Exam preparation

For those of us studying at dental school, Christmas time not only marks the end of a long and taxing term, but a period of hard work and panic revision in preparation for our upcoming exams.

These exams are common during the pre-clinical years of study and, depending on your dental school, may fall at either side of the Christmas break. Those of us with the exam period arriving before Christmas have the benefit of being able to enjoy the holiday to its full potential. However, it also means there is less time to revise.

For students with exams in January, the additional revision time afforded to them is marred by the need to work through the holiday period.

The most important thing to remember about dental school exams is to be prepared. This may seem like obvious advice, but it’s all too easy to get caught up in the Christmas period’s partying, shopping and over-indulging and for work to slip off the agenda.

The best way of preparing is by staying on top of things from the start of the academic year. Although we all know that September’s good intentions can quickly wane as the term progresses.

Organising your work is an easy way to assist the revision process. During term time you will amass a small forest of papers and notes. When it comes to finding that all important sheet of critical information, a system of organisation can prove invaluable. Therefore, even if you haven’t quite kept up-to-date with the work, it’s easy to sort through, find what you need and what still needs to be done.

The best way to keep organised is to date each piece of work then file in it into chronological or subject order. That way, even if you haven’t quite knuckled down to your revision regime, it’s simple to find what you need and are missing during that all important final cramming session. Using a diary to note lectures you’ve had and when is also a good idea.

Make sure you find out exactly what is required for each exam, the topics being assessed and when and where they are taking place.

For each subject you should have a study guide there to help you. These will contain a list of learning objectives and need-to-know information. However, it’s up to you to decide in how much detail to study each topic. It’s important not to get too bogged down on minor complex points, as this may use up time better spent building up your knowledge of more important topics.

Talking to older students can also be helpful, as they can offer advice regarding how to tackle difficult topics and what questions have cropped up in previous years.

By collaborating with friends you can ensure that you have all the work you need. If anything is missing, someone else is guaranteed to have a copy. Revising on your own can get pretty tedious very quickly, so group work can help keep you motivated. This approach doesn’t work for everyone though and it can be easy to get sidetracked and distracted from the task at hand.

Most dental schools have an intranet or web learning system for posting lectures notes online. Some schools offer extra tools around exam time too, including information about exam marking, practice questions and discussion boards on their web systems.

If in doubt about any aspect of the approaching exams, don’t hesitate to contact your course leaders, lecturers or exam officers for help. If you are not clear on something, speak out as the chances are you are not alone.

Finally, the run-up to the Christmas break should be an enjoyable time, so don’t forget to set some time aside to relax.

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