There’s a secret to doing well on your exams – and it’s probably not what you think. While studying and practicing exam technique is important, they’re not the only things to think about. You should also spend part of your time focusing on your health and well-being, too.
Here are some tips to help you stay happy, healthy, and focused when preparing for your Oxford Test of English exam.
1. Try Mindfulness
Mindfulness can help you manage stress and feel more focused when studying. The good news is that it can be quite simple to practise. If you’ve never done it before, try this five-minute meditation exercise right before you start studying.
- Sit at your desk.
- Close your eyes.
- Focus on what you experience and ask yourself some questions:
- How are you feeling?
- What can you hear?
- What can you smell?
- Are there any background noises?
- Can you feel any sensations in your body?
This will make you more alert and more present in the moment – the ideal state for studying. You can also check out different mindfulness apps on your smartphone – for example: Headspace, Calm or Insight Timer. These will guide you through exercises you can try at home.
2. Take breaks
Time off from studying is an important part of self-care – you need a break from all the hard work. Plus, moving around gets your blood flowing and will help you feel more alert.
The ‘Pomodoro technique’ is named after the tomato shaped timer popular in Italian kitchens. In a nutshell, you use a timer to work for an extended period of time and set regular breaks. To get started, all you need is a timer. This can be on your phone, an egg timer, or – if you prefer apps – you can try a pomodoro timer app.
How does it work?
- Set your timer to 25 minutes (this period of time is known as a pomodoro!). Turn off all distractions (e.g. notifications on your phone) and focus on what you are studying.
- When the 25 minutes is up, take a short break of about 5 minutes. Stand up, stretch your arms and legs, have a glass of water, etc.
- Finally, go back and start another timer for 25 minutes of work. After four ‘pomodoros’, take a longer break (15-30 minutes).
This simple technique will help you become more efficient, without tiring you out.
Note that pomodoro timer apps schedule all the long and short breaks for you. They also keep you focused with motivational progress messages.
3. Get lots of rest
Believe it or not, sleep is an important part of your study process. Studies show that it is good for memory and brain function. The better you sleep, the more likely that you will remember what you learnt during the day.
We recommend trying to sleep at least eight hours a day. If you can, having a nap in the afternoon helps, too.
4. Check in with friends
Studying can get lonely and isolating yourself can easily lead to losing motivation. So make sure to check in with friends and family members – either face-to-face or online.
If you have friends preparing for the same exam, it’s a good idea to study together, too. But even if you don’t, call a friend for a short chat and talk about something that is not related to exams. Studies also show that laughing can boost your brain function, so make sure you call your friend who has the best jokes!
5. Eat well
When test-takers are studying, they often end up eating snacks and fast food to save time. A hamburger or pizza can be a quick fix when you are busy preparing for an exam. But don’t be tempted! You’ll soon feel sleepy and unfocused because your body will need a lot of time to digest the heavy or greasy food.
We recommend choosing healthy snacks instead. Fruits, vegetables and nuts are great when you get hungry but don’t have time to cook a meal. It’s also a good idea to drink lots of water to stay hydrated and feel more awake.
6. Stay positive
Studying is tough and you’ll sometimes feel like you’re not making progress. It’s important to have realistic goals and be patient and kind to yourself. So what can you do?
Celebrate little successes
Remembering new vocabulary, getting a practice question right, watching a video in English – these are all things to be happy about.
Take it slow
If you’re tired, stressed or feel like you’re forgetting things in English, take a break. You deserve it.
Think about the big picture
If you feel like progress is slow, think back to last week, last month, even last year. How far have you come? If you’re studying, the answer will be a long way!
7. Set goals and stick to your study plan
Your preparation will be more successful if you come up with a clear study plan. Sit down with a piece of paper and make a list of your goals. For example, if you’re studying for a proficiency test like the Oxford Test of English – which skills do you need to focus on the most? What are your weaknesses?
Try to put your goals in an order of priority. When you are ready with that, you can create a study plan. How much studying are you going to do each day? Be realistic so that you will be able to stick to your plan.
Not sure how to make a study plan for the Oxford Test of English? Read our article!
8. Remember to put yourself first
Sometimes exams can feel like the most important thing in the world. Of course, it’s good to be motivated and want to do well. Just remember to take good care of yourself and you will see that it will pay off in your exam results, too!
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