25 Tips to Survive Swotvac and Exams

Overwhelmed by all the study on your agenda this swotvac? Don’t know where to start? While there is a wealth of study and survival tips available, here at Unimelb Adventures we have all come together to share some of our own top tips to help you through the tough times ahead!

Here we go:

1. Studying late at the library? If you feel uncomfortable walking to the tram stop or to your car, you can call security for an escort.

The University has a free 24/7 Campus Security escort service. So if you want some company while you walk to the bus stop, to your car etc. – give them a buzz on 8344 6666 or you can call them via the UniSafe app. You can also follow the Safer Community Program on Facebook to get more tips around safety on campus.

2. Arrive early if you want a good spot at the library.

People legitimately gather in masses around the library entrance during swotvac, and will run to a desk as soon as it opens. Make sure you get in early so you don’t spend a solid hour walking around trying to find a place.

3. Speak up if you have an assessment due during swotvac because you’re not supposed to have any due during this week!

Even if it is an essay you are already working on, it cannot be due during the non-teaching week according to university policy. Email your subject coordinator first, and if they don’t resolve it make sure you report it to UMSU Education here.

4. Plan your meals.

Thoroughly. It’s dangerously easy to wind up eating toast for dinner during exams. Set out what you’ll eat for dinner well ahead of time and make sure you have ingredients on hand.

Also have a set time for lunch – this serves as a good study break, but also means you don’t forget to eat. If you hate leaving the house during exams because you haven’t washed your hair/put on pants, Coles will give you free delivery on Wednesdays if you spend over $100.

5. Sleep.

Seriously. We know you want to cram and get as much done as possible, but none of it matters unless you sleep as it helps consolidate your knowledge. If you need 7 hours of sleep to feel rested, then make sure you get those 7 hours!

6. Don’t leave study till last minute.

Procrastinators of the world unite! You might think you’re the best at leaving things last minute and have a due today, do today academic philosophy…but if you’re also the type who tends to stress a lot and you’re not overly confident, then this method is inadvisable if you want to get the best out of exams.

Instead of leaving all your study to one huge cramming session the night before the exam, spread it out and pace yourself in the days leading up to the exam. As the Nike slogan says… Just do it!

If you really struggle to start a task, break it down into small achievable tasks and complete each one by one. This makes the task less daunting, as when you only look at the ‘big picture’ (ie. 2500 word essay), this can psychologically be draining and cause you to procrastinate even more. Have a look at this blog post for some time management tips.

7. Plan out your study: Time vs Task.

It’s hard to get anything productive done if you don’t have any idea of what you should be focusing on and which things will require more time. Before you even open your books, write up a plan of what you need to revise, how you’re going to do so and roughly how long this will take. This also makes it much easier to get all of your study materials together in advance so you’re not frantically rushing around trying to find textbooks and notes when you could be revising!

Most people operate in one of two ways; time or task (verified purely by anecdote, not science). Time based workers are happiest setting out a time frame in which to study; eg “from 9 to 11, I’ll work on my essay” while task based workers are better off setting a list of goals for the day/morning “I want to get all my referencing finished this morning.” Stick with what works for you.

8. Exercise.

It’s easy to forget about your wellbeing when you’re studying so make sure you fit in at least 10 minutes of exercise in your schedule. Even going for a quick walk can do wonders for your stress levels. Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands, they just don’t!

9. Butcher’s paper isn’t just for preschoolers.

Study schedule? Mind map? Enormous origami? Butcher’s paper has you covered. Feel productive, but also like you might be in kinder. You can get same day delivery from Officeworks and maybe order some bubble wrap too. You know, for…study reasons.

10. Do something in your breaks.

It’s difficult to justify breaks when your workload looks so intimidating, and there’s no point taking a 10 minute break if you’re just going to spend it thinking about work. So give yourself something to do. A youtube video, dance, origami, tv, go for a walk, watch a ted talk. Make sure you actually use that break time as a break.

11. Look after your eyes.

Make sure your study space is well lit, your screen is appropriately bright, and you’re wearing any glasses/contacts you might need. Tired eyes lead to headaches and sadness. Additionally, it’s very important to look at things that are far away every now and then. Make sure you take your eyes away from your screen and look out the window at least. Your eyes will thank you.

12. Leave time to edit your essays.

Leave at least a full day to edit your essays. Finishing an essay the day it is due is unnecessarily stressful and you do not need to be panicking and trying to pay attention to paragraph structure at the same time. Plus all those grammar and referencing mistakes you fix up in the editing stage usually scores you at least a few marks.

13. Teach someone. Anyone.

At the end of the day, teach someone in your family/your housemate/your cat/the guy at the 7/11 what you covered that day. You’ll get some low-key revision and find the gaps in your knowledge you can fix up tomorrow.

14. Set a time to finish each day.

At some point, you need to stop working. You can’t learn everything today, and that’s ok. Set a time to say “that’s enough for today.” Then leave your desk/study cave and do something else. Make dinner, watch tv, read something unrelated to your course. Go to bed.

15. And set a bedtime and a bed-routine.

Bedtimes are for winners. You need to sleep, you also need to work tomorrow. Ergo, you need to go to bed at a reasonable hour. There are a heap of sleep apps for your phone that can tell you when you should go to sleep and help you wake up refreshed.

Give your body cues that it’s time to sleep (like reading in bed, cleaning your teeth etc) and try to do them each night.

16. Prepare some study snacks in advance.

Food can be a pretty massive distraction when you’re trying to study and it’s so easy to waste time looking through the fridge for things to eat. Before you start studying for the day, get together enough snacks to last you until you finish so you won’t spend your whole day aimlessly roaming around the kitchen.

17. When you’re with friends, make an effort to talk about anything else

Yep. It’s exam time. Everyone knows it. Everyone is flipping out. Use your social time as actual social time – you need it, and so do your friends. Talk about your plans for the break, or tv, or Ryan Gosling. This goes double for that awkward time spent loitering at the stairs of REB before and after an exam.

18. You know your study habits better than anyone – listen to you.

Anyone who makes you feel bad about your study practices isn’t worth listening to right now. Although that is somewhat ironic to say considering this is a study tip post, but everyone deals with exams in their own way. If someone makes you feel inadequately prepared, tune them out with the sweet sounds of self esteem. Equally, don’t yabber on about how long you’ve been studying for, or how many practice papers you’ve done.

19. Be considerate on facebook.

Try to keep Facebook exam-free. If someone in the same subject sees your post about how the exam was super easy, but they didn’t think so, you might really mess them around. Also be wary about what you share before exams start – what looks like study support can actually be collusion and that gets you in all kinds of trouble.

20. Enjoy being finished…privately.

Finishing exams is wonderful, but those who are still going probably won’t enjoy your celebrations much. Be particularly wary if you have housemates who are still studying that your freshly-recovered freedom doesn’t become grating – try getting out of the house for a while.

21. Bring your uni ID everywhere.

If you want to study on campus, it’s a good idea to have ID with you for the duration of swotvac and exams. During this busy time, sometimes access to study facilities are prioritised to unimelb students, and campus security will ask for your ID to ensure this.

22. Back up your work.

The last thing you need during this stressful period is your computer crashing and you have not printed out/backed up any note. Trust us, it happens.

23. Look after your health.

Unimelb has an abundance of services available to keep you in tip top shape (well, as tip top as one can be during exams!). If you are starting to feel run down you head to the health service for a free bulk-billed appointment, or book into the counselling service if you are starting to feel stressed.

24. Look after your friends

Check up on your friends once in a while and see how they’re going. Some people tend to isolate themselves during exams, and a quick text to say hello and for moral support goes a long way.

25. Be kind to yourself

Don’t be so harsh on yourself. If you are really far behind in your studies, there’s not much point feeling sorry for yourself about all the lectures you missed. Take it as a lesson to learn for next semester, but right now – focus on the road ahead. This stress can be counterintuitive. Give yourself extra TLC!


Although this is not an exhaustive list of how to survive this tumultuous period, we hope that they can at least be of some help to you! Feel free to share some of your own personal tips in the comments below. And most of all, good luck!

– The Unimelb Adventures Crew

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