Home Competitive Exam Tips How to Prepare for Exams in a Short Time

How to Prepare for Exams in a Short Time

by Chetna Vasishth

In this article you will get

a) A complete study plan to follow for 30 days, with a full break up subject by subject.
b) Two alternate plans, and customisation ideas for your own personal plan
c) A detailed hour by hour time table to help you learn new concepts while revising the earlier topics
d) Smart Study tips and strategies along the way and
e) 5 Bonus tips at the end

30 Day Study Plan –

Let’s begin with the complete study plan – I have assumed 8 subjects and 30 days. You may have more or less subjects and even more or less days. So I will help you customise this plan to suit your requirements.

Plan 1 –

3 days for subject 1, followed by 3 days for subject 2 and one day for revision – this completes one week. And four weeks like this gives us 28 days. The last two days are for practice papers.

Let’s drill this down further. We have three days per subject – what do we study?
As you know, about 30-40% of your syllabus will usually fetch you about 70-80% of the marks.

Imagine you are a participant on masterchef and you have been asked to bake a cake. Now if your time is running out, chances are that you will focus on making the basic cake and leave out the toppings. And if time permits at the end, you will add some of the toppings.

Similarly, time is short for us and we need to discover what is that base for us.

So, Day 1, first half of the day we will analyze past papers. Last 5 year or 10 year papers, whatever is available to us. Now we have to do three things with these papers

a) Analyse the paper pattern –

understand the different types of questions, in which order they appear. How many MCQ’s? How many long answer type and how many fill in the blanks etc. Remember that examiners are usually not as creative as we think, most likely, they will follow the previous pattern.

b) Bring out your syllabus.

For each question you see on the past paper – mark it against the chapter number. Use codes like M for MCQ’s, N for numericals, S for Short answers, L for long answers, F for fill in the blanks, T for true false, M for match the following etc.
By the end you will know which chapter gets the most long answer type questions and which chapter is the most important for numericals.

c) Read the mark schemes / answer sheets for these papers –

and figure out important keywords / high frequency words, how marks are distributed and how to structure your answers.
Once you complete this activity, you will suddenly find your stress levels falling and you will be able to focus much more on what is really important for the exam. Pareto says that 20% of all effort gets you 80% of all rewards, similarly this is that effort which will get you the most rewards.

Day 1 – second half and Day 2 full day – study these important concepts. I will give you a time table for this also later on in this video, but for now, just make a note on your planner, that these 1.5 days are for studying the important topics that the past paper analysis threw up.

Day 3 – solve past papers and analyse mistakes. Also make a note of areas that need further revision.
Follow this pattern for all 8 subjects.

The revision day, which is basically the 7th day – I have broken up into two halves, to revise two subjects.

Smart Study Tip –

Prioritise – always study the most important topic first, do not go in serial order of chapter numbers.
Broadly, we have a structure for 28 days.

The last two days we need to solve past papers in exam conditions, at the same time as our actual exam. Now sometimes we have a three hour paper scheduled at 8 am and we are not even used to waking up at that time. So in these two days, start solving papers at the same time everyday, visualise yourself in the exam hall, sit on a desk and chair, keep a water bottle next to you, set an alarm on your phone and keep it away, close the door and go for it.

Now I will show you how to customise this plan

Plan 2

Let’s say you are not happy with the idea of studying one subject continuously for three days, and would like to mix up three subjects. Then here are two schedules that could work for you

One option is – we were doing Subject 1 and 2 in the first week, but now we can do both subjects everyday for all 6 days. Similarly for Subject 3 and 4 in the second week.

Second option – Do two subjects every day, and change this after three days. This involves more frequent changes.
There is no right or wrong, choose what works best for you.

Smart Study Tip –

study similar subjects back to back to avoid confusion. Study bio and chem back to back and mix it up with accounts and economics etc.

Q – Should I spend equal time on each subject?
A – You can allocate time based on your own level of preparedness and ability. Also take a look at your exam time table and if you have very long breaks before certain papers and no breaks for other subjects, then adjust the schedule accordingly.
Smart Study Tip – stick to time frames, if the number of days are over, stop and move to the next subject. Don’t keep doing one subject for 8-9 days and then discover you have no time left.

Plan 3

What if you want to study multiple subjects on one day and you feel that is what works for you best. Then remember that there are three types of subjects –

a) Problem solving subjects – like math, physics or accounts,
b) Memory dependent subjects – like biology, geography and history
c) Interpretive subjects like English literature.

So if you are a morning person – here is how I would divide my day

Morning – most challenging concepts / subjects that I tend to struggle with the most
Afternoon – numerical subjects to avoid feeling sleepy
Late evening – subjects that need memorization so that the information stays with our sub conscious brain when we sleep

If you are not a morning person and tend to be most awake only in the afternoon, then swap the first two around
Morning – numerical subjects to avoid feeling sleepy
Afternoon – most challenging concepts
Late evening – subjects that need memorization

Smart Study Tip –

Set goals for each study session, know what you want to complete. Otherwise you could just spend two hours and not achieve anything.

Daily Time Table –

Now that we have our 30 day broad plan ready, it’s time to look at how each day should be structured. Remember that this is crunch time and you need to be very organised. Plan, plan and plan is the mantra to success.

So, we have a perfect time table to follow before exams, where I have given you the study slots as well as your nutrition plan.

Smart Study Tip –

Follow the 8-8-8 rule. Study for 8 hours, sleep for 8 hours and spend 8 hours on eating, bathing, taking a break, family time, going out into the fresh air, exercise etc.
I know you are thinking, this is not possible, but trust me, if you do highly focused work for 8 hours a day you can complete your syllabus and also do very well in exams. The trouble is sometimes we spend 10-12 hours studying but we are not fully focusing all the time. And a word of caution – do not cut back on sleep, as this will negatively affect your exam performance.

Smart Study Tip –

reward yourself. For every powerful hour of work, allow yourself a break, your favourite snack or put a golden star on your schedule.

Chances are that we are learning a lot of new material in one go and we could forget some of it. So here’s a plan of how to study in chunks which will allow you to learn new topics and revise earlier ones at the same time.

Study in order of priority, the most important topic first, and the least important one at the end.

Day 1 – prepare the 1st chunk or the most important topic
Day 2 – prepare the 2nd chunk or the next important topic and go back and revise the 1st chunk
This goes on, till at the end of Day 5 you take a self test.

Smart Study Tip –

while I have said Day 1, Day 2 here, you can do this on two different slots during the same day also if you have planned your time that way. The idea is to keep reviewing earlier and important concepts as you go along and soon all the information will move from your short term memory to your long term memory.

5 Bonus Tips

1. Attitude –

Don’t panic just because you have a very short time remaining for exams. We now have the power of the best time table and planner, so aim high, remain positive and calm yourself down

2. Take frequent breaks.

It is said that when Thomas Edison struggled with a difficult problem , he took a nap on his couch with a set of heavy keys in his hand. And the moment he fell into deep sleep, the keys fell down and woke him up. And when he woke up his brain had moved from focused mode to diffused mode and many times he had some great ideas come to him this way.

3. Company matters –

hang out with toppers and hard working students, their enthusiasm and discipline will rub off on you as well.

4. Eat healthy food

with proteins and green vegetables and drink a lot of water.

5. Keep away from distractions.

It is just a matter of one month and achieving a good result will boost your confidence to achieve big things in life, so make it happen.

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