It may seem like there’s a whole lifetime separating the drudgery of high school from what looks like just cruising on the university side of life, but they both demand a consistency and work ethic that comes with some practice and discipline. And since these 6 university students seem to have these qualities down, we had a chat with them to find out what they think are the most valuable study tips and tricks.

Know your weaknesses

Understanding your strengths and weakness is always a good place to start, because then you’re better able to develop a study method that works for you. To begin, find out how you act in certain situations — do you crack under pressure, are you easily distracted? The point is to know what your triggers are so that you can avoid them or anticipate the unavoidable ones. For example, Sinethemba Phakathi, a third year Law student from Wits University, says that she has difficulty staying motivated when it comes to modules that she doesn’t find particularly interesting or fun. She knows she needs to get through these modules anyway, so she makes understandable notes throughout the semester so that she only has to revise the work before exams.

It’s what you put in

What you eat really does affect your energy and concentration levels, and although the last thing you want to worry about during exams is allocating time to making healthy meals, it’s exactly what you ought to be doing. Medical student, Tamsin-Lee says to steer clear of sugary foods and caffeine, since they only lead to anxiety and dreadful energy crashes. She swears by a healthy pre-exam breakfast and adequate exercise, instead.

Be prepared

One thing all six students stressed is the importance of time and the ability to plan ahead of the exam season. “Never put off studying until tomorrow,” says LLB student, Lindiwe Digoro, “start as soon as possible.” The key to getting good marks, and preventing exam-induced panic is to make sure that you know most of your work beforehand and one way to do this is to draw up a study timetable, another law student, Paula Hopetown, suggests. While sometimes you may find yourself studying under pressure, it’s never a good idea to try and cram the night before an exam. You’ll also find that those revision classes are actually not as useless as people claim, since they provide the opportunity to ask questions and brush through work you may have found problematic or difficult to grasp throughout the term.

Find your ‘zone’

You know that feeling when you find your flow, you’re making sense of the learning material, concepts appear simple enough, and you’re feeling really good about the upcoming exam? Yes? Well, that’s your zone, and anyone who’s ever studied for an exam knows that it’s not always easy to get there. So play around with different methods. Final year engineering student Busisiwe Dube says that she likes to sing until she is calm enough to get into the perfect study flow. Nelisiwe Mfabe, who’s studying Digital Advertising, reckons taking a nap before studying gets her into the right learning mode, and Sinethemba likes to connect to his spirituality and play music while he studies. There’s no surefire way to do it, but it does help to try different methods until you land on your holy grail.

Mind over matter

A common thread amongst the students we spoke to is the devotion to a positive mindset. This stuff can sound far-fetched, but the truth is, you need to prepare your mind for success in order to attain it. Paula says that during exam time, she constantly reminds herself of the importance of her studies and then imagines that the positive outcome she wants, is certain. Tamsin-Lee swears by positive affirmations and a healthy state of mind, and Sinethemba always surrounds himself with optimistic people, just like him. It’s important, then, to take stock of your self-talk as well as the attitudes of the friends you spend the most time with — are they motivating you towards the achievements you want? If not, it may be time to make some changes.

For as long as you’re getting an education, exams are going to be a part of your life, so why not master the process of preparing for them? Both varsity and high school can be quite gruelling, but it’s clear that with the right mindset, plan and lifestyle decisions, you can thrive during exams. Take a page out of these varsity students’ book, and make exam hysteria a thing of the past.

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