O.K. so its the end of February. Only two weeks to St. Patrick’s Day, and just another week to the Easter term break. Then the last term leading up to the June exams. So what can you do to get well set up for your exams? The countdown starts now.
Well, you still have time to book a place on one of Galway Maths Grinds’ Easter revision courses. There are still a few time slots for one-to-one and for small group sessions. In line with our quality before quantity ethos the group sessions have a maximum of four students in a class to ensure that every student gets a high level of individual attention.
Get very familiar with with the two resources you will have during the exam; your calculator and the Formulae and Tables booklet. It is amazing how many students do not know how to use these two vitally important items effectively. Do you understand the second function key on your calculator? Can you get values for the trigonometric functions sin, cos and tan in both radians and degrees? Do you know how to use the memory function? If not, it is too late to be trying to figure it out during an exam.
I would strongly advise that when doing maths work from now on, that each time you need to look up a formula, you do so in the approved Formulae and Tables booklet rather than your school textbook. This way you will learn what information is contained in the booklet, and where to find it when you need it in the exam.
Draw up a revision plan. If you do not revise you will forget. Even if the stuff you did last year seemed easy at the time you need to revise it several times so that you can fully recall it when you need it.
Nicely produced time tables can be useful in helping you organise your revision, but spending hours drawing out nice fancy time tables instead of studying the course content is a waste of time. You may find some of the templates produced by Galway Maths Grinds helpful, or you could quickly do out templates to suit yourself on your computer or by hand. Once you have a useful template you can print off or photocopy a bundle of them in one go. Or you could get a diary. Remember that there are no marks going for producing beautiful looking time tables or planners. Their sole purpose is to help you to organise yourself so as to get your work done effectively.
Many people make the mistake of putting in activities for every minute and every hour of time they think they have available. There are 24 hours in everyday but a third of these are needed for sleeping. Another third or more for school including getting there and back. Time is needed for rest and recreation during the day and there are always things that crop enough that you need to get done. So only a few hours of each day should be time tabled for your out of class study activity. You need to make the best use of it. You need to build in slack time in the time table. Otherwise you risk getting frustrated at not getting done all the things your time table was assuming would be done. By developing a regular routine the study becomes a habit and removes one of the biggest stressors of the disorganised student; procrastination.
Maths in particular is a subject where you have to learn by doing. The best practice for exams is answering questions from past papers and the sample papers issued by the State Exam Commission, (SEC). You should practice answering these questions as if in an exam situation, with just your calculator and Formulae and Tables booklet, and against the clock until you can do them in the time you will have in the real exam. Do the questions out fully, exactly as you intend to do them in the exam. Then correct them using your text books if necessary, and if there is something that you can not figure out ask for help. See if there are particular types of errors you keep repeating and work on correcting these.
If you have corrected papers from your mocks in school, go over and analyse them. Again it can be a good idea to get a teacher to look at your work and explain how you can improve it. Do not worry about the actual grade you got in the mocks. Instead concentrate on discovering how you lost marks. Was it because you got the correct numerical answer but left out the units. Did you do the conversion from one unit to another incorrectly? Was it because of the way you used your calculator? Once you identify a problem you can work on fixing it.
If you have a tendency to “go blank” or get panic attacks when taking exams then develop coping strategies now. For most people simple visualisation and or breathing exercises are sufficient. If you have done your work you know that you already know your stuff. If your thought process goes off track either by fixating on a thought that goes round and round in your head or going blank, then all you have to do is deliberately interrupt your thoughts, distract them with something else for a minute and then get back on track. You could do this by engaging in a little positive visualisation that you have practised beforehand or by choosing something in the exam hall such as a chair and concentrating on all the little details of it. Then go back to a different question or ask yourself a slightly different question to the one you were stuck on just to get the mind going again.
In the days and weeks before the exam use the visualisation techniques used by top athletes and other high performers. Take a minute out each day to visualise yourself getting to the exam centre, taking your seat, starting to read the paper, starting to write the answers, finishing the exam and walking out at the end of a job well done with a big happy smile on your face. This sets your brain up in the right frame of reference to do the exam. This really works so try it.
Apart from exams altogether, you can use this method to get you back in a positive mood when you are feeling a little down. Have a picture in your mind of something that makes you happy. The more detailed you make the picture the better. Then when you need cheering up concentrate on this picture in your mind’s eye.
Set up regular routines for study, for recreation, for meals, sleeping etc. Just like Olympic athletes, the performance on the day is what counts, but it depends on all the preparation that goes before. Coming closer to the exams gear these so that your peak performance time of day corresponds with the hours the exams will be on. There is some evidence to suggest that teenagers really do perform poorly in the early morning and better latter in the day. But exam time is not the time for being a night owl.
Its all about developing good habits so that things become semi automatic. Habits take time to develop. That’s why the countdown to the June exams begins now.