Taking a competitive examination is, for many people, one of the main investments of time and effort they will make throughout their lives. It is a journey that takes months and years, and that is why those who choose this path try to dedicate themselves to study with all their strength, so that this sacrifice is not in vain.
However… to what extent can the student modify his or her habits to get to the best possible test on the day of the test? Many times we fail to answer this question, because it is assumed that we simply have to study or perform a series of exercises many times.
The mistake is that, in practice, this “simply” does not exist: there are many things we can do to perform better, and many of them escape the traditional definition of what it is supposed to be to study or practice. If we understand that the process of preparing for competitions is complex and that small changes in studying have a big effect after weeks and months, we will have a big advantage.
In this article we’ll see a series of tips to prepare for competitions and make the most of your time , resources and skills as a student.
Tips for preparing for the competition
These are some keys that you can apply to your day-to-day life to prepare for a competition, making the most of the time you have available.
1. Prepare mentally
When preparing for a competition, not all of our efforts should be focused on the content of the subject matter for which we are examining ourselves ; we should also invest attention and effort in managing our psychological state.
It is useless to know that in theory studying consists of reading and memorizing, if we forget that in practice we also need to regulate our anxiety, know how to motivate ourselves, organize ourselves, know tricks to concentrate better… In short, pay attention to everything we can change about ourselves to perform better both in the preparation and on the day of the test.
That is precisely why it is useful to have psychological assistance in the preparation of competitions. It is one thing to study with the support and information of experts in what we study, and another to have the personalized attention of specialists in the study process and in performance .
So the first piece of advice is to get rid of the old idea that to prepare for an exam you simply have to spend a lot of time working on the subject, and take a broader view of the challenge ahead. As we shall see, many of the tips we shall see go in this direction.
2. Have the study places predefined
Your study place is the place where you will spend a good part of the hours of the week, so it is worth having to check that it is suitable for studying and that it does not expose you to distractions or to noises or other discomforts . Small details such as checking whether the chair is comfortable or not can make a difference in the medium and long term.
If the place where you will study does not belong to you, or if you need to have several places to alternate between, you should at least be very clear about which ones they are, to avoid improvisations that could steal your time
3. Start with a step-by-step time investment plan
The best option is to start by studying a certain number of hours per week, and after two or three months, add more hours per week, and then add a few more after one month. For example, you can start with 5 hours a day, then move to 6, and then move to 8.
Why do it this way? Wouldn’t it be more logical to use as much time as possible from the beginning? In practice, no; think of it as building your own method of study by which you will avoid getting a very bad feeling at first and becoming unmotivated or simply not being able to stand the strain. If you start little by little, it will be easier for you to “connect” with the dynamics of study, to begin to gain inertia, and to reach a point where you are prepared enough to assume great burdens of responsibility.
4. Create even schedules
Try to spend as much time as possible on each study day , without any irregularities. This way, you will avoid having “gaps” in your weekly plan, moments when you don’t have time to go over (even if only mentally) the contents of the previous day and keep moving forward at the same time. Doing this decreases the chances that you will forget many things about the day before.
5. Dose your free time
If you focus on studying or practicing to the fullest and don’t pay attention to how you should manage your free time, you will end up with no free time where you can really do what you want, and wasting time in study sessions because of your fatigue and difficulty in concentrating.
Having a clear schedule and trying to follow it to the letter is essential, a necessary requirement not to do well in the tests, but to not throw in the towel a few weeks after starting.
6. Sleep well and eat well
The simple fact of sleeping badly one day or having eaten unhealthy food for several days is very noticeable in the performance of those who are preparing for competitions. There is no clear separation between physical and mental health , so you will not be able to concentrate, memorize or remember well if you don’t take care of the most basic aspects.
7. Periodic review
Reviewing is very important. Not only does it help us not to forget what we saw in the notes and in the textbooks, but also allows us to see new connections between ideas , links that were overlooked the first time but that at a second glance occur to us automatically, simply because we had been thinking about other things before.
8. Create your plans to disconnect
Every week, you should be able to have at least one plan that allows you to completely disconnect and refresh yourself mentally. Nature walks are very useful for this, as they allow us to get away from everything that reminds us of our responsibilities and also allows us to relax in welcoming environments. The practice of moderate exercise also works well , because it offers us a very specific and relatively simple goal on which we can focus, forgetting about the rest for a moment.
9. Take a global view of the challenge
Beyond the concrete advice we have seen so far in preparing for competitions, it is useful to take a global perspective on how the study is going, what aspects are failing most and how we can correct or strengthen them on the fly.
Some teams of psychologists, including UPAD, offer services related to personalized accompaniment by psychologists who are experts in high performance processes . Through these specialized psychological intervention services we address all aspects of the preparation of competitive examinations that surround the subject matter to be studied, and we provide training guidelines to get to the day of the test in the best possible conditions, so that the months of effort bear fruit. If you are interested in receiving information about these services, contact us by clicking here.