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Written by Joakim Book


Having two exams 18 hours apart is hardly optimal. As every uni student knows, the best exam schedule is about 5–6 days between your exams. That allows you to cool off for the rest of your day, get back into balance, and still have a reasonable amount of time to revise everything for the next exam.


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It is said that Albert Einstein* provided us with the words, ‘the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results’. But all too often us university students find ourselves exclaiming, ‘I will never ever ever leave study this late again!’ as we convert our rooms into bombsites in preparation for exams. Again and again. When push comes to shove, it can be hard to manage work, time with friends, family commitments and getting around to opening that $200 textbook. But we manage. For all those fellow crammers who’ve started considering dates as only an ‘exam day’ or a ‘non exam day’, I’ve compiled some reminders for exams so you can free up valuable memory space to digest that week 7 lecture.


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If my life is anything to go by, exam periods create a cycle that repeats year after year. My room turns into a bombsite, and I feel as though I’m under house arrest, guilty of sacrificing an entire forest for paper. Each semester, without fail, I think to myself “never again will I leave my study this late!” but old habits die hard...



In preparation for writing this month’s Sydney Life column, focusing on STUVAC and good study habits, I managed to clear out my inbox, answer a few pointless market research surveys, wash my dishes and make a cup of tea. Which, if you looked up the Oxford Dictionary, is pretty much the definition for procrastination.



Week 13 just rolled past and suddenly STUVAC (the study vacation) has come knocking. If it's your first semester at Uni, you might find yourself facing final exams with scarily high percentage values, a few less-battered-than-they-should-be textbooks, and the classic "how did this happen?" moment. If you're a seasoned second or third year (or even fifth, like me), chances are you've just been hit by that horrible "how did I let this happen again?" crisis.

But by using the STUVAC burst of adrenalin, one week of intensive study can actually be incredibly productive. As Leonard Bernstein said: “To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan and not quite enough time.” so here's my tip for surviving STUVAC:



So it’s that time of semester when you really start to dislike 'past you' – who took so long to open up those textbooks, didn't take enough notes in lectures and misspent the entire mid-semester break indulging in chocolate and TV. Fortunately, all hope is not lost when it comes to preparing for mid-semester exams and assignments: Peer Assisted Study Sessions (PASS) are available in the Business and Law Schools.



The sweet smell of summer is in the air, Christmas decorations are already hung from every shopping mall ceiling, and you can practically taste those end of semester celebratory drinks.

The only thing is, you have the tiny matter of all your exams to get through before then. So, how do you do it? How do you keep up the motivation during the exam period when you’re in dire need of a tan and the beach is desperately calling your name? Here are a few tips.

1. For the next couple of weeks, do not associate with any of your uni friends who do not have exams, or are already finished their semester, or are just one of those annoying I-hardly-ever-study-and-yet-I-always-get-distinctions kind of people. It will only make you miserable. And resentful. And unbelievably jealous.

2. Avoid the temptation of YouTube, or binging on an entire season of (insert the name of any TV show you can think of here), or Googling that new product, or the name of that person in that movie that you’ve wanted to see for ages but can’t remember what it’s called, or – you get the point. Limit the internet.

3. If all else fails, rely on the fact that we humans are incredibly loss averse – we hate to lose stuff more than we love to gain. So if the motivation to get good grades is not enough to keep you studying, try giving your trusted mate (or Mum) about $100 of your hard-earned cash to hold onto for the entire exam period. If you don’t stick to your studying schedule, they keep the money. If you get through the exam period still pasty white, with withdrawal symptoms from lack of internet use, and can’t remember the last time you went out with other people, you get the money back.

However you make it work, remember that you’ve done this before and you’ll do it again, and it will be oh-so-sweet when it’s over.

And if you're really stressing, there are some great free resources here.

Good luck everybody!



Today marks the start of the HSC exams. I’m sure many hopeful future Sydney University students were there in the English Paper 1 Exam today; frustration levels rising as their handwriting slowly became illegible amid hand cramps and annoying people clicking their pens a million times.

I was there not all that long ago. I remember HSC exams as being a frantic time, where I organised my colour-coded notes and tried to condense a whole year’s learning onto a single page, crammed with mnemonics and diagrams. I would repeatedly read and re-read this sheet before going into exams slowly rocking back and forth, trying to reassure myself I would be okay.



I can’t believe it’s the first day of exams! I promised myself this semester I would balance my work and Uni commitments so that when it came to exams I'd be feeling on top of things! Instead I’m barely keeping my head above water with 4 subjects worth of notes and endless readings still not complete! I am in my 5th Year of a combined degree Bachelor Commerce/B. Arts. You would think I would have it all figured out by now!

I don’t know if it’s just me or if everyone else is in the same boat, but in the 5 years of being at uni I seem to have mastered the art of procrastination. When it comes to studying, I like to drink endless cups of tea, bake to my hearts content and waste time meeting up with friends and surfing the Internet. So basically I will go out of my way to find any excuse not to open my books!

My first exam is tomorrow and panic mode is beginning to set in. Last week I worked 4 out of 5 days, which didn’t give me much room to study. However, I've come to the conclusion that I perform better under pressure. The adrenaline kicks in and I seem to get it done. (Well that’s what has happened every other semester so don’t quote me on that!)

Here’s hoping!

Wishing you all good luck for the upcoming exams!

Need some last minute info? Visit the exams page.


Holidays are great. Just great. Exams are over, and there’s the feeling that you did well; that you surely will pass. There might be a bit of extra money earning, but generally it’s a relaxing time. And then the results for our courses roll around. You’re worried, but not too anxious. Exams went well, right?

At the very least, you were definitely there. You were there. You attended the exams. You sat down in a big hall with a lot of other people. There were papers and questions involved. There was the smell of ink and anticipation. You wrote for two or three hours straight and walked out with a weight off your shoulders. The day is still clear in your mind.

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As you may have noticed, it has been raining. As you also may have noticed, it’s that horrific time of the semester where exams seem to be rushing towards us faster than an incoming train. But you didn’t need me to tell you that.

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Well, the midterm exams were harsh...

Probably due to the fact that i'm in Canada and am distracted by things that seem so cool, but are completely mundane to the average Quebecois. Like squirrels, for example, I can't get enough of them! They're so quick and they're everywhere, even on the power lines.

I did manage to get some study in, and was happy with most of my grades, particularly because of the novelty of getting an 'A-' or a 'B+', so much cooler than the credit/distinction labels. Although I don't like that an A- is better than a B+, I mean no one wants a minus.

The exam period also meant that I got to sample large quantities of Quebec's finest (well actually cheapest) coffee. Which by the way is extremely cheap, but horrendous. Probably tastes more like dirt and burnt hair than coffee. But hey, you cant say no to half a litre for $1.29 when your staring down the barrel of an all-nighter.



I am in the middle of take home exam hell... so much to write, so much to read, so many cans of V in the near future. So why have I decided to take the time out to jot a quick blog?

I am putting on a brave face for the crowds

Well, everyone and anyone who knows what I'm like (and I'm sure you, dear reader, know what I am like if you have read my "study skills" post...) - one word: procrastinatory. Except this time I thought I would share a couple of things that I like to do / websites I like to browse while procrastinating.

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For the 9th time, I got my uni results back.
For semester one 2009, I did 4 subjects.
One Distinction. Yay!
One Credit. Yay!
One Pass. Ok.
One Fail. WHAT?!
*falls off chair*

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So this has been a pretty unproductive stuvac for me.

I thought the pinnacle of procrastination was abandoning my 3500 word final essay last night to practice some Jack Johnson songs on guitar (“Oh,” I hear you asking, “you play guitar?” Apparently I do now. Until yesterday my repertoire was limited to “The lion sleeps tonight” and the riff from a Red Hot Chili Peppers song, but my catalogue increased to make me a human jukebox of JJ).

But I digress. This story is about Peter. Studious and reliable Peter. The one I normally depend on to force me to study. This is what he did yesterday.

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Midsem exams

29 Sep

It’s been a very interesting couple of weeks for everyone. Welcome to our fellow bloggers who are now on exchange! It’s that time of year again where everyone’s been flying off and panic has risen over what to pack, and how to pack it within the luggage limit, and somehow forgetting everything and then remembering it again at the last minute. So, those are the lucky ones, but also the ones who haven’t stopped talking about [insert destination of choice] since it was known they’d be off. And now a silence descends on the ears of those left behind. But perhaps this silence is much needed, for we’ve been busy down here too with…mid-semester exams.


There are certain things that come with the status of being a student. Coffee, iPods, lectures, Facebook, clubs and societies, moving out, getting a job and yet still being poor, just to name a few. There’s also study and exams. And with study and exams, comes procrastination. Ever wondered how people just not procrastinate and actually manage to get things done? (these are a rare breed indeed at uni) Ever aspired to such a level? Well, I have, and now you can too.

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There is a limbo period in my assessments this semester. While others do exams and in-class presentations, I doodle in my notebook and enjoy myself. You might think I’m lucky, but in fact this is a great curse! I feel like I’m living in that part in Twister, when they go out into the eye of the storm ...

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Rewind four years…
‘Pens down.’
Breathe. ‘You’ve done your best, let it go…’ (rational voice floundering in a sea of panic).
‘Oh my gosh, what was I on about? What was that EXAM on about?!’ (whimper)
‘I totally crashed - this is the end of everything!’

I know the sensation. You’ve just been hit by a trial exam curve ball and feel as if the light might slowly slip from the day. Oh the drama…All that hard work misdirected. The gnawing, regretful pain.


Could USyd be more sadistic? It’s the last week of the break and, for people in Arts at least, we’ve been waiting with bated breath for a few too many weeks for those magical numbers. If the exams were the pins being driven in underneath our nails, then this is the torturously slow removal.


In my junior years of high school, the thought of an exam absolutely petrified me; I’m not exaggerating. The scariest thought, I believed, was writing an essay to time.

For one of my first exams, one of my exam rooms was somewhere I’d never heard of, so I toddled along to the Student Centre where they gave me...

The examination guide!!!

USYD has thought of everything.


You may have thought "Summer School" was a term circulating only in bad family movies featuring an angsty and rebellions teen than gets the punishment of a lifetime spending the summer holidays with his head buried in a pile of books.

Well, that was the image it conjured up in my head, anyway. Turns out summer school does exist in the real world, however, and it's happening right here at Sydney Uni.

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Last night, I broke all the rules in the rule book. I went out the night before an exam. I also enjoyed myself. I smiled during the exam period. I spent hours indulging in the hedonistic pleasures of life. I witnessed the mesmerising U2 concert.

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During exam period, students tend to transform into creatures from boring land with nothing to talk about except split ends having split ends. Summer plans may feature in a conversation, but more often than not the student is really just concerned with passing exams.

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As a science student, I have a lot of exams. I think Simon has like, 2. Last semester I’m pretty sure Alex had none.

And I’m not trying to grab a sympathy vote, because honestly, I prefer it this way.

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Some of my split ends have split ends

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