As the end of the holiday inches forward, it’s the perfect time to start preparing for the new academic year. Is there an exam in week one? Have you bought the right textbooks? Were you meant to sign up for the 2pm lecture or the 4pm lecture? If you’re entering another year at university, we’ve put together a few tips for leaving your bad study habits behind. If this is your first year in Australia, use these tips to implement some good study habits before university starts.
From study hermit to study socialite
It might seem productive to lock yourself away, totally alone, for hours/days/weeks at a time when it comes to preparing for exams or doing assignments. In theory, cutting yourself off from friends and the outside world means less distraction and greater focus. But, in doing so, it’s likely you will very quickly start to burn out and lose motivation.
You need to give yourself a rest, allow your brain to settle, and ensure you tear yourself away from textbooks at least once a day to re-energise. Skype family and friends back home, catch up with local friends for an afternoon beverage or get your dose of vitamin D by taking a walk at a nearby beach or park in the morning before settling down at your desk. Getting outside is also a great way to explore your adopted city.
Tip: If you’re especially wary of taking time off in the days before a test, go for a simple change of location, or find some friends to revise with.
Procrasti-cleaning to productive and prepared
Procrastination can also take the form of procrasti-eating/-sleeping/-cooking – and no one is immune. Imagine you’re set to go for a day of revision and suddenly you’re overwhelmed with the ‘necessity’ to clean your room or cook a four-course meal. Or, you’ve decided multiple naps and a handful of trips to the local supermarket per day are the best way to keep yourself energised.
While eating well, sleeping a solid 7-8 hours per night, and cooking/cleaning to give yourself a break are important, these shouldn’t be cutting into valuable study time. To avoid dreaded procrastination, make sure your time is well-managed. For some people, this might involve creating a quick revision timetable. Others may prefer simply setting regular time goals throughout the day with breaks every so often (for example, the popular Pomodoro technique basically involves working for 25 minutes, taking a five-minute break, and repeating throughout the day). There are a number of resources online with different methods for dealing with the curse of procrastination, so try them out until you find something that works for you.
Tip: Should the desire to do menial chores to avoid studying be too overwhelming, go and study at the university library, where you can neither cook nor clean.
From racing to the finish line to taking it slow and steady
Putting off study and then cramming work into the last few days before an exam is something many of us are familiar with. We won’t bore you with the endless research that proves cramming all your revision into a few days before an exam doesn’t work. Just know that the proof is out there, and it’s time to kick the habit.
Instead, as simple as it sounds, start your revision early. In the weeks leading up to an exam, start going through your work, topic by topic. Even an hour or two of revision a day will help your understanding and knowledge retention, instead of trying to memorise an entire course’s content 12 hours before a test. Then, use the last few days leading up to the exam for more intensive revision. This means doing practice exams, going through flashcards, or finalising your ‘cheat sheets’.
Tip: Try to attend lectures or watch them online, as more often than not, lecturers will tell you which topics will be covered in an exam. Put an asterisk next to each relevant topic, or aggressively highlight that section in your notes so you know to spend extra time on it when it’s time to study.
Constant all-nighters to consistent schedules
Sometimes inevitable – but never fun – pulling an all-nighter might mean you’ll hand something in before a deadline, but you will sacrifice quality and finesse. Leaving your assignments to the very last second and relying on the pressure of the deadline to push you through a night of work is incredibly taxing. Plus, the mental and physical effects of all-nighters are problematic if they’re consistent.
Some students work better at night, free from distraction. If that’s you, try to cap your work at a specific hour, to ensure you still get some sleep and don’t mess with your circadian rhythm too much.
If you work better during the day, stay organised. Lecturers and tutors will often tell you when it’s a good time to start assignments, and in the following weeks, they may even let you know what point you should be up to. Update your calendar and stay on top of due dates.
Tip: If you know that a deadline is going to be unachievable, remember that there are university staff who can help you. Whether it’s your lecturer, tutor, or even a counsellor, speaking to someone about your concerns can be really valuable. Just make sure you chat to them as far in advance as possible.
Unhealthy study practices to a healthy work/play balance
One exam shouldn’t be the focus of your university career. Your health – both mental and physical – is far more important than any exam or assignment. Studying yourself to absolute exhaustion, maintaining a diet of instant ramen and remaining stagnant behind your desk for weeks won’t help when exam time rolls around.
Remember to keep yourself active, eat healthily (to an extent… a study break serving of some classic Australian hot chips never hurts), see your friends, call your family back home, and speak to the right people if you need help. Studying can tough, but it doesn’t have to take its toll. You still need to enjoy your time overseas and balance study time with plenty of fun.
Top tip: Most universities are equipped with health services, counselling, student services dedicated to international students, gyms and cafes – quick and convenient facilities that you can visit on your way to or from the library to make sure you’re staying healthy and safe.