study tips

Ace Your Exams: 10 Study Tips

The formula for exam success lies in three key tactics – organisation, consistency and attitude. Find out how to ace your exams with our 10 study tips!

study tips

Key Tactic #1 Organisation

Planning well can decrease stress and reduce anxiety as you head into finals.

Tip #1 Exam Calendar

Once you have received your Exam Timetable from school, mark your exam dates on a dedicated Exam Calendar and stick it up on a wall where you can see it every morning when you wake-up.

Matrics can download their exam timetables here: IEB and NSC.

Tip #2 Daily Study Timetable

Break down chapters into small, bite-size sections. Alternate between hard and easy sections/subjects. 

You can study 2- 3 subjects a day, for example: Math in the morning, Life Science in the afternoon and a language in the evening. Study harder subjects or sections when your brain is most alert. If you’re a morning person – study math in the morning – vice versa if you’re a night owl.

Tip #3 Plan Wisely!

Make sure you give yourself enough time to study each section well. Otherwise, you will either fall behind your schedule or rush through your work – leaving you feeling anxious and ill-prepared.

Plan your studying so that you finish learning 2-3 days before an exam, this will give you time to revise and practice using old question papers. If you finish with extra time – BONUS! Use the extra time as a mini-revision session. Don’t waste any of your valuable study time.

Also plan around family/friends social events that happen during the exams, e.g. birthdays. Either use these days as revision days (if the event is only for a couple of hours) or if the occasion is all day, mark it as a rest day.

Tip #4 It’s Better To Be Over-Prepared

Being over-prepared will leave you feeling relaxed and more confident before an exam. This positivity boost will calm your nerves and will help prevent those moments when your brain goes blank (find out what to do if you blank out during exams).

All this planning will require some time to setup and organise your study timetable. Ensure you allocate a day to plan out your Daily Study Timetable. You can find a video on how to set up your Daily Study Timetable here

Key Tactic # 2 Consistency

To be consistent requires discipline and dedication to your goals. Hard work will always pay off. 

Tip #5 Remove Any Distractions

 Switch of your cell phone, or leave it in another room if you will be tempted to check it. Put away any books and PC/Xbox/PS games. Clear your desk or study area of any mess or unnecessary things. Set out the stationery and books you need for the specific subject you are going to study first.

Tip #6 Alarms Are Your Best Friend

Use an alarm for ending study sessions and breaks – use an egg-time or digital timer. DO NOT USE YOUR PHONE. It will be a distraction. 

Do 2-3 study cycles of 30-45 minutes sessions with a 10-15 minute break. Then take a longer break for meal times. Find out why study breaks are important

Tip #7 Healthy Diet

With all this studying you will need to fuel your brain and your body to fight off brain-fog and tiredness. At meal times always eat a well-balanced meal of proteins, carbohydrates and fats, to give your body long-lasting energy throughout the day (find out our tips for brain foods here). 

If you experience fatigue and cravings, have a healthy snack during your short breaks. For sweet cravings eat fresh fruit, yoghurt, raisins or dried fruit. For salty cravings eat peanuts/nuts and raisins, biltong or salty popcorn. Try to avoid eating sweets and chocolates, as they cause a ‘sugar-rush’ for a short moment and then a ‘dip’, which will leave you feeling tired and unable to concentrate.

Drink lots of fluids, like water and fruit juice, while studying. Limit your coffee and caffinated tea to 2-3 cups a day. DO NOT have energy drinks – they have the same effect as sweets, and will leave you feeling worse than when you started.

Tip #8 Exercise Regularly

Remember to get some form of physical activity daily. Our bodies were not meant for sitting for long periods of time.  EVen just getting up to stretch or walk around during your breaks will help. 

There is no need to stop your sports during exams – just don’t train intensely and use up all your energy, or otherwise you will be too tired to study. You can fit in running/swimming/cycling/gym, etc. as a longer study break. 

Tip #9 Get Some Sleep

Keeping a consistent sleeping pattern is so important. It will keep you feeling refreshed and prevent brain-fog.

Go to sleep at the same time every night – including weekends! EVEN if there is a social event – ask your parents to fetch you early, and wake up the same time every morning – even on weekends. Discipline and dedication to your studies is vital, and it includes your sleep!

Key Tactic #3 Attitude

Your attitude will be the defining point between your success and failure. 

Ensure your ultimate goal is well defined before your exams start. This is your ‘WHY’ and it can be your dream career/job/lifestyle or simply a mark you would like to achieve.  Knowing why you have to do something (like studying for exams and passing them) will be the driving force that will keep you motivated and get you through your exams. If you don’t have something to work towards, you will run out of steam quickly and you won’t have anything to motivate you to push through the hard times.

Tip #10 Find Your ‘WHY’!

Decide what your ultimate goal is – why you want to do well in these exams. Don’t allow others to define your goals for you – you will lose your motivation and driving force. Know WHAT you want to achieve for each exam. Know HOW to achieve each goal. Know WHY you want to achieve each goal. Now, use these study tips to GO FOR IT!


Written by Sarita Downing, BrightSparkz Tutor & Blog Writer

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