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Competitive exams: how to prepare for them?

Tips for students 23 February 2022

Here we go! The second semester is well underway, and your exam is approaching.

Preparing for it is a lengthy, time-consuming, and energy-consuming task. But it’s worth it if you want to be able to enter the course and the job of your dreams.

What are the basic principles to follow for an optimal preparation? Which tips that will allow you to go the distance?

We share with you our recommendations for an efficient and serene preparation!

1. Establish a precise and feasible revision timetable

This may seem obvious, but in practice it can become quite complex if you don’t take all these variables into account:

  • Be aware that a task always takes longer than the time that was planned. This is due to the planning fallacy, a bias that leads us to think that the task will go smoothly. As a result, you may always be behind schedule, which can be very demotivating in the long run. To be as close to reality as possible, you should therefore increase the duration of a task compared to the initial estimated time.
  • Do you tend to want to break down the various subjects to be reviewed into short time slots to avoid a form of lassitude? It’s only human! But did you know that our efficiency is increased when we do a task continuously rather than in several parts? Therefore, prefer to review fewer subjects in a day but in larger chunks (for example, 4 hours dedicated to one subject rather than 2 hours). This will improve your productivity!
  • Don’t forget to include breaks in your schedule. Indeed, beyond a certain threshold, efficiency decreases sharply. Rather than struggling to finish a chapter, listen to yourself and recharge your batteries by taking some time out. Your break doesn’t have to be very long. You’ll be much more efficient when you get back to studying.

And then you say to yourself “Ok, but in concrete terms, how do I plan my revision?” Don’t panic, we’ll tell you more!

  • Make a list of all the subjects that you will have to work on and organise them in order of difficulty. Identify the ones that seem more complex and for which you are the least comfortable. Schedule these subjects at the beginning of the day. It’s better to start with these subjects because at the beginning of the day you will be full of energy. At the end of the day, you’ll feel tired, so you might as well choose the subjects that require the least effort.
  • Ask yourself how many hours you think you should spend on each subject (consider the planning fallacy). Break this number of hours down into time slots per week. This will give you a schedule up to the date of your first tests.
  • Be regular in the frequency with which you review each subject. Are you planning to revise intensively each subject so that you feel you are making faster progress? The risk is that you will finish the programme too quickly and then forget the content you have learned. To remember well, you need to revise each subject regularly. So, avoid revising a subject for a whole week and then nothing else…

2. Revise and monitor your progress

Your revision schedule has now been drawn up and all that’s left is for you to get on with it! But here again, what are the best practices for effective revision?

  • Summarise the chapters by making revision notes:

Whether it’s the outline of your course or the important concepts of the chapter, write them down by hand on index cards or sheets to help you remember them. Select only the information that is essential. These cards/notes will allow you to find the important concepts briefly if you forget. With the SCRIBZEE application, you can scan your compatible cards /notes and track your learning status over time by assigning them a colour:

  • Red: to be learned
  • Orange: in progress
  • Green: Learned by heart
  • Review your definitions, translations, or concepts in a fun way with flashcards:

Do you know what flashcards are? They’re small horizontal cards, ideal for making a note of a term or question on the front and its definition or answer on the back? In addition to being scientifically recognised for their effectiveness in terms of learning, flashcards are fun and can allow you to alternate modes of memorisation. And, with the FLASH 2.0 flashcards compatible with SCRIBZEE, you will be able to access tailor-made revision sessions, depending on your knowledge. The application will suggest the concepts you have difficulty in remembering more often than the one’s you’ve learned.

  • Train yourself by doing and redoing exercises and exams:

Go back to the exercises you’ve done during the year or practice by doing the questions from previous exam papers. These will allow you to really get into the spirit of the competition and to practice with subjects of the same level of complexity as those you will have on the day. To be as close as possible to the real thing, respect the time limit during the competition test. Do this exercise regularly to identify your weak points and work on them as much as possible.

  • Work in groups to motivate and help each other:

Don’t hesitate to get together with your friends to work at the same time. This can help you maintain momentum during difficult moments. If you’re not sure whether you have grasped certain concepts, this is the time to check with your classmates. Be careful not to get distracted during these meetings.

You now have some key points to optimise your preparation for the competitive exam. Don’t forget that it’s like a marathon, you must keep going over time, so don’t set yourself unattainable objectives at the risk of losing motivation. Keep your final goal in mind: to get into the course of your dreams. By following these tips, you should arrive well-armed on D-day so believe in yourself!

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