Exam Study Tips from Successful Scots

The  SQA exams are just weeks away – the pressure is officially on.

Chances are, the next few weeks of your life are going to be engulfed with studying. Hours spent in textbooks, doing practice papers and racking your brains to remember that lengthy Shakespeare quote – and hoping that some of it sticks.

It’s the question that crops up every year at this time – what is the best way to study?

Unfortunately, there are no specific rules when it comes to revision, and different methods work for different people. Perhaps you prefer to feel the pressure with last-minute cramming sessions, or maybe you plan long in advance and have a strict work/play schedule – it’s all about finding what works for YOU.

We spoke to some successful Scots in various careers to find out how they studied for their exams at school and university.


Strong Study Playlist

Before Katie Palmer became Web Producer at STV, she studied History at Glasgow University. Her Beyoncé breaks helped her power through those study sessions.

“My study pattern was long nights, broken up with a blast of Beyonce and some over enthusiastic dancing for three minutes – then back to work,” says Katie, who manages the social media and online content for STV Glasgow and Edinburgh. “Crazy In Love seemed to make the history of transcendentalism in New England somewhat easier to take.”

Likewise, PR guru Patrick Baxter needed a little bit of music to support him in his studies, but preferred Icelandic post-rock to bubblegum pop (or so he says.)

Lucky Charms

Holly Cumming relied on lucky ornaments to give her the confidence to sit her exams.

“My Mum is very superstitious, and when I was about 12 she started getting into tribal miniature carvings and bought me a couple for luck.  Then the collection grew and I had to put them in a little box, which I just brought with me to school and had to leave outside the exam hall.

“By then I’d added a few stones…a picture of my dog….I’m sure it was complete nonsense but it made me feel better. I took the habit all the way through uni. As for the actual revision, I was good at making timetables and would do a lot of reading and highlighting key points, then distill that down onto note cards which I’d take with me to read before the exam. I was always very good at memorising things off by heart, lists of dates and that sort of thing.

“I think all the way through my young life my studying was completely because I didn’t want to let my parents down, I didn’t have any sense of wanting to achieve academically for myself. It was clearly in my best interests and I fulfilled my potential now, so I’m glad that I did it. If it took them to pressuring me, I’m glad they did!”

Those little amulets (coupled with lots and lots of studying) must have paid off, as Holly now works as Events Co-ordinator for the BBC Proms.

Colour coded notes

Editor of Source Magazine Lindsay Cochrane is a big fan of the colour-coded study session: “My top tip is to use different coloured highlighters on your revision notes so it’s easier to digest information. Plus, it looks pretty.”


A Good Study Zone

Kenny Stewart is Communications and Policy Manager at The Open University.

He is currently studying for professional exams and says that finding a quiet study space where he wasn’t likely to be disturbed helped him achieve exam success.

“I’m just out of an exam!” said Kenny when Source caught up with him. “Taking myself out the house, away from distractions and heading to the library was key.”


Regular Exercise

Gordon Weir, Portfolio Analytics Analyst for Barclays, studied Law at the University of Glasgow and is now studying towards the Chartered Finance Accountants exams, which are spread across three years.

“Biscuits definitely helped me,” says Gordon. “But more importantly, getting regular exercise really helps me to clear my head if I’m stuck in study mode. The endorphins from running re-set my study brain and make sure I’m much more productive when I continue working late into the evening. The running also counteracts the biscuits..”

What are your study secrets? Share them with us by tweeting @sourcemag or visiting us at the Source Facebook.

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