Study Smart – the last few weeks before the exams

With a few weeks before exams this is an important time to focus and minimise distractions to ensure you get the results you desire. Here are some key tips for the weeks leading up until your exams.

  1. Plan your time

Take time each week and each day to plan your calendar. First add all the regular events such as sports, music practice, cultural and church commitments plus meal times. Now plan around these to ensure you have a spread of all subjects over a week. Focus on one subject at least an hour per day, and at least 3-4 times a week.

  1. Minimise distractions

Let people know you are unavailable for the time you are studying. Ensure your family knows you are focusing and maybe more importantly, turn off your social media feed to be able to focus. You can check your social media feed in your 5 minute breaks. Turn off the TV, and any music with words as the brain tends to listen to lyrics and then is not able to focus clearly on what you are learning.

  1. Start with what you don’t know

If you have completed your practice exams, start learning the questions you got wrong or did not get full marks for. Of all the tips, this is paramount. Revising what you know just makes you feel good however does not increase your knowledge and understanding. Alternatively, learning what you don’t know is exactly what studying is all about. Get out your notes and go over what the teacher taught. Use the internet to search for videos, tutorials and study notes to assist you. Ask questions of your teachers and check in with friends who might be able to explain anything you are confused by. The more you go over and over these challenging parts, the easy they will get. Start each study session with the topics you find challenging and spend 10-20 mins on these each day. Over time you will find that your understanding improves.

  1. Look after your wellbeing

Firstly, water is great for hydrating your brain and making thinking and learning easier. Ensure you have a glass of water or your water bottle handy while you are studying. A filtered source or straight out of the tap is great. Avoid adding anything into the water such as tea, coffee, sugar, colouring, flavouring etc as this causes your body to use treat the drink as a food and does not directly hydrate your brain.

Secondly, great nutrition is also essential. Just like a car, the quality of fuel equates to the quality of performance. Recommended foods for top brain functioning include blueberries, brazil and walnuts, banana, broccoli, wholegrain bread, spinach and tomatoes.

Thirdly, take frequent breaks. Researchers suggest to study for 20 minutes then a 5 minute break. In your break, go for a brisk walk, jump of the trampoline or skip with a skipping rope. These activities assist with blood flow, increasing oxygen to the brain and will release endorphins, the feel-good brain chemicals. These can help to reduce stress and ease anxiety and depression. These activities can also leave you feeling invigorated.

  1. Use flow charts and diagrams

Draw, flow charts and make up diagrams to assist in learning information. A picture is worth a thousand words and this is very true for the brain. Visual images are more likely to be recalled in an exam and also help with understanding when drawn. Once you have drawn and understood a concept, cover it and see if you can redraw from your memory, and repeat until you can.

For more study tips, check out the Study Smart Board Game at – with 90 study & exam tips; the game will show you the importance of how each tip affects your results.

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Published on Sunday, October 1st, 2017, under Study Skills

Karen Tui Boyes is a champion for Life Long Learning across nations, industries and organisations. Winner of the NZ Educator of the Year 2017 and 2014 and the NZ Speaker of the Year award in 2013 & 2019, Karen is a sought after speaker who continually gets rave reviews from audiences around the world. Her dynamic style and highly informative content—which turns the latest educational research into easy-to-implement strategies and techniques — sets her apart from others in her field.

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