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The Ultimate Second Semester Survival Guide

Student Life

February 23, 2023

Brace yourself…exam season is upon us.

Second semester: the semester where we tell ourselves that this is "our semester", the semester where we shamelessly draw up revision timetables that go to waste. Second semester=second chances, but these chances only show themselves if you break the pattern of “maybe next sem” and better your study habits now. And while this may seem initially glorious and completely doable, the motivation tends to subside as you fall back into your old habits. To combat this, here are 10 surefire study tips to make the second semester your semester.

1. Make a DOABLE study schedule:

Emphasis on the “doable”

Make a schedule that's balanced between subjects so that you don't get bored with what you're studying, and add a subject you are weak at frequently during these subjects, so you give them extra attention. I find that the best combinations of subjects are usually: English paired with sciences, math, paired with humanities, and languages paired with any other subject of your choice. This type of setup provides diversification in your timetable and ensures no subjects are neglected.

It also makes sense to use the same revision method for these subjects( eg: if you are making notes for science subjects, make notes for English and this gives you a flow so you don't feel restless). Finally, make sure to give yourself breaks between each subject to make the timetable doable, and schedule water breaks/walk breaks so that your mind is active and healthy to learn and retain information.

2. make your revision notes using mark scheme answers:

If you're doing AP, IBDP, A levels, MYP, or IGCSE, chances are past paper mark schemes are easily available all over the internet. Trust me when I say that these mark schemes are your holy grain when it comes to revision, as these mark schemes contain definitions and keywords that are a must-have for suitable answers.

By incorporating these mark schemes into your notes, you end up revising and learning key points examiners want to see on answer sheets, insuring you have the highest band of marks. My personal favorite site to use for mark schemes is Exam mate, as they have more than 10+ board syllabuses with questions as early as 2009.

3. make revision sheets using the blurting method:

Now that your final notes have been made, it's time to test how much you've actually retained. The most effective technique to do so is called the blurting method, which requires you to skim through all your notes and then blurt out whatever you remember on the sheet. Then, with a red pen, you write down whatever you missed so you are aware of what you need to work on next time. This method is ideal to do 1-2 days before an exam as it is a good assessment of how much you know.

4. to further aid your revision, create mind maps of important concepts

Mind maps or concept maps are extremely useful and fun to make and can serve as stress relievers to create them. It also helps store your desired study material in a more organized and structural manner, and a good way to make these mind maps is by answer type, so you can revise all the necessary functions/advantages/disadvantages of a particular question. Mind maps can also be used as an efficient study tool as all the necessary points are listed out for you on one piece of paper for you to look at and learn from.

5. And if Mindmaps don't work, then flashcards are an amazing alternative.

Flashcards are portable, efficient, and get to the point. I think that flashcards are an amazing example of ‘old is gold’ as this technique may seem common and ancient, but it works the best as it allows you to revise on the go and all your flashcards are kept in place. You can also segregate what you don't know to revise them throughout the day, and the flashcard questions can be framed like exam-style questions to further make your revision efficient.

6. once the basic revisions are covered, focus on making definitions and equation sheets

Half of your work is basically complete if you learn important definitions and formulas as you not only mark for showing them, but also knowing these will help you enhance your answers to another level. A definition sheet is highly recommended for language/humanitarian subjects, whereas formula sheets are recommended for sciences/maths. These sheets will also aid your revision scheme to the maximum if used effectively.

7. now that all the revisions are done, time to practice your content

While the actual practice of exam-style questions may seem daunting, it's something that will definitely improve your scores the most. None of these previously stated revision techniques will render you use if you don't put your knowledge into practice and test yourself. I would ideally recommend watching YouTube videos to brush yourself up on the content first, and then follow up by solving MCQs, as they serve as good content practice if you don't feel up to solving.

After MCQs, move onto short answers and then finally long test prep style, and I would also recommend solving questions from different boards(for example, if you are an IBDP student, practice A-level questions). Some useful sites to practice would be Exam Mate and Revision Village.

8. Make sure to solve end-of-chapter review sets to get a concise exam-like practice:

Another crucial aspect of preparing you for exams would be to revise concepts by practicing review exercises given by textbooks as they mimic real exam-style questions and have a plethora of sums to revise to further solidify your concepts. This is a great way to revise if you want to save past papers for the very end of your exam prep.

9. Test yourself under proper exam conditions:

Perhaps the most crucial thing you could do to prep yourself is to print out and solve past papers from your official board. This is the best practice and ideally, you should note down the mark scheme answers to the questions you got wrong so that you can refer to them when you need a final revision.

You should only enable yourself access to a calculator and give your tests under strictly timed conditions to provide yourself with an accurate feel of the current day. However, it is also important to take breaks between each exam so that you give yourself a breather and don't overload yourself with work.

10. Give yourself at least 8 hours of sleep before the big day:

Finally, the best tip from my end is to ensure a good night's sleep to make sure you’re well-rested and prepared for the big day. With a well-rested mind, you are more active and alert and more prone to answer better as your mind is clear. Please do not risk an important exam by pulling an all-nighter, as chances are, you will strain and burden yourself and your tired self will most likely make a blunder.

I know that with the second semester rolling around, it can seem stressful to do better. Even if you don't acquire the marks you desired, the fact that you worked hard and gave your best automatically puts you on the fast track to achieving long-term results, even if these results do not occur spontaneously. All the best!

Jiya Chhugera
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Jiya Chhugera is a 12th-grade IBDP student who is extremely passionate about advocating for women's Reproductive/menstrual rights, gender equality, and equal access to education globally. The Vice president of her school MUN as well as managing editor of her school magazine, the DP Herald, she enjoys creating literary works and articles talking about pop culture and socio-economic issues that prevail in our society to this day.