Study tactics to help you blitz through exam season

WANT to discover different ways of studying that may help you beat your exams? Samantha Chew has more on study methods to help you take better notes and effectively manage time. 


Exam season is often grueling. In a bid to study, dishes pile up, hygiene may seem of secondary importance, food choices boil down to the more instant variety and the clock mocks you by counting down the seconds towards that make or break exam.

Studying is difficult but motivation is key even if it’s hard to retain. Time is not on your side but learning to make the most of it, while you’re in lectures or away from them, can mean a world of difference.

So if you’re looking to find a new way of taking notes in class or want to know how to better maximise the time you have to prepare for your exams, below are some solutions that may help you beat your exams.

Note-taking methods

The Outlining method

Image by: Samantha Chew

Image by: Samantha Chew

Particularly suited to students in the STEM field, this method is most commonly used.

It offers an organisation method for your notes to flow from a big key point branching down to smaller details. Once again, this method works well with recorded lectures you are reviewing or even watching for the first time. We know your ways!

Mind Mapping

Image By: Lindebornt via Flickr

Image By: Lindebornt via Flickr

This method is by far the most efficient way of learning, especially for visual learners.

Instead of writing down information in structured lines, this method requires you to make it a graphic representation.

Use colourful markers and different icons to relate the information to visual cues. This forces your brain into active participation and creates relations from one concept to another.

The Charting Method

Image by: Samantha Chew

Image by: Samantha Chew

This method is for content that can be put into distinct categories.

As the name implies, you chart out columns and write relevant headings on the top. For history majors, these headings may include; period, important people, events, significance.

Doing this produces notes that highlight key points and help with memorization and seeing a clear picture.

The Sentence Method

Image By: Samantha Chew

Image By: Samantha Chew

Instead of big chunky paragraphs, write every thought, definition, fact and topic on a new line.

By limiting yourself to one thing per sentence, this produces notes that are easy to read and process.

The Cornell method

Image by: Samantha Chew

Image by: Samantha Chew

This note-taking system sets up a frame work that reduces re-copying of text and forces you to condense your notes.

Write notes on the right column from a lecture or tutorial. Given that space is limited, make use of abbreviations or symbols too. On the left column, you can write key words or even questions that the content refers to.

As soon as you’ve finished writing your notes, do revision to retain the information by giving a summary or answering some key questions at the bottom column.









Time management

The Pomodoro technique

Image By: Jussi Linkola via Flickr

Image By: Jussi Linkola via Flickr

All you need for this technique is a timer and willpower. The goal is to work in short windows of time and then rest for a set amount of time. These breaks are called “Pomodoro”.

Repeat the process and take a slightly longer break every time you hit four Pomodoro. The idea behind this is that you can work without any distraction but won’t stray or get tired because of the Pomodoro.

Don’t Break the Chain


This technique is simple to implement and best of all it turns you into a creature of habit (in a good way!).

Simply start getting a routine by setting a time to start studying everyday and marking it off your calendar, keeping track of your progress.

The combined habitualness of the task and seeing it crossed off your calendar will motivate you to keep doing it.

Stephen Covey’s time management quadrant

Image by: Samantha Chew

Image by: Samantha Chew

For students who find it hard to juggle which tasks are more important and time sensitive, Covey’s quadrant may just be the answer to your woes. The foundation of this quadrant is that you need to prioritise the bigger more important tasks and not spend time being confused or jumping tasks.

The quadrant is split into important and urgent, important but not urgent, not important but urgent, not important and not urgent. By separating tasks into these categories you have a clear view of which tasks should be a priority based on time sensitivity and urgency.


While these methods may help increase efficiency and productivity, ultimately what it comes down to is your willpower to move forward.

Put on some instrumental music and find a quiet space away from disturbance to ensure a conducive environment. Don’t neglect hygiene and take a break to clean your room and grab dinner with some friends — your brain needs a rest too!

Useful advice that I took into account is to treat school like a 9.00 to 5.00 job — keep work at work and hours outside of it should be used to rest. Other advice would be to simply make use of your campus library if the time isn’t being utilised in class.

Have you used any of these study methods? Which one has worked best for you? Do you intend to use any of these to help you take notes in class or effectively manage your time? What suggestions do you have for other students? Let us know in the comments below. 

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