Studying for an English Exam | UCT English Language Centre

Are you about to write an English exam such as IELTS, TOEFL, FCE or CAE and getting nervous about it?

For many students, taking an English exam preparation course is the first step in preparing for that looming exam. But, what happens when you have finished your course and now have to prepare the last hurdle alone?

I remember when I was in high school and getting ready to write my final year exams. Two of the exams I was most frightened about were Mathematics and German (I had opted for German as a second language). My problem was not the actual exam, but how to study for these types of exams alone, at home – no teacher to help or guide me. It seems obvious that to study for a biology or geography exam you take your material home, you know what material may come in the exam and you make sure you know that material in and out – backwards and forwards. But how do you do this with a language exam?

Well, the obvious answer is practice, practice and practice some more, and revise-revise-revise.
Your teacher will have provided you with some important tips for self-learning, self-study and revision before the big day of your test, and it is very important to set aside some quality time to do practice tests, revise and learn. But, don’t be mistaken into thinking that the more hours you dedicate to ‘learning’ or reading the material, this will automatically equate to success, i.e. if I learn non-stop for 10 hours then I have 10 hours’ worth of information and study in my brain! Oh no, no, no!  

While the preparation and actual learning type may be slightly different from studying for an exam like history or geography, the same study rules apply. suggests that the first thing you need to do is find out what your own learning style is (visual, auditory, kinaesthetic, etc.) Very often a combination is what suits most people, but tailor your learning to suit your learning style. This will be far more effective for you, and you will retain more information than if you just sit and read-reread-read-reread and so on and so forth.

It is essential to take breaks during your learning. Once your brain is tired and you start feeling tired, you are going to struggle to stay focused. Research actually suggests that breaks will help you to stay more focused on your task. And by breaks, regardless of how long they are, you should properly try to relax your mind. Go outside if you can, get some fresh air, go for a walk or phone a friend/relative and just have a pleasant chat. Read here for a list of good and bad things to do in your study breaks.

Physically, it is important to stay hydrated and eat well while you are studying. This should be a no-brainer, but students actually forget to eat and drink water while they are studying because they are so focused on the work. The better condition your body and brain is in, the better it is going to work for you. This includes making sure you get proper rest and sleep. The maths here is simple guys, if you are tired and/or hungry and or/thirsty then your chances of remembering and retaining anything are going to be slim because your body is probably thinking about food/water/sleep.

There comes a time when you will have to come to terms with the fact that you cannot study anything new anymore and it is time to close the books and prepare your mind for the exam. Eat a good meal, go to bed early and have a good night’s rest so you can feel refreshed and ready to tackle anything in the morning. Remember to check your alarm is set the night before 🙂

We wish all students taking an English exam all the best of luck and for those still thinking about taking one, but looking for good exam preparation courses, then contact us.
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