Bev Roberts shares her top health and study tips for exam success
“Mens sana in corpore sano” is a Latin phrase, usually translated as “a healthy mind in a healthy body” and has been around since Roman times, but how does this relate to exercise?
Exercise helps to oxygenate your brain and helps to release tension. It has a calming effect, helping with mental relaxation, and this in turn will help you to study more efficiently.
It’s widely accepted that you cannot revise effectively for prolonged periods of time. Some suggest a 50-minute revision session with a 10-minute break, whereas some have suggested a 20-minute session with a 5-minute break.
Every person is individual, and as such, each person retains information differently; ultimately, taking regular breaks is the key.
This will ensure that you stay productive and ensure you have the best chance of retaining what you have just worked on.
A short walk around the block can be sufficient to help you clear your head, enabling you to return refreshed to your studies.
Set a routine
“All work and no play….” is a well-known proverb, and one that is often undervalued! A well-balanced routine of work and play is so important during revision.
You might find it difficult to maintain a regular exercise schedule, but doing so will almost certainly reap its rewards.
Ideally, try to get active at least every other day of the week.
Learn what works best for you
Planning a routine will help to ensure you exercise during periods when you know you won’t be studying. Some people prefer to study (or have the time) in the morning, whereas some are night owls.
If you can plan some exercise around your study schedule, then you won’t miss out on valuable revision (or exercise) time.
I know you’ve probably heard it a million times, but walking really is very beneficial. Not only for your health, but it can also help you to relax, focus your thoughts, and leave you feeling refreshed and energised.
In order to perform at your best, you need to consider how you are fuelling your body. Eat well-balanced meals, with slow release carbohydrates are a good option.
Some examples are oats (porridge), fresh fruits, nuts, eggs, non-starchy vegetables, sweet potatoes, etc.
Try to avoid skipping meals; apart from the obvious health implications, skipping meals can be counter-productive toward your learning, affecting concentration and retention levels.
Drink plenty of fluids to make sure you keep hydrated. The occasional diluted fruit juice or cordial is fine, but your best option is nothing more complicated than plain water.
Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables. Instead of crisps, chocolates or fizzy drinks, try to stick to fresh fruit and vegetables as a healthy snack. Pineapple chunks and carrot sticks are a good, easy option.
Watch your caffeine intake – caffeine is a powerful stimulant, and although it has been known to help with concentration in small doses (one to two cups of regular strength coffee or tea), having too much caffeine can be detrimental. Not only will it dehydrate you, but in higher doses it has been known to cause palpitations and is likely to disturb your sleep. People with heart conditions, diabetes, epilepsy, high blood pressure (to name just a few) should also be particularly careful when ingesting caffeine products.
Try to avoid so-called ‘energy’ drinks. Additional to the above, drinks that are loaded with sugar and/or caffeine might appear to give you a quick energy ‘hit’, but this feeling rarely lasts for long.
Generally speaking, these are a poor substitute for healthy, well balanced food and fluid.
Watch your alcohol intake
Alcohol is a depressant, so drinking it is likely to make you feel more relaxed, But as alcohol is also a diuretic, it will also dehydrate you, disturb your sleep and would likely have a negative effect on your concentration levels the next day. We’re not saying never have an alcoholic drink, but just be mindful of when you have it!
Time management is key
Exercising, socialising with friends and family, as well as making time to study are all equally as important as each other. You need to find a healthy balance, particularly when your exams are just around the corner.
Understand your learning outcomes
Do you know what you need to achieve for each topic or assessment that you’re undertaking? For example, most bodies have a full breakdown of each course and its corresponding syllabus, which can usually be found on their website.
Continue to reflect
It’s important to reflect on what you learn; whether it be a new topic in your course book, an article you’ve read in the press or even your own revision notes. Reflecting can often help to cement those points, ensuring they stay with you.
If there are any topics that you feel are weak, try rewriting them in note form so that you understand them better. Tab your books, highlight specific areas, etc.
On the big day, remember the four ‘P’s – preparation prevents poor performance!
• Ensure you have allotted a sufficient amount of uninterrupted time to complete your exam.
• Turn off your TV and phone.
• Fully prepare yourself before accessing the exam link. Make sure your workspace is clear of any clutter, have a glass of water to hand, etc.
• Read the exam instructions fully prior to clicking ‘Start’.
• Take a deep breath and don’t panic. If you’re sitting your exam, you know you’re fully prepared.
• Read every question carefully and thoroughly.
• Be sure to check your figure work at least twice.
• If you get stuck on a question, move on. You may have time at the end to revisit any questions you have skipped – this is better than not finishing the paper.
• Stay calm!
You’re an independent learner
Regardless of where you are studying, it is important to know that you are not on your own; you will likely have a whole raft of different support networks at your disposal. That being said, it is worth praising the independent learner!
You are proactive, reflective and self-aware.
You will try to find solutions to problems, think about (and often question) what you experience, hear, see or learn, and you are more likely to know (or be aware of) your strengths and weaknesses. You’re also not afraid to ask for help if it’s needed.
• Bev Roberts is exams officer for Training Link. She is also the awardwinning tutor for the Diploma in Payroll
Management and the L3 Self- Assessment Tax Returns course