Getting my act together for exams


After a not-so-productive semester, I knew I needed to get my act together for exams. And I needed to do it NOW.

But I didn’t know where to start! I felt lost, confused, and overwhelmed. I’m still behind with all my lectures, I have all this reading to do…and I felt a bit like this.


It’s funny, looking back at my first blog post of this semester, I wrote:

“I’ve got assessments starting this week already and I’m still in holiday mode, and and and I need the studious Daphane back”.

Well…that studious Daphane never came back from holidays! 

So I decided it was time to get some help (It only took me like, 12 weeks to come to that conclusion – I’m silly, I know). I needed someone to knock some sense back into me, and get me back on track.


I booked myself an iTute appointment with an Academics Skills advisor (the amazing Katherine), and we sat down to plan how we are going to tackle exams and how we’re going to turn my disasterous semester around.

Katherine runs her own blog called Research Degree Voodoo which you should all check out!  Seriously good stuff, and I’ve learned so much from her posts.


Here are the things I took away from our session.

I need to study smarter, not harder

h6C4FC8B2I realised that I was doing this whole study thing wrong. My studying technique was not effective nor efficient. I was spending SO MUCH time writing up pages and pages of notes, and realistically – I won’t even remember 80% of what I had written down.

So I needed to re-evaluate my studying technique.

And in the process – I’ve re-discovered an old way that I used to study back in year 12 – using mnemonics!

Yes – I did psychology in year 12 ;)

I used to learn by making up stupid and crazy stories, and weaving in the study content there.

Here’s an example of a story I made up to remember the basics of catecholamine (a hormone).

A nervous cat named muffin, was so stressed that she ran really fast outside the med building. She is a strange cat because she likes to play in water. But one day she was trapped in a storage container, and she had to message the Grattan St Pet Care Rescue for help.

Nervous = neural tissue
Cat = catecholamine
Muffin = chromaffin cells,
Stress + fast = fast stress response
Outside = ectodermal cells
Med = Adrenal medulla
Water = hydrophilic
Storage = stored in vesicles
Grattan st pet care rescue = G-PCR messenger

Basically: The adrenal medulla is derived from ectodermal tissue that gives rise to neural tissue. It’s made of chromaffin cells that produce catecholamines. This is a rapid response to stress. It is a hydrophilic hormone that dissolves in aqueous solutions, and it is stored in vesicles. It also activates the G-PCR messenger.

And this works for me! (but it may not work for you – everyone learn things in different ways).

I do hope there’s a question on catecholamines on the exam…

I need to practice responding to exam questions

20120916-130613 copy

Here’s my problem: Even though I may know the general jist of the lecture content, I absolutely suck at responding to questions in exams. i tend to do well in all the assessments over the semester, but my overall score for the subject PLUMMETS because of the exam (my exams are worth about 60-70% of the total score – curse you science life!)

So yes – I need to work on applying knowledge and practicing responding to exam questions.

There’s more to procrastination than I thought


What I learned about procrastination is that:

1) It’s not as simple as I thought – there are many factors that contribute to it.

2) Procrastination isn’t necessarily my fault nor is it a sign that I’m lazy (Katherine wrote a great post on this – click here)

I procrastinate because I’m exhausted


Late nights, minimal sleep, big days = not a good combo.

Then when it’s time to study time, I simply have no energy to concentrate – hence, procrastination.

What this means is that – I need to fix my sleeping patterns, wake up and go to bed at regular times, and start taking better care of myself.

I procrastinate because I’m distracted


1. I need to find a good study spot

I study better when I’m at home whereas many people prefer studying at the library. It’s hard to find a place to study in the library, and it’s usually pretty full and busy during this time of semester. And sometimes I bump into friends, and a harmless hello turns into a 2 hour coffee date.

So you won’t be seeing me around campus that much these couple of weeks, I’ll be at home, in my pjs, studying.

2. I need to switch off social media

I am addicted to social media. It’s the first thing and last thing I check everyday, and I always have my eye on it throughout the day. (Bit sad, I know)

And the problem was trying to log out of my facebook accounts, twitter, instagram, tumblr, wordpress, stop checking my emails, phone messages etc. when I’m studying.

A technique that I picked up from Academic Skills is to do short bursts of studying, then take a break, then do it again. So what I’ve started doing – is to do 1 hour of solid studying, no facebook, no nothing. Then take a 15 min break, reward myself with a bit of social media stuff, get a bit of fresh air, and repeat again.

And it’s been working out better than I expected! I was getting much more work done in that 1 hour than spending 3 hours studying with all my facebook and stuff open. It’s the quality of the study that counts, not the quantity.

I found this really helpful too (see below)

It’s an online to-do list that you can set a time limit to each task.

I procrastinate because I’m a perfectionist


I think too much, I over-analyse everything, I beat myself up when I can’t get things right.

And this wasn’t helping me at all! I was putting all this unnecessary pressure on myself…and for what? I was just stressing myself out over nothing.

All this chatter in my head was over-complicating things, and it was stopping me from getting things done.

I just need to stop thinking too much, and just do!


So those were a couple of things that I’ve taken away from Academic Skills which have been really helpful with my exam prep.

If you are feeling stressed about exams and need a hand, Academic Skills can help. They are awesome, I highly recommend them!  There are plenty of online resources available plus if you want to speak to an Academic Skills advisor – you can! Book an iTute on their website.





To those who were requesting blog posts about procrastination, study tips and what-nots, check out Katherine’s blog!

Cannot wait for the holidays…


5 thoughts on “Getting my act together for exams

  1. Hi Daphane,
    So I’m trying to get my act together for exams and have got loads of lectures to catch up on. I’ve heard of students listening to lectures at high speed but can’t find the button on echo360. Could I get some tips on how to do this?


    1. Hey Michelle, I know the feeling! I’m very behind with all my lectures too :(

      I’ve put together a blog post for you with screenshots on how I speed up my lecture recordings (see here).

      Hope that helps! And good luck!

      1. Thanks so much for your help Daphane, I really appreciate you taking time out of your very busy schedule to answer. Just wanted to let you know that I love your new blog post and think it’s very brave for you to share your feelings. Keep up the awesome work. :)

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