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Some helpful study and exam preparation tips

Posted by Eamonn Brady on

An old saying goes, “You cannot plough a field by turning it over in your mind”; the same is true for exams; worrying will not help but study will.


With exams looming, stress levels are rising. Essentially it is time to clear the “desk” of guilt and regret for what appear to be many lost hours not devoted to study. It may very well be the situation; however it is essential to realise that there is still a considerable amount of time left to prepare for the looming exams. It is important not to lose hope or minimise expectations. There is still adequate time to brush off the study cobwebs and get stuck in to a study plan, so you have to stop procrastinating and get organised. Avoid getting overwhelmed; it is amazing how much you can learn in a short space of time


As Gandhi said, “You may never know what results come of action, but if you do nothing there will be no result”


The secret to doing well in exams lies in planning so if your notes are not in order, this is the first thing to attend to; file your subjects and gather all your written homework essays assignments. Pay particular attention to the suggestions/comments your teachers have made. Organise physical space to study and establish a routine of going there. Do not study on the bed, always use a study desk; bed might induce sleep and it can also impact on your sleep pattern during the night. 


Have study and a revision plan; if you have not done one, do one now. Following the plan and developing study patterns will enable you to study more productively. Avoid interruptions and start off with ten minutes revision of the subject in hand. Especially avoid having your mobile phone at hand or any such distractions as it will break your concentration. Everyone revises differently. Use headings, highlighting and revision cards, get revision guides. Make notes of the important points when revising. Use past exam papers and do model answers.Make sure to check past exam papers and familiarise yourself with the structure and format of each exam subject.  It is a good discipline to practice answering exam questions within the specified time limits. Check your answers against your notes to make sure you’ve got them right. Know the exam timetable and try to study in the same order. The night before the exam, leave cramming to one side and stick to what you already know. When studying the night before an exam, you run the risk of making yourself nervous if you try to learn new information. Review your notes or test yourself on key points.


Exam Day
On the day of the exam avoid talking to fellow students about the exam as it could confuse you or make you lose confidence in yourself. Similarly avoid talking to others about the exam after it’s done as you might start to doubt yourself, which may lead to stress and reduce your confidence in your next exam paper. During the exam remember to use your time strategy for reading the exam paper and the amount of time you need to allocate to each question. Read the instructions very carefully then scan the whole exam paper. Start with the questions you’re most confident with, break the questions down to make sure you really understand what you’re being asked.


Parental Support
As a parent guardian you can support your exam student through exam preparations and the actual exams by making home life as calm and pleasant as is possible. Some short term allowances may need to be made to alleviate the pressures and stress that come naturally with exams.


There will be some free time from school in the run-up to exams, if possible try to be at home so that you can share a break and a chat together. It is important to make sure there are plenty of healthy snacks in the fridge to provide good, nutritious food at regular intervals. Eating a balanced diet of “brain food” that includes fresh foods (especially fruits and vegetables) and regularly eating at meal times (especially breakfast) can help to maximise brain function and manage stress levels more effectively.  Ensure that there is a protein source in the diet (eg. Fish, chicken which are necessary for energy), include Vitamin C and B-complex Vitaminsources (eg. broccoli, tomatoes, citrus fruits, potatoes) Make sure that he or she eats a good breakfast on the morning of the exam. Encourage your son or daughter to join in on family meals (even if it's a busy revision day) as it is important to have a change of scene and get away from “the books” for a while. Encourage and support regular exercise, such as a brisk walk as it can help clear the mind before the next revision session. Tensions can get high during these few weeks, so be mindful of this and avoid “nagging” or make any demands on your son or daughter during exam time.


Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail“. Good luck with the exams!
Thanks to Finola Colgan Development Officer of “Mental Health Ireland (Midlands)” for her help with this article.
For comprehensive and free health advice and information call in to Whelehans, log on to or dial 04493 34591. You can also e-mail queries to





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