Best places to study on campus

Ah yes, the student life. Studying day and night. And since you can’t be locked up in your room all the time, you need a good place to study!

Of course, there is the Library, where you might spend most of your time. I sure do – all day, every day. Don’t get me wrong, our library is great – 5 floors of pure goodness + undergraduate and postgraduate reading rooms; but it does get boring and repetitive sometimes. So here are a few alternative places where you might enjoy studying instead

Student Centre

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Our new Student Centre is amazing. Truly. It is open 24/7 and there for the taking. That means that you can go there at 4 am like it’s no big deal (not that you would…).

On the ground floor, it’s full of computers and study pods with projectors, where you might enjoy studying with friends. The pods are also separated by plastic walls you can draw on! How cool is that?! On the second floor there are loads of computers, but also individual study spaces for you to use and enjoy. If you do not like sitting at a desk, don’t worry; there are a bunch of sofas there as well for us lazy ones.

Zest/Orangery

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Located on Square 3, Zest is a vibrant and stylish café and is a great place to visit during the day with your friends. They offer breakfast, cakes, Costa coffee (the best), tea and loads of other drinks ranging from presses to bottled drinks.

Adjoining Zest is the very-helpful Orangery, which features study pods just like in the Student Centre. What is different about these pods, though, is the fact that you can enjoy all the beverages and food that you buy at Zest, right in your pod! So if you fancy a coffee or tea, want to study but you’re not really feeling the SC or the Library – pop in here and enjoy the café vibes while you study. You won’t regret it!

North Teaching Centre

Our new North Teaching Centre is located right in between the North Towers, therefore it is very easily accessible by people who live in the North Towers or Houses. There are a bunch of classrooms there and while you might not be able to access them while there is a lecture, you can always be in the hallway. Yep. You read that right. Right as you go up the stairs, on whichever floor, there are big tables next to the wall with screens mounted on the wall so you may use them as you wish. They are great for a group study session or if you just need more space for your materials. And as I mentioned, they are located right in BETWEEN North Towers, so if you are going to live there next year, you can just pop down there in your pyjamas and study (we don’t judge).

Squares

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Ah yes, the ever-so-busy squares. There have been multiple times where I have seen people sitting on the benches on Square 3, or sitting on the ex-fountain-garden top on Square 4 and studied, especially when it’s very sunny outside. Truth to be told, I would not be able to study there since it very busy and I can’t even hear a fly when I am studying, but hey – different strokes for different folks, as they say.

SU Bar

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Our beloved SU Bar is always full on action. Whether it’s a lazy Saturday morning and they have live music sessions, or if it is a wild karaoke night, you can always count on the SU Bar. Some people, after they are done with their classes, go to the Bar, get a coffee and work on their writing while watching a football match on TV or something of that sort. I have to say, it is quite calming to know that coffee is literally five steps away from where you work.

Now that I have mentioned just a few places to study at our University, I hope all of you will be motivated to work even more and make your uni family proud! Now go and get those firsts!

5 reasons why I love the University of Essex

As I prepare to wrap up my time at Essex *cries uncontrollably* a lot of things have been coming to mind. Three years have passed exceptionally quickly and now I’ve written my last essay (my 16th essay at Essex), sat my last exam, submitted my dissertation and ordered my gown for graduation it has now become all the more real that my time here is ending.

Looking back, these are the reasons that I fell in love with Essex in the first place and why it continues to get under my skin.

Diverse Community

Essex was recently declared the 15th most internationally diverse in the world with 44% of the student population coming from abroad. As a result there is a wonderful mix of cultures on campus, most of whom have their own society which is open to anyone wanting to learn more about their culture (and cuisine!).

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Architecture 

Ok, so it is not everyone’s taste- but come on, concrete was exceptionally fashionable in the 1960’s when the university was built. But brutalist architecture I find strangely interesting, and mix this with the other fantastic (and award winning) buildings on campus then you have some incredible buildings to study in.

Thursday Market

I blame this market for making a dent in my student finance loans! On Thursday the market is a must to pick up bargains and delicious food. Think books, bread, burgers, fruit and veg, sweets, fish, cakes, and CD’s and you’re generally in the right area of what is on offer and how lucky we are to have this on campus!

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Module Variety 

I’ve probably mentioned before that just because you study a particular degree doesn’t mean that it will be exactly the same as a similar degree at another university. You have the option to pick modules that suit your interests and one of the reasons that made me choose Essex was the fantastic variety of module on offer. This meant that I could select the modules that I was interested in and wanted to know more about.

Supportive Staff

There is a greater emphasis at university for independent study and performing your own research, but that doesn’t mean that you are left on your own. The staff in your department and across the wider support network are some of the most caring, supportive and friendly people that you’ll ever meet. They are people that you can moan to, laugh and converse with- and their passion for their work is contagious.

I can’t put into words every single reason why I love Essex as much as I do – there aren’t enough hours in the day! But I will say I’m incredibly proud to be an Essex finalist and will miss this place when I’m gone!

Our Diverse campus: it’s written in the prospectus, but what does it really mean?

When it comes to universities, the word “Diverse” can be seen in use a lot, but why does it ring especially true at the University of Essex?

University itself is a great place to introduce yourself to new ideas, new people and new cultures. You’re no longer at a school where everyone who attends lives in the same town as you. The people that you meet at university will be from all across the world!

Being diverse means that there will be people of different ages, different nationalities, different faiths, different sexualities and different occupations all brought together in one safe and friendly environment.

Students from over 130 countries

With so many people from different countries, it is not surprising that Essex is the 5th most internationally diverse university in the UK. In fact, a third of students at Essex are classed as international.

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Proud Essex: Students protesting about changes to international students visas

Cultural Societies

There are 36 on-campus societies based around the cultures of different countries. These societies aim to bring together people from those respective countries/cultures as well as people interested in learning more about them.

Faith

For many, faith is an important aspect of daily life. There are 11 different chaplains and faith representatives on-campus who are able to help if you have any questions or would like someone to talk to.

LGBTQ+

The University of Essex LGBT Society is one of the biggest in the UK and has won numerous awards for their work in recent years. Essex LGBT have well over one hundred members, associates, contributors and friends from a wide range of religious, racial and social backgrounds and are able to provide a supportive network for those who would like it.

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Mature Students

This means people who are aged 21 or over when they start their course with around 37% of the Essex student population being made up of mature students. In 2011 the University was shortlisted for a Times Higher Education award for providing outstanding support to mature students.

The 7 stages of revision we can all relate to

It’s officially May and you know what that means…exams start this month *cue uncontrollable crying*. This means we’ve all been busy cramming in some revision, or have at least tried to anyway, and with the hours of despair that this brings, I have written the 7 stages of revision that I think we all face!

The organisation stage

The first step of revision is organising all your work to make it look like you actually know what you are doing. You get your  notes out, line your coloured pens and highlighters neatly (because if they aren’t neat you obviously can’t be productive) and get your revision Spotify playlist ready for the long day ahead.  Now your revision is organised, you surely deserve a break?!

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The first social media scroll of the day stage

The first social media scroll soon happens usually after you have organised your notes. That was enough hard work getting your work neat and a cheeky look on Facebook won’t hurt. Or maybe you were able to hold on that little bit longer and start some work by now?! But eventually you give in. It might be because your phone flashed up with a ‘long day in the library’ Snapchat from your mate (which obviously you have to respond to) or someone has tagged you in a student meme that totally sums up your life right now.

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When you actually pick a pen stage

You’re organised, you’re up to date with all the memes, you can finally pick up a pen. And this is when the real work starts. You have worked up to this moment. You have motivated yourself. This is how you are going to get that 2:1.

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Tea break/coffee break/energy drink break stage

Whether your go to drink is tea, coffee, an energy drink, or a fancy Starbucks drink, the thought of stopping revision to have one is tempting. The good thing about this is getting a drink is the perfect excuse to take a break from your revision. You can’t go thirsty can you! You may do this a number of times in the day. My preference is a cup of tea and obviously while the kettle is boiling I have another cheeky scroll on Facebook. My revision is pretty much based around my tea breaks, but if I’m revising on campus, I try not to be tempted to spend money and be unhealthy by going to buy some fancy Starbucks drink. (Then again, it’s exam season… so I deserve a treat right?!)

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The trying to do anything but revise stage

You’re got all your fancy fine liners out, you’re got the revision cards and you’ve got your tasty Starbucks drink. But you can’t seem to focus on revision. You mind wanders, wondering the big questions in the world like “Are Zebras black on white or white on black?” and “What was called orange first, the colour or the fruit?”. Or perhaps you are looking at holidays, planning to tan yourself after this misery called exam season ends. What ever you’re doing.. it’s not revising and it’s not going to help you pass your exams.

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The ‘panic’ or the ‘I can do this’ stage

You’ve been doing work for a number of hours now. You’re thinking about calling it a day on revision, but at this point your study session has gone one of 2 ways; you’re either starting to panic, or you’re thinking ‘I’ve got this!’.

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The morning of the exam stage

It’s the morning of the exam and their are 2 types of people. Those who are trying do that last minute cram revision with all their lecture notes around them in the library or outside the exam hall, or the one that I tend to take, what will be will be and I can’t change it with a last look at my revision notes!

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Happy revising 🙂

What to look forward to this Summer Term

I know what all of you are probably thinking right now: “What could we possibly look forward to during summer term? There’s too many exams!” And you would be right…partially. For many, the summer term is quite stressful because of all the exams that are coming. However, our amazing university is trying every year to make this time as easy  as possible. In what follows, I created a list of the things that our uni organises yearly, to make the exam experience feel less stressful, and also some activities that you can do by yourself.

Exam Angels

I do not know who they are, I do not know where they come from, but these people are heroes. HEROES I SAY.

Since everyone knows a hungry student is a sad and stressed student, they are trying to help us by giving us stuff. Free stuff. Exam Angels are people who go around campus and give out water, food and fruit, because they are that cool and loving and caring. You can catch them during exam time around the squares. During previous years, they also brought puppies around because well…we need a cuddle or two during exam time, let’s be honest. Truth to be told, if that is going to be happening this year, I am just going to be creepily following them everywhere. #noshame

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The Lakes

And I hear you ask: “But Dragos? What about the lake? I can’t swim in it, so what good is it going to be?” I hear you my friend, trust me, so let me tell you a secret (which is not even a secret but I wanted to sound cool): every year around finals time there is a bridge built on the surface of the lake so you can walk on it and everything. BUT NOT JUST THAT…there’s a castle on it too. Yup. You read that right. A freaking bouncy castle because we are 12. I dare say it is the MOST FUN I have had in years. Just going there after revision to destress and jump around with your friends – it’s the best feeling ever.

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Summer Ball

Ah yes, the Summer Ball. The only social event every student is truly looking forward to during the Summer Term. The Summer Ball is the time to relax, dress fancy and pamper yourself before going full-on party mode up in there. You go there, you get yourself a glass of champagne (because, yes, we are fancy), and you celebrate the year of constant battles of papers that you have been through and survived. It is an amazing opportunity to be with your friends and relax after the exams are officially over.

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Warm weather

Mother nature is truly amazing. I have never seen as many people sunbathing, playing Frisbee, and just out and about, as I have seen during the summer term around the lakes. Some people just have a little picnic there, others have full on study sessions there with their friends – and not going to lie, it is kind of motivating to see that. I did it last year too and it felt so good to be out, laying in the sun and still being productive. As warm weather is sort of a rarity in UK, I highly recommend it!

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Here’s just a few things for you to enjoy. Good luck with your exams and enjoy the Summer Term!

Trying to make the work/life balancing act work… I still don’t know the answer!

When I was in first year, a course mate in the year above me described how “second year is just like riding a bicycle’…

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Looking back as a (not so) wise third year, whilst I wouldn’t go as far to say that it was hell, it’s a pretty accurate description!

University life can be difficult to manage. This is especially true, considering that just studying for your degree isn’t the only thing on your mind. A vast majority of students are part of something at University, whether it be a part time job, sports teams, societies, volunteering etc.Then on top of that you need to socialise, eat, sleep and perhaps the occasional alcoholic beverage just to keep you sane!

In the end, it kind of just looks like this…

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Resulting in you looking a little like this…

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Now don’t get me wrong, a rare breed of student can balance it all successfully…

And to those people I salute you and give you a gold star.

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But for the average student, it’s just not possible to do it all. You can try to, but you’ll probably soon see that the “bicycle” is catching fire a little bit quicker than you think when deadlines come around.

Going from a calm relaxing week to one where you’ll have 4 deadlines due, 2 social events on and millions of other things on, is not uncommon.

Now I still haven’t mastered this and I don’t think anyone can really to an extent but here are my tips in trying to reach that elusive perfect balance…

Do something not nothing!

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Now I’m not saying don’t do anything. In fact that’s the opposite of what I’m saying. Doing something as well as your degree is always better than nothing. No matter how tempting it is to spend your days locked up in your room watching Netflix!

Don’t be afraid to get the balance wrong

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It’s okay to mess up and get the balance wrong every once in a while. You’re only human! If you feel like you’re not doing enough or you’re doing too much then remember that you always have a choice in doing what you want to do!

It’s physically impossible to do everything

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I definitely feel like I’ve learnt this the hard way.

See, I’m the kind of positive, go getting person who just goes for everything. Coming from a tiny village with little opportunities looking back to my first year as an eager eyed fresher, I was amazed by everything that I could do at Uni.

I’ve been part of societies, peer mentoring, course representatives, volunteering at the Lakeside Theatre, the list goes on. I would exhaust and stretch myself so much that I would have such little time off. Whilst I enjoyed what I was doing, in hindsight it probably wasn’t worth the stress!

Organise AND prioritise   

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This is probably what I’ve learnt from trying to do everything…

I thought that because I was organised with my diary to keep up to date with my life that I was doing everything right. In hindsight that was only half of the battle. I just wasn’t prioritising the stuff that I wanted to do!

By organising everything that you want to do and picking the things you want to prioritise, you soon start to see what’s important. If you’re truly passionate about something, then the choice should make sense in the long run.

So, whilst it may seem that the uncontrollable “burning bicycle” might be taking over your life, there are ways to deal with getting the balance right. It will be impossible to get the balance right all the time.

But by making a conscious effort, you can make things a whole lot better for yourself!

 

Brain food: What you should eat to ace those exams

As the exam season is getting closer and closer I came to realise that one of the most important things that you need to take into consideration is what you’re eating. In the past, I used to eat quite a lot of unhealthy snacks like crisps and biscuits that I got from the Store, as they were a very easy (and tasty) alternative for a meal. This affected my productivity quite a lot as I felt tired most of the time, although generally, I would get more than enough sleep. So, I decided to share with you some healthy snacks that you can make to trick yourself into eating a bit healthier. They proved to be quite useful for me!

 

Chicken and Spinach Ciabatta Pizzas

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A very simple and healthy recipe that has saved me so many times when I had to study. Feeling tired and do not want to do much cooking? Just stick some chicken (or you can just use some salami as well), cheese, pasta sauce and spinach/tomatoes in the oven, and in less than 15 mins you’ve got yourself a proper meal.

 

Fruit salad skewers

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Everyone knows fruits are a great study snack and making some fruit skewers, although it may seem like a tedious task, is a very good way to trick yourself to eat something healthy.

 

Nutella and banana sandwich

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Okay, maybe this one is not the healthiest of study snacks but it is definitely one that’s sure to give you a lot of energy for the day! Both the bananas and Nutella are a very good way to start off your day.

I hope this helps and you’re able to enjoy some tasty food during the long hours of revision!

Dealing with pre-exam nerves

Exam season can be a pretty nerve wracking time. It doesn’t help by the fact you’re probably spending late nights in the library, only having an energy drink to keep you awake. Last year, I got so worked up about my exams I ended up having a panic attack in one of them. I’ve since then learned from my mistakes and I am writing this blog to give you tips on how to deal with pre-exam nerves and anxiety.

Have a good mindset: exams are important but not more important than you

Stress in small amounts is good for you. It shows you that you may need to be working harder or that you need to change your revision plan. But a lot of stress…that can really affect your mental health, as I found out last year. If you can’t control something and you are doing the best that you can, then accept it and just do your best!

Last year I had 7 exams in 12 days. I was so stressed about it all and felt so anxious. I was working 9am till 9pm, only taking breaks to eat because I really wanted that 2:1! This isn’t healthy. In my 4th exam I had a panic attack with an exam the next morning too. It was a horrible feeling. But I realise now that I shouldn’t have put so much pressure on myself. I was doing the best I could and that was what mattered. I couldn’t change the situation, so should have not got so anxious about achieving the grades I wanted. Keep a good mindset and just try your best!

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Take breaks

Everyone has there preferred time of day that they work better. I like to get up early and revise until tea time then have the evening off to chill and have a break from revision.  You might rather sleep in and get up and start doing work about 2 and then do work till later in the evening. You might prefer to do a couple of hours, have a couple hours break, then do some more. But it is important to fit in breaks. You will be far less productive if you don’t! And it is also not good for your mind set if all you’re thinking of all day everyday is revision.

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Make a plan

The more organised and prepared you are, the the less nervous you are going to feel about your exams. Make a revision plan. Plan each day with what revision you are going to do. Spread time wisely across each exam. Don’t leave the exam you hate till the week before.. you’ll feel worse and more stressed for it!

Eat healthily and exercise regularly

I find that exercise is a nice break from studying. Not only does it help me think I’m staying in shape (with all the extra stress food I’m eating), but it also is good for studying because of the hormones it releases. There are certain foods that are meant to help with stress. The one that I always rely on is dark chocolate. I’ll have a couple of squares a day as a treat. Unfortunately, some of the other foods don’t sound so appealing, but they include leafy vegetables, salmon, blueberries, avocados and seeds.

Try relaxation techniques such as meditation

It is important during exam season to relax. Meditation is a great way to do this. It has many benefits such as reducing stress, improves concentration, increases self-awareness and practice benefits cardiovascular and immune health. There are apps you can download that can help you and Youtube videos too.

Over the Easter break I went to a yoga retreat in Portugal. It was my friends idea and after my panic attack last year I thought it would be a great way to de-stress. Here is a picture before a mediation, me standing closest to the camera.

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Exam season can be a scary time, even if you prefer exams over coursework (like me). Remember they will come to a end and the horrible exam zombie you have become will go away. And once they are over, you have a 3 month summer to look forward to! Good luck with your exams 🙂

 

Brain Snacks: the best food and drinks to have when you’re revising

When revising it is important to keep your brain active and yourself motivated to work. This blog is going to give you some ideas of food and drink that you can have either as a snack or as part of a meal to get you through those tough days.

  • Fruit and Vegetables

There are many vitamins, minerals, and ions in fruit and vegetables; therefore they will give you an energy boost. The fructose and healthy sugar in them coverts into energy. Some of the best fruits to have are apples, bananas, berries and avocados.

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• Peanut butter

Peanut butter is not necessarily unhealthy in small portions. It contains healthy fats, similar to avocados, and it has lots of protein. Peanut butter can be put on toast, crackers or even in porridge and it also can store for a long time in your cupboard before expiring. An essential student food!

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• Eggs

These are very filling and a great food for breakfast to start off your day. There are many different ways to cook them; such as boiled, scrambled, poached and fried, therefore they are hard to get bored of! Start your day right with a filling breakfast and you’ll find yourself being more productive!

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• Pumpkin seeds and Walnuts

These have omega-3 and zinc in them, which helps to stimulate your memory. They are a great snack, or something you can add to your main meal, such as a salad.

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• Coffee

This is a great drink to keep you awake! This is sometimes a necessity to get through your studying. Just make sure you don’t over do it!

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• Squash

We all know that water is the best drink to drink to stay hydrated and studies have shown that it can actually help you to perform better in tests. However, it can sometimes get boring, so why not change it up a bit by adding some squash!

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Also, as well as drinking and eating the right things, remember to stay hydrated with water and get enough sleep! These will keep your brain awake and more motivated, so you don’t fall asleep whilst studying!

Easter Revision Tips

As a Psychology student, I know that research has shown that the longer the period of time you try to remember a piece of information the more you will remember. So that means the earlier you start your revision the better! If you spread 20 hours of revision over 3 weeks it is a lot better for your memory than 2 days of cramming! So basically, if you’re reading this and haven’t started revising yet… open your first revision book and crack on!

Make a plan

Start to plan on what days you are going to get some revision done . There is no way you should be revising every single day.. I mean it is called a holiday for a reason! But you want to make sure on the days you are revising you are putting your time to use. If you wake up at 11 thinking “yeah might finally crack on with some revision today” spend another 2 hours lounging around and figuring out what revision you could do and you’ll probably just end up crying because you realise how much revision you have.  Stop the waterworks. It’s time to make a plan.

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Tips on how to make a good plan

Spread your time wisely

Think about how much each exam is worth. Full year modules will be worth 30 credits while half year will be worth 15 credits. You want to try and spread your time equally if each exam is worth the same amount or spend a bit more time on those full year module exams. Also each module’s exam may be worth different percentage of the module grade. So for example I have exams that are 75% of my module grade and 50% of module grade.

Look at past papers

Look at what type of exams it is. It could be essay based, short questions, multiple choice or a mix. You need a make a plan around what type of revision you need to do. For essay exams you may not need to learn every lecture but learn a few more in-depth. For example one of my exams is 1 essay out of 6. So if I learn 5 lectures 1 will defiantly come up. While if you have a multiple choice exam you will need to learn each lecture but not so in depth. So plan your revision according.

Plan what days you are going to revise

Plan a reasonable amount of time in your week to revise! Also make sure you are having days off too! Easter is also about chilling (and eating chocolate!).

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Try and stick to the plan but don’t pressure yourself!

When creating a plan you may have missed judged it. Realising actually you can’t get through as many lecture notes as you thought in a day. Don’t be dishearten just alter the plan to suit your own revision plan. That’s of course if you’re not having facebook breaks every 10 minutes!

Other revision advice: Try and find quiet and non distracting place to revise

If you have gone home for easter finding somewhere appropriate to revise may be hard. My dad likes to put his bass speakers up loud (yes my 50 year old dad!) so I know how hard it can be to get some peace at home. How tempting it can be to revise in bed.. that’s probably no good too! Find somewhere you can set up all your work and is quiet. Maybe a kitchen table if you don’t have a desk in your room! If the place you could revise is usually loud, you could always ask you family to be quiet for a couple hours. Or most places often have library you could go study in too!

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I hope your easter holidays are going well and you’re also having a well deserved break! Eat some chocolate and do some revision 🙂