Exams – ten tips to prepare for them

Family Health Diary

Well it’s that end of the year… the sharp end where all that learning is meant to come together efficiently and eloquently in an exam. Easy? No. Excruciating? Yes.

If your household has anyone in it from year 11 to 13 or a Uni student, it’s a hairy old time of year. Our household has a year 13 and a third year Uni student, so that’s a good dose of stress right there, and then there’s me. Yup I’m trying my hand at a Uni exam with just the 30 years between drinks.

Mid-life madness must have got hold of me in a weak moment earlier this year. Not sure what I was thinking signing up to do Post Grad papers in public health. Still, I guess it’s cheaper than the usual story of a new partner or a fast car, and certainly less of a drama for those around me! Having said that it does affect the household as I have to hang out the I’m not available for anything sign when a written assignment is due, and not just for a few hours – I seem to sweat over the words for days on end.

If I try and talk sense to my frazzled, frightened, pre-exam addled brain, I’ve done it because I’ve always loved health and I’ve always people and societal systems and how they work – or don’t work. So public health is putting those things together and seeing what I can do in that space to make a difference, as cheesy as that might sound.

It’s certainly the reason behind the Raising Children video resource I make www.raisingchildren.org.nz as I try to marry up researched information into a user friendly package for busy, young parents.

Anyway, self-analysis aside (I’ve digressed!)… back to the blooming exams and how to survive the run up.  First issue is procrastination. I’ve seen my kids do it and hey bingo, here I am doing the same thing, side-tracked doing other stuff. So first tip is to decide to study and put other things aside.

Then it’s the when. As exam novices I used to sit with the kids and make a study plan. We’d work out how many hours were needed for each subject and then timetable them into a week’s planner.

Next was the how. Schools often have good courses on this, so take advantage of them. I’m going to go for the tried and true option of writing up succinct notes from the course I can test myself on. Then, as the kids do, put them all in a labelled folder.  I like acronyms to remember key things. I recall making up one with one of the kids as we drove to an exam to remember a list. It was something so silly it was hard to forget even though the subject was super serious.

The next thing this seasoned mother of studying kids will tell you is about making sure the basics are in place. That is…pens, paper, any other equipment needed, folders, desk, etc so there’s no time wasted finding what you need to complete the task.

The other thing is food, sleep and a bit of balance. Good food you can eat in a study break, then go back to it. Enough sleep, because not enough makes you feel less than sharp, and a bit of fresh air and exercise to invigorate. Some self-talk to remind yourself you’ve got this deep down is always good, as well as remembering the reason why you’ve taken it on. Plus a carrot – plan the things you can do with all that spare time afterwards!

As I write this of course, and listen to all my good advice to keep the bairns on track for success – I feel doomed to failure myself. I have procrastinated to the max, I am not as organised as I need to be for study and now I am probably too late starting and too worried to sleep properly. Deep breath, Jude. Tell yourself you’ll be fine, and get on with it. AGH…I hate this exam stress!!!

  1. Decide to study and don’t procrastinate.
  2. Make a study timetable.
  3. Get everything you need ready to study with.
  4. Have good food ready that’s easy to eat in a study break.
  5. Get enough sleep.
  6. Get some fresh air and exercise.
  7. Tell yourself you’ll be ok.
  8. Remind yourself why you are doing this – what the goal is.
  9. Plan a treat afterwards with the spare time you’ll have.
  10. Grit your teeth and just get on with it!


Written by Jude Dobson

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