Exam season makes every spot at university crowded. Whether it is in your student house, a private flat or a shared floor, studying at your own place may not seem as a good idea because you can get easily distracted with your own things, chores and spaces. However, not having to commute, prepare for the cold in the winter and having everything you need at hand can help you saving precious time and provides you study quality. Here are some tips to study at your own place this winter exam season (although you can use them anytime!).
1. Making your own “study spot”
In order to avoid distractions, choose a spot on your room that you can tidy up for the exam season, this will be your “sweet study spot”. It can be your desk, your dining table or even a spot in the kitchen. Make sure it is a place that you can “book” for the entire exam period, so you can go directly to it when you decide to study without any previous preparation.
Once you have chosen the spot, eliminate any distractions that can interfere with your studying. In here you have to use your own criteria because it depends on what annoys you: personally, I do not like the sound of ticking clocks, but some people find it soothing. Other examples can be the noise from the fan booster, pictures or lists hanged on the walls, any book you may have on your desk that can catch your attention and get you distracted, etc.
2. Time is the essence of the matter
Using your time wisely is one of the things you want to achieve when revising. You want to have the time to revise all the topics but also you want to keep living (a.k.a. sleeping, eating, having a limited amount of fun). For this there are some techniques that have been useful for me when working at home when you have more distractions than in any other place:
- Make a schedule…and stick to it. Because we do not have lectures in this period, it is hard to find a schedule to work. You may think you have “a lot of time” but this can lead to cramming all your studies in the end of the day, or worse, in the last day before the exam. Therefore, my recommendation is to set a specific time of the day in which you are going to study, for example 4 hours in the morning and 3 hours in the afternoon. These periods should include breaks to avoid your brain of being saturated (as the next technique indicates).
What works for me is to print a monthly calendar and write the topics I will study each day and the times. Having a visual of my time makes me feel at ease that I included all the things I aim to do. However, and this is and advice also for me: BE FLEXIBLE! It’s common knowledge that things do not always go as planned.
- Work in “chunks” of time. If you decide to use up those 4 hours of study in one sitting, your brain will be drained before you know it. Therefore, dividing those long-planned periods of time in small spans with breaks is a good idea. Personally, I use the “Pomodoro Technique” which says that you should work in 25 minute intervals with 5 minute breaks within them. This website has a timer for the intervals and for the breaks.
The advice is to stand up and have a stretch during those breaks. And drink water, it helps you relax and hydrates your body!
3. Your posture
The way you set your body reflects on the quality of your study. Sitting in the correct furniture and with the right position can boost the way your brain works because it will not be focusing on changing positions. Best practices indicate that, when working on a laptop or a PC, we must be able to write on the keyboard with a 90° angle in our elbows and with our hands “hovering” over the keys. Moreover, the screen should be in a position in which we do not tilt our head more than 20° forward. Lastly, you have to stick your feet flat into the floor.
4. Let’s talk about…your phone
This is one of my biggest struggles when I intend to study or work. Nowadays its or major distraction and the problem is that once you have it in your hands, its use can go for hours and hours without you noticing it. What I do now is that when I start working, I silence my phone completely and I put it in a place where I cannot see it. For me, this is the only way I can guarantee I will not get distracted by it because sometimes I even take it unconsciously and I start navigating app after app and… SURPRISE!, 25 minutes passed without me noticing it.
There are some apps that can help you with this distraction. One of my favourites is Forest; in this app you set up the time you want to avoid distractions and trees start to grow on your screen, if you change the app and use the phone, messages will appear in your screen saying that your forest is dying. If you do not return quickly to the app, your forest will die.
5. Alternative places to study
Although studying at home this season has its benefits as saving time and avoiding cold, I understand it can be overwhelming to spend all of your time at home. That is why I leave you with a list of alternative places to study besides university libraries and spots to free your mind once in a while:
- Manchester Central Library. It has a huge reading and studying hall in the middle. You will feel like in a history movie with all the wisdom coming to your head. It is quiet for those who seek maximum concentration. It is located in St Peter’s Square (M2 5PD) and it also has a small café where you can take a break.
- Manchester Museum Café. Recently changed place. It is now located in the top floor on the Manchester Museum (Oxford Rd, M13 9PL). Not as quiet as the Central Library but a good spot to read and take notes.
- The Whitworth Café. A nice place to read and take notes as the café at the museum. (Oxford Rd, Manchester M15 6ER). Good hot chocolate and latte and you can enjoy of an amazing view of Whitworth Park!
- Cafes around town. Such as Starbucks, Costa Coffee and Tim Hortons. I personally enjoy working in these places with my headphones on. It helps me to not be in such a quiet place all the time.
Extra tip: Save some time to have fun! Go for a beer with friends, watch a football match, go to the gym and indulge in some Netflix hits for the winter. You are also in your vacation so do not be too hard on yourself.