The art of VCE exam cramming

This is a repost from last years VCE exam period - all the content is still relevant and highly useful.

Many people profess that they need to feel the "pressure" of exams and assessments before they finally pull the proverbial finger out and actually start working. Chances are, if you are this type of student. you're best friend is the cramming session right before the exams.

Cramming is a specialised skill that anyone can do but like most things you need to know how to do it without experiencing the adverse affects of cramming. Later on, I want to know what you do when you cram but firstly...

I've written about some of the last minute vce exam strategies you should try and adhere to but I know many students out there are freaking out with all the things they need to revise or learn (gulp) before the exams start tomorrow!

Despite working hard during the year I found that I still needed/wanted to do some last minute cramming in order to get the best possible results. The things that are working against you are 1) lack of time (obviously) , 2) energy and 3) stress levels.

Above all things you need to ensure that you get a good nights sleep ( an absolute minimum of 6 hours based on the sleep studies I have read ) and you need to stay relaxed, positive and upbeat. When you are stressed the Reticular Activating System (R.A.S) in your brain (which acts like a switchboard to help you gain access to information) cannot operate effectively. Who here has had the experience whereby they're in an exam and have the dreaded case of the blanks? The R.A.S. cannot operate when you are overly stressed, so it is important to stay relaxed. Try and avoid the caffeine as you could end up not being able to sleep when you do eventually go to bed. ( I had this happen once and it was so frustrating - too tired to study but couldn't get to sleep until the wee hours of the morning ).

Is it better to stay up late or get up early? It depends on the individual but considering it usually can take 60 minutes plus until you are fully awake and alert I would recommend having an earlier night and getting up a little earlier. How late should you stay up? Any-time you start to lose sleep you start to impair / reduce your cognitive functioning for the next day and it is a real balancing act. Staying up later gives you the benefit of completing more study but if you are so exhausted the next day and you can't keep your eyes open what's the point?

Here are some more quick pointers to help you:

1. Get a realistic plan/outline what you want to complete - including your sleep time.

2. If you don't have much time use your sac preparation / revision sheets, summary guides and chapter summaries etc as a starting point. Some of the vce resources such as the podcasts, websites etc we have on this website could also help. Another good starting point is the VCAA and past VCE exams in conjunction with the examiners reports.

3. Avoid the bed...yes it will help you to relax but the bed is for sleeping and it won't be long until you start to drift off.

4. Avoid or reduce the caffeine!

5. Snack attack - small, nutritious meals are the go...avoid the ultra sweet foods otherwise you will go from hyperactive man to the energy levels of a 3 toed sloth in a very short span of time.

6. Memorise by writing down acronyms, diagrams, tables or mind maps...your visual memory is better than auditory so try and use some colour (with the use of highlighters) and visuals to help you remember during the exam.

7. Put on headphones but don't plug them into your iPod. must think I'm nuts but if you live in a noisy household this is a great way to block out the noise. And shouldn't listen to music as it will be distracting but you're probably going to do it anyway, aren't you! At least I tried.

8. Do take breaks; a quick walk, pushups/situps, toilet break will freshen you up and keep you on your A game.

9. Electronic communications should be off; computer, iPod Smile , phone etc. The answers you need are NOT on Facebook people...a quick facebook break is never quick.

10. Still stressing a little... Stress less with some of these stress busters.

11. If you are staying up late set a double alarm in the morning - mobile phone and another (if possible).

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