Having been educated in an American system my entire life, I had to quickly learn how to successfully study for exams in the British system. In general, the American system relies on fairly regular assessment throughout the semester. As a result, the final exams are not quite as comprehensive and are often not weighted more than 40% of your final grade. Additionally, the final exams take place BEFORE the winter break.
As you can imagine, I had to adjust my study methods for the assessment system at Imperial where each International Health Management (IHM) module has a final exam that is worth 70% of your entire grade and that occurs after the holiday break. Having now survived this experience, I will share some advice and tips from myself and some of my classmates regarding how to “master” the art of studying for exams in the Business School.
I will begin with a piece of advice from my classmate, Claudia Chan, who emphatically encourages the method of “STARTING EARLY” with revision. If you spend a few extra hours revising in the last few weeks of the semester, then this will help you feel less stressed and is also beneficial for your studying. According to psychological research, the method of “distributed practice” (i.e. spreading out the studying) as opposed to “massed practice” (i.e. cramming the night before) is better for scoring higher on exams and remembering information in the long-term. Also, if you space your studying and do your reading as assigned, then you will be able to join the winter break more!
The second piece of advice comes from another classmate, Chun-Wei Tsai, who recommends actually understanding the material that you are reading and forming study groups. It is crucial to understand the material as you progress since lectures often build on previous lectures. This understanding is critical in order to have a holistic view of the module as a whole. If you form study groups, then you will be more likely to actually study the material when you tell yourself you will since you are held accountable by your peers. It is also more fun to study in a group and is beneficial since a group member can be a “teacher” and teach sections that they might have a better understanding of than other group members. This not only helps the group members understand the material better but also helps the “teacher” recall the information better in the future.
The third piece of advice is from Shirley Ma, who suggests making summaries of the material after each lecture. If you make summaries of each lecture, then this will help you have that comprehensive understanding of the module. Additionally, since exams are likely to draw from multiple lectures for one question, having this “gestalt” (as our Organisational Behaviour and Human Resources lecturer would say) understanding of the course is somewhat necessary to do well. Having access to all of the slide shows and lectures on the Hub is very helpful for this! I re-watched many lectures over winter break to make sure I had a good understanding of how the different topics in one module fit together.
The fourth piece of advice is to plan fun activities after exams to look forward to while studying. If you have fun activities to look forward to, then this can be very encouraging and energising while studying. It can be especially nice to plan an activity for the whole MSc course to enjoy after exams. Our IHM family planned a party on the last day of exams, and it was a lot of fun to see everyone (not in exam mode) and to celebrate completing our first round of exams.
Finally, I will end with the question of “How do you eat an elephant?” The answer is simple—one bite at a time. In other words, if you view the goal you are working towards as one giant mountain to overcome, then you are likely to feel overwhelmed. However, if you have many short and medium term goals as opposed to solely long-term goals then this series of small accomplishments can help you stay focused and feel encouraged as you complete little steps along the way that lead to your ultimate goal. Basically, do not be overwhelmed by exams—take it one day at a time, and you can master the art of studying for exams!