Exam Prep: 3 Unconventional Tips That Work

The night before my most important day of Leaving Cert exams, I did not sleep one wink.

It was the Thursday night. I’d completed 2 full days of my own Leaving Cert exams. Tomorrow, Friday, would be my biggest day — Geography in the morning and Maths paper 1 in the afternoon. I needed to be at peak performance. And I just could not switch off.

I remember it being 5:13am on the clock and sitting out in the porch. I kept telling myself ‘I’m going to ace the exams, I’ve the work done’. I had prepared so much that I knew my long-term memory would come trumps. And it did.

I achieved 97% in my Geography exam and 86% in Maths. I nailed the exam, because I nailed the preparation. Your only friend in exams is your preparation — it’s all you can rely upon as soon as that paper is handed out.

Here are 3 unconventional tips that I used to study more effectively.

1. Sleep More

The more you sleep, the more effective your study will be. It’s paradoxical. It makes no sense – shouldn’t students be trying to cram as much information in as possible?

Countless research papers have shown that you code in long-term memory while you sleep. Sleep less, and you code less memory. You build up toxic waste in your brain when sleep-deprived, and you actually detract from the memory building process.

Cramming makes no sense. You can only store up to 4 chunks of information in your brain at any one time. Doing an ‘all-nighter’ never pays off. You can’t physically store all that information in such large chunks in one go. Do not cram — it’s a waste of time. Start studying today, nice and steady, and sleep well to code in that material into your long term memory.

2. More Chocolate

Yes, you heard me: eat more chocolate.

Now, that’s not to say go stuff your faces with Kinder Buenos. It’s dark chocolate that has all the cognitive benefits. It increases your blood flow and is proven in multiple studies to improve cognitive function.

Any evening I would go upstairs and study, I’d have 2 small Aldi dark chocolate bars with me. It perked me up every time I was lacking energy. I felt way sharper for the subsequent hour of study.

Try it — the taste of dark chocolate grows on you over time.

3. More Carrots

No, not the carrots Bugs Bunny likes — I mean carrots dangled in front of you. The big reward for all this hard work.

In my bedroom, I had a big A3 piece of paper on the wall. On it, I had one thing — ‘600 points—June 17th’. Every time I would daydream and drift off, I would look at the wall. I’d be constantly reminded that this effort of study had a finite date and that I had a goal. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do in college. But I knew what I wanted to do in school — achieve above and beyond my potential.

That was my carrot. That was what kept me focussed when distracted.

What’s your carrot?

Hope this helps. More anecdotes and tips to follow.

– T.J – CEO of Breakthrough Maths

Need help in Maths? Contact the Breakthrough Maths team here.

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