Study habits to hurdle an exam

Three years ago we published this article written by Sara Nyhuis, a Monash student who has since graduated. We thought it still makes a good read today, for the final weeks of semester and in the lead-up to exams.

To my fellow members of the infamous Struggle Town, it’s that time again. We seem to spend more time watching the clock and scrolling through Facebook than reading lecture notes, and no matter how much caffeine we consume we still fall asleep in public - more often than not ending up on Stalkerspace.

Hermione Granger in Harry Potter and
the Order of the Phoneix, 2007.
Image under CC licence 2.0
For a double degree student in Arts and Science with two majors and minors, who lives out of home, has a part-time job, a half-decent social life and a comic book addiction - studying is hard. Finding the time is harder. But studying is never easy, even for those who seem to have nothing but time. Motivation, elusive at best, seems to head for the hills entirely, and suddenly everything else is infinitely more interesting.

But it’s important to remember that everyone is in the same boat, struggling along with you (yes, even Hermione Granger in the corner over there), and there are plenty of different techniques we all use to trawl through those final few lectures.

Where do I go?

The library. It was built for a reason. It has all the information you could ever hope for at your fingertips - it even has people to help find what you can’t in the database labyrinth. Make it your home during Swot Vac, and use it to its full potential.

Studying in the library means you not only have thousands of books at your disposal, but also that you have staff around you who are there specifically to help. They're like your shining beacon of hope in the tidal wave of exams and final assessments. There are learning skills advisers who specialise in different fields of study and who can work with you on your academic skills, librarians to show you how to get the most out of the online databases available to you, and information assistants to help you find that one last copy of the book that you’ve been waiting on for days.

For me personally, the library is the perfect place to study. During the day can be a little overwhelming, so the later, quiet hours of Caulfield are perfect for me. The feeling of impending doom isn’t quite so suffocating when everyone around you is there for the same reason you are, and you can choose to share it with your friends or find your own hideaway in the quiet study areas. It’s like an effort in solidarity; you struggle through the coming weeks together, and hope you all make it out without carpal tunnel.

And if that’s not for me?

Some days the library can be too much, and looking at the sea of down-turned heads is nothing if not intimidating. So go outside. Go for a walk. Put your headphones in and sit in the sun, read through lecture notes or highlight passages of your textbook. Working through sample questions is also a great way to study, and it can help to do them with classmates without having any other noise around you.

The most important thing I have found in my four and a half years at Monash is that you find your place to study, and use it specifically for that. If I study at home, I’m more inclined to clean the entire house than read through Week 7’s lectures on that thing I can’t quite remember - because the distraction is there and it is tempting. If you put yourself in the library, a park, a cafe, or wherever it is that you end up, you have already removed yourself from distractions and will find it infinitely easier to make some real headway. Of course, a little willpower is still required to ignore your phone, but hey, baby steps, right?

How do I get started?

If you’re struggling for a starting point, make lists. In your phone or on a wall calendar, give yourself goals for Swot Vac and set reminders for exam dates to make sure you stay on track.

I definitely recommend commenting and sharing your ideas here. I’ve always found that teaching others teaches me, so share your thoughts and study techniques here as a way of figuring out what works best for you, and help others to find new ways to get through the end of semester in the process. 

But always remember: something is better than nothing, and even Hermione Granger had her off days.

Sara Nyhuis is one of the students we asked to write an article for the Library blog that focuses on their exam strategies and tips. We publish articles providing information and professional advice from our learning skills advisers and librarians but we thought we'd hear from students, too. We want to know what works for them, particularly at this critical time when students need to make the grade.  

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About Heidi Binghay

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