A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
It’s New Year, and the new semester is just around the corner! First, however, many of us Leideners need to survive the second block exam period, and hence, I decided to share some tips that I’ve found useful during these hectic and rather stressful times.
Make a study plan
No matter how boring it might sound, scheduling your studies is really important. About two three weeks before the exams, I list all the topics from all the courses I’m taking that I still need to study properly before the exams. Then, I divide the amount of these topics with the amount of days I have left, and decide which topics I will study and when. Also, I make up my mind on what time I go to the library each day and what time I’m allowed to leave home. I take it as I was working; about eight hours of studying per day is my goal.
Most importantly, I stick to this plan! It doesn’t only yield to better results but gives a feeling of success and satisfaction already before the exams, because I have goals for each day and I can see that I’m capable of reaching them.
Relax when you get home
When I go home after a long day of studying, I actually do what I want to do and not what I feel like I should do. When I am anxious about my studies, I tend to stress about all other things, too: Oh, I haven’t been to the gym for weeks! Somebody has to do some laundry in here! I wonder how the friend of my friend, who just broke up, is doing! Oh, poor refugees who had to leave their homes and now live in terrible conditions… All of these things are important, but right before the exams, my studies have to be my priority. Hence, I try to turn the worrier part of me off.
Stressing about all the bad things in the world simply takes too much of my brain capacity when I’m already using most of it on learning a lot of new stuff quickly. Hence, instead of thinking about how many calories those blueberry muffins at the university café have, I enjoy watching Netflix and reading trashy magazines all evening if I feel like it.
Study together with your friends
Best ways of learning are different for different people, but what works for many is explaining someone else what they have learned. My boyfriend is already tired of hearing about psychological theories, but my friends from the university are usually happy to discuss about what each of us has learned that day – and what has remained unclear. These kinds of discussions force you to process what you’ve studied, which helps you to remember these things later. They also make you notice whether you have understood everything correctly.
Another useful trick is to ask your friends about their studying methods; maybe there’s room for improvement in your way of studying. Most importantly, during the exam weeks you can’t avoid seeing your fellow students at one of the university libraries. Have lunch or a coffee break together with them; that gives you good reason for a well-deserved break and motivates you to get up in the morning and actually go to the library.
Remember to eat and sleep
This is self-explanatory and might make me sound like your mother but is worth mentioning nonetheless. Some students don’t want to “waste” time on sleeping and eating while studying for the exams. However, one’s brain needs a proper amount of energy and time to take in all the new information – maybe even more than normally. The intense studying before the exam weeks can last for two, three, even four weeks, and if you don’t allow yourself enough rest and food during that time, you will likely feel sick right after, or already during, the exams.
I always try to sleep at least eight hours a night, and sometimes during the exam period that can be eleven! By the way, Thuisbezorgd is a perfect invention in case you didn’t have time to visit the grocery store and your fridge looks just like that.
I’d be happy to hear how you get through the exam weeks!