Motivation, Anyone? The Student Guide to Surviving Exams

by Bridgette Glover

I'm not sure if it is just me, but I vaguely remember feeling prepared for these exams and assignments about a month ago. Anyone else? Of course at the commencement of this trimester I was convinced I would be nothing less than a distinction student (maybe even a couple of HD’s). Everything was organised, from my textbooks to my post-its. I shouldn't be surprised though – this spirit is always crushed come exam time. I’m sure I'm not alone in saying that it can be something of a hellish experience (usually involving nervous breakdowns or minor heart attacks - the ones accompanied by prickly heat).

But fear not! The exam period does not begin until the 8th of October, which means we still have time!

So, in this piece you will find all the good advice given to us students in times like these, from the scientifically proven tips from Oxford to the tried and true techniques from bloggers. Sure, “take notes, you’ll thank yourself later” is always handy to know – but let’s get down to business and take a look at:


The exam period begins on the 8th of October… This means we still have time!

Know exactly what you need to do:

Pace yourself and make a plan. Write a list everyday of everything you need to do, as well as how you are going to budget your time. Whether you decide to put it in your smart phone or write it down in your planner, just remove it from your brain so that you a) don’t forget it and b) don’t worry about forgetting it. Free your brain up for more important things like that damn essay.

Once you get your head around it DO IT! How many trimesters do you need to complete before you realise that not everything can be done the night before. I know our lecturers say this time and time again….and it’s because they’re right. Duh.

Go shopping:

Nothing pumps me up more than doing a little school shopping. Anything from a new tote that has a pocket for your laptop, to a love-heart shaped post-it makes me want to dive into the library and get shit done! Just me? Well, all you non-nerds just need to trust me on this one, because once you go buy that highlighter that has a rubber on the end (yes, to rub highlighter out – I know, *mind blown*) you WILL get those readings done.

Re-organise your desk:

They say that if you want to get work done, you must first make your workplace your sanctuary. Definitely true. If you’ve been watching the competition through EdUNE on Facebook, you’ll notice everyone has a different study area, and it is a large contributor to anything getting done. It needs to have good flow, not be too cluttered (to begin with) and should have a plant. That’s what they say, but ultimately it just needs to work for you.

I personally love working in the library because it’s quiet, and you have two screens!! There is also something about being surrounded by other students that look really dedicated to what they’re doing – it gives me a good kick up the butt when I need it the most. However, I know many who need complete silence, and there are times in the library when you don’t get that…some people just don’t seem to know what “silent zone” means.

Craft an emotional emergency plan:

This is mostly for those of us who tend to think ahead about all the things that could go awry e.g. What if I don’t get it finished in time? What if I’m late for my exam? What if my car won’t start? This plan is the safety net, giving you back-up/solution for all of the “terrible” things that could occur, like who to call, where to go or what to do in those moments when you are too maxed out to think.

exam breakfast image

Take a five minute break every hour:

I know it doesn’t seem very long, but this tip has many benefits. Standing up from the computer desk and having a stretch, making a cuppa or sitting in the sun is a great little break for our brain and body, and will make it loads easier to get back into it.

Also, for all of us who prefer to keep up with social media, when these five minutes sneaks up it is the perfect opportunity to check what’s happening in the world of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Note: it is advised that you should set an alarm so that when those five minutes are up you know it is time to step away from the phone!

Editor's Pick: The Gummy Bear Reward System Got pages and pages of reading to do? You need to break it down in smaller tasks, with study rewards to act as an incentive. This ensures you stay on track and get through it without your eyes glazing over, and who better to assist you in the task than your good friend the Gummy Bear?

Place a gummy bear on the page every couple of paragraphs... when you reach it, you get to EAT it.

gummy bear


The no-brainer tips:

Eat healthy

C’mon, you do not need to eat pizza every night for two weeks just because it’s exam time. Your brain will not function! Chocolate on the other hand is definitely justifiable.

Get some sleep

I know it seems like another couple hours of cramming will be good for you, but you know deep down, things stopped sinking in half an hour ago.

Limit your media consumption  

Your brain can only take so much information.

After 2pm switch to tea

Coffee is great, don’t get me wrong. But in the afternoon it will only get you so far, and you will eventually burn out. Tea however will not make you dehydrated or shaky. Win!

Energy drinks = bad. Water = good

Fairly self-explanatory.


Effective (and scientifically proven) learning mechanisms:

Write your summary, and then rewrite: Lather, rinse, repeat

Past exams: Jack and Zac, Rural Science students, say that one should aim for completing three to four past exam papers for success.  

Visual learning aids: Brittany, a straight-HD student, swears by flash cards and posters, and you can’t deny that they’re totally fun to make!

Utilise the Study Guides: Understand what will be in your exam so that you know as much as you are able to about what will be in the exam, so that hopefully you don’t waste time on topics that won’t be assessed.

Good Luck everyone and remember, P=Degree


exam tips link, image

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