While my friends are chasing ‘A’s, I proudly proclaimed that I am chasing after perfection. It is not because I am a memorising king of the class. Quite the opposite, I sat through my A level Mathematics paper with only one single formula in my head; I derived everything else on the spot.

So imagine, doing well without much memorisation. Isn’t that a dream? I think it is possible and what I hope to do today is to summarised this personal studying technique that I adopt into a few palatable points.

By the way, if you have any personal routines that works for you, I hope to learn from you too so please share them in the comments below.

Practice Question Focused

Through years of taking examinations and now, being an educator myself, I understood what I was doing that worked. My method is practice question focused and works best with science, technology, engineering and mathematics related topics.

Collecting Past Year Papers

I collect as many past year papers as my time allows myself to go through. If there are answers than all the better. Mock papers are used if I am unable to locate actual past year papers.

I divide them into three piles:

  • Collection 1. Somewhat new past year paper except for the latest (about four papers)
  • Collection 2. Older past year papers (over 3 to 5 years old)
  • Collection 3. The two newest past year paper

Studying Phase

Open the first two papers from Collection 1 and start doing! Open book. No time limit.

The idea is to find a way to go through your notes. Practice keeps the studying process active and a great way to help your brain remember things.

The other main point is to keep the studying process stress free. There is no need to impose a time limit and don’t be too hard on yourself for not being able to do the question. It is your first attempt anyway.

If you cannot answer a question with an open book, ask for help.

This means that we are facing a knowledge gap. There is something we do not understand. Ask your friends or your prof for help.

Practice Phase

Use the next two papers from Collection 1 and rely less on your notes. Also, spot for “patterns” in the question and find out the method to answer the question.

Relying less on notes means that you will only refer to it if there is a need to. This is to test your memory. The hope is that when you have repeated the same type of questions for a couple of time, you already remember the facts so that there is no need to memorise it.

Spotting for “patterns” is also an important process too because these are your “giveaway” questions that you can score. Your professor probably think you should be able to answer those questions anyway. If there is a pattern, there is usually a standard method to solve those questions. This help you to increase the speed in solving those questions.

Mock Exam 1

With the second newest past year paper from Collection 3, find a quiet place where you cannot be disturb and sit for your first mock exam. This is a closed book and timed exam.

Time management is also an important part of the examination. If you did not finish the paper in time, note how many questions are left blank. Proceed to complete the exam to identify speed gap, memory gap and knowledge gap that you might have.

If you can complete the question without your notes, you have a speed gap. You need to find a method that allow you to complete the question faster.

If you need your notes to complete the question, you have a memory gap. Memorisation at this stage will help.

If you can’t answer it with an open book, you have a knowledge gap. You need to ask for help.

Further Practice Phase

Do papers from Collection 2.

Do this if you still have time to spare before the big day. Keep your brain active and do not let it rest. Keep getting in touch with your study material through this method.

If there are questions that you can’t do, it may not matter as much because some of the content tested may be outdated.

Mock Exam 2

Do the newest past year paper from Collection 3 one to two days before your examination. This is a close book and timed exam.

All that applies to Mock Exam 1 applies to Mock Exam 2 too. At this stage, you will know how well you are going to do for the examination and it will give you some certainty over your grades.

One difference. If you have a memory gap, write down the facts on a piece of paper. Bring this paper along to the entrance of the examination hall.

Night Routine: Relax, Eat well, Sleep Well

Do not attempt to study the night before. The focus is getting yourself cared for so that you are in your best mental state to attempt the examination. Stay away from coffee and spicy food, any detractors that will upset your stomach or keep you awake at night. Do ordinary things that you do to relax.

Sleep and your brain will help you do the memoriastion sub-conscientiously. This is where memorisation take place.

Last Minute Rush

Open up the piece of note you have written for yourself after Mock Exam 2. Read through it and hope for the best.

Tell yourself that you have done all that you can.

Concluding Remarks

The examination study technique is a practice question focused method which keeps the learning process active. Part of which would also require me to address the following gaps that I may have:

Speed Gap: Caused by working too slowly on a problem. To increase speed, find a standard method that allows you to solve the problem quickly.

Memory Gap: Things you can’t remember for nuts. Do more questions that uses that part of the content and get in touch with it as often as you can. Relax, eat well and sleep well and let your brain help you do the memorisation for you.

Knowledge Gap: Questions that cannot be solved even with an open book. Ask for help from your friends or your professors!

I hope this has been helpful for you and once again, if you have any personal routines that works for you, I hope to learn from you too so please share them in the comments below.