1. Don’t procrastinate
Time is precious, particularly on a ship. Procrastination will rob you of the small amount of time you have to get your revision done. Not procrastinating is difficult; while writing this I’ve made tea, checked my Facebook, Twitter, email, and WhatsApp, had a chat with a colleague, and doodled all over my notepad. One method that may help is the Pomodoro Technique: When you sit down to study, set aside an amount of time to work (45 minutes or so), force yourself to actually study for the entire time, then take a break (15 minutes or so). Set achievable goals for each block of time, do all of those things in your break that you would normally use to put off doing any work, and then get back to it.
2. Don’t cram
In a study by Kent State University, the most effective revision strategy is to spread your study out over time. “If you were doing a dance recital you wouldn’t start practising an hour before, yet students like to cram for an exam,” said Professor Dunlovsky, who ran the study. Students who spread their revision out are not only more likely to pass the exam, but also to retain the information long term, which is important if you want to move on to more advanced topics. Make a plan that gives you more than enough time to cover everything and stick to it.
3. Don’t surround yourself with distractions
Conventional revision wisdom says to have a separate area for study and another for rest and relaxation. On a ship, where space is hard to come by, this is tricky. If you don’t have access to a separate space for study, there are a few things you can do to make revising in your cabin more productive:
- If you share a cabin: plan your study for when it’s quiet (e.g. when your cabin mate is on watch)
- Clear your desk: put anything that isn’t directly related to study in a drawer or get it out of the way
- Switch off your phone: even without signal or an internet connection, it’s a great distraction (unless you’re using one of our learning apps, of course)
- Switch off the TV: if you’re lucky enough to have a TV in your cabin, make sure it’s off
- Don’t revise with a laptop: it’s common to have notes on your laptop/tablet, but if it’s not absolutely necessary for the work you’re currently doing, make sure it’s off
4. Don’t avoid subjects you hate
We all have subjects we don’t like, and we all have subjects we’re not as good at. The easy thing to do is to just concentrate on what you can do and ignore what you find difficult. The only problem is you cannot control what goes into an exam, by just revising what you already know you are using your time ineffectively, while also taking a massive risk on what might come up. The more you practise, the more you will improve; concentrate on your weak spots first, the rest will follow.
5. Don’t just read and highlight
The same study which recommends not cramming also debunked a few other revision myths. Just reading notes over and over again or just highlighting important passages of text have little effect on the brain’s ability to retain and recall that information later. The research paper says: “When students are using a highlighter they often focus on one concept at a time and are less likely to integrate the information they’re reading into a larger whole.” Apart from spreading study out over time, the most effective revision method is practice testing: Once you’ve read or highlighted a piece of text make some flash cards around the critical concepts and test yourself. Consistent testing forces you to retrieve information repeatedly, which helps you to learn the material better in the long run.
6. Don’t forget what’s important in life
If you spend all of your time with your head in books, it becomes easy to forget to enjoy life, enjoy your work, and enjoy being at sea. Striking a balance between doing enough study and doing too much is difficult, but as long as you’re on track and making progress it’s OK to go ashore for a few drinks or speak to family and friends on those rare occasions when you can connect to the outside world. Exams are important, but the world will keep on turning if you fail.
Lastly, don’t forget that if you ever need help or support with revision, exams, or studying, get in touch with us. You are not alone out there; whatever your goals are, we exist to help you get there.