try to practice the main ones by finding a helpful revision technique that will address them.
For my programming-based exams, simply making paper notes on syntax rules and semantics wasn’t going to be the best use of my time, as it doesn’t address the problem-solving skills I’ll need – but practicing will! Therefore I’ve tried to attempt several problems and come up with a solution for each, noting down errors or ideas I miss onto a sheet of paper to evaluate where I’m at and outline which mistakes to avoid for next time.
Are you unsure exactly what the exam will expect of you? Make sure to ask your teachers, lecturers or module-organisers. They will be more than happy to clarify anything and give you pointers about what to focus on.
Be realistic with your time
This is helpful for both extremes of working too little or too much, as you can set out beforehand exactly what you plan to achieve and what area/skill you want to assess. Therefore when planning out what you want to cover, note down:
• The area you want to revisit
o Differentiation? Hash-tables? SQL Injection?
• What you want to address
o Advantages and disadvantages? Main concepts? Practice rules?
• How you will do it
o Flashcards? Summary notes? Diagrams?
• When to do it and a target duration of time
o 11am? 6pm? For 45 minutes?
• How you will assess your understanding
o Complete 5 flashcards? Attempt practice questions?
This sets out a definite plan so you don’t either stop after 10 minutes or overcommit.
Identify your “time-wasters”
Social media, tidying, surfing the web – everyone has these. Those distractions that aren’t classed as being “fun”, but clog up on your precious study time.
Therefore try to look at your daily routine and identity any activities which you think may be causing you problems. For me, this is unnecessarily organising things or coming up with new tasks that I simply had to do right now (and before I know it , I’ve wasted half-an-hour!). So to combat this I’ve tried to make creating a daily plan the night before a habit and sticking to that plan – not adding anything else.
Plan fun time
I know – yes it is important to work hard and invest a lot of time to get that grade, but don’t let the aspect of results run the course of your life. This was the mistake I made during my A-Levels. As not only does it make you feel awful, but you’ll find your productivity will start to tail off and then – if you’re really not careful – begin to drop (plus you need to live a little!)
This year I wasn’t going to make the same mistake and have tried to make sure to dedicate time for sports, hobbies, events and meeting up with friends. Last week I’ve been on a picnic with friends in Kenilworth, gone to movie nights at each other’s flats and attended the campus food market!
If you too are really struggling to make time for yourself, try to schedule it if you can. This way you’re making it concrete so all of your work must be put away at this time. Plus it acts as that necessary motivation boost to help you finish all your tasks and minimise those distractions as discussed before.
I hope you find some of these tips are helpful and that you all don’t get too stressed out over the next several weeks. Just do your best and if you know you’ve put in the effort, you will have nothing to fear.
Until next time!