Master PTE Exam (epi. 1) – How to score 90 in PTE Speaking?

I have met International Students with all the relevant points required for the permanent residency, but only fell short of the threshold because they are not able get the maximum scores for the English language requirement. While it is mentally draining not to achieve the score you desire, it is also a financial burden. I know there is a lot of resources out there on how to get the perfect score, but I thought there is nothing better than hearing straight from the horse’s mouth. By the strangest coincidence, I found a student who scored 90 for Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking in his first try. After a short conversation, I gathered some interesting tactics he used to get the perfect score – I want to share it, with the hopes it would help at least one individual.

Master PTE Exams series is dedicated to all students who are struggling or unable to get the desired score or sitting for the exam for the first time. As the title suggest, this article is all about the Speaking test.

Let’s get started…

What is PTE?

Before we jump in to the good stuff, if you are reading and wondering what in the world is PTE, let me get you on the same page. PTE, The Pearson Test of English Academic, is an online based exam to test your English language skills in four areas of Speaking, Reading, Writing and Listening. This is essentially required for International Students who are aiming to obtain their permanent residency (PR) in Australia. Majority of the candidates seek a score above 79 points for each band, which is equivalent to 20 points for the PR.

Speaking test format

This is the first section of the exam. You will be given a headphone to listen and respond to questions. You will be tested on scenarios you see and hear in real-life. This includes lectures, diagrams, conversations and accents from native and non native speakers. Speaking test is around 30 to 40 minutes. You don’t have to worry about the overall time, because it is highly unlikely you will run out of time.

This section is broken in to sub-sections, as shown below, in the given order. As one sub-section ends, the next begins without any indication. Just be sure to know exactly what is required for each sub-section so you don’t waste time reading instructions or worse, be confused.

Read Aloud

You are required to read the sentence on the screen out loud. You have 30-40 seconds to prepare and as soon as the microphone opens, read the sentence. If you are silent for 3 seconds, the microphone will turn off and move  on to the next question. There are 10 sentences in the Read Aloud section.

Repeat Sentence

You will hear a sentence – about 10 words long. Once the microphone opens, you are required to repeat the sentence exactly as you heard it. There are 8-10 similar questions in this section.

Describe Image

You will be given an image, with 25 seconds to prepare and once the recording begins you have 40 seconds to describe the image. There are 6-8 Describe Image questions. Remember there is insufficient time to write down anything, so use the 25 seconds to study the image.

Retell Lecture

You will hear a short lecture, and you will be required retell the lecture in your own words in 40 seconds. You have less than 10 seconds prep time after the recording to start speaking, so make sure you jot down the points as you listen in a numbered order. There are 2-3 Retell Lecture questions.

Answer short questions

The computer will ask a question (which is usually general knowledge or common sense) and you have to provide the answer in a couple of words. You have about 10 of these questions, and generally is the easiest section to score full marks.

How to get 90 in PTE Speaking?

Many reckons PTE is the easiest English test, until they sit for the Speaking section. Based on the description above, the sub-sections may seem straightforward. However, as the entire exam is graded by a computer, there is  (what we call) microphone-bias. If you do not understand the correct way to approach the Speaking section, it may be difficult to get the desired score.

1. Oral fluency and pronunciation

The grading for the Speaking section is primarily based on oral fluency and pronunciation. Understanding these two components will help you to score better in the overall Speaking test. Pronunciation is your ability to speak like a native speaker, and this DOES NOT mean you have to imitate the accent. The PTE system is designed to recognise various accents, but you as the candidate need to speak clearly.

Oral fluency is self-explanatory. The fluency is not dependant in how fast you speak. It is scored based your ability to speak at a natural consistent pace without unnecessary pauses or hesitations. The pauses at a full stop or comma must be around 1 second. If it is anything more than 3 seconds the microphone will turn off and you will automatically move on to the next question. Anything around 2 seconds, maybe misinterpreted as hesitation. Best way to understand your fluency is by recording your answer during practice sessions on your smart phone. When you playback check the voice pattern to ensure there are no spikes or long pauses.

2. Strategy for each question

During prep time, it is important to develop strategies that works for you and based on the marking structure for each question type. It is not about how well you are able to converse in English, but about understanding the grading and playing accordingly.

Describe Image, prepare a standard structure for every question.

  1. Introduction: This [pie / bar / line chart / image] [describes / illustrates / demonstrates] [insert title of the image] [insert description of x-axis and y-axis figures]. This bar chart illustrates the number of women in workforce between 2002 to 2014 given in percentages. 
  2. Body: Describe the highest point and lowest point. The highest number of women in the workforce was present in 2014. A significant growth from 2002, where only 20% of the workforce were women. 
  3. Conclusion: Provide a concluding a sentence to summaries the image. In conclusion it is evident that number of women in the workforce is increasing at a rapid rate. 
  4. Predictions: You can add some additional information not present on the image. The reason for this increasing trend could be due to higher women are enrolling for higher education programmes. 

You can apply the same principle for Retell Lecture.

Repeat Sentence, you don’t have time to write the sentence. Here are few tricks that you can attempt.

  1. Write the first letter of the word as you listen to the sentence or,
  2. Close your eyes and concentrate on what’s been said, or
  3. Repeat best as you can, and if you forget a word replace it with “something” naturally to ensure your fluency is not effected. You will be penalised on content, however, you will still score better on fluency.

3. Exam starts at self introduction

Many believe that the exam commences at Read Aloud (first section). This is incorrect, as the exam begins at the 30 second Personal Introduction. In the first couple of minutes you will given 30 seconds to give an introduction to yourself and this not graded, but yet highly crucial for the Speaking test. The introduction is designed for the computer to identify the baseline for your speaking. This way, computer is able to eliminate “noise” and identify your response during the course of Speaking test. During the Personal Introduction make sure you are fluent (avoid umm or ah) and keep at your regular pace of speaking. This pace must be maintained through out the Speaking test because at deviations might lose you points on fluency as it maybe misinterpreted by the computer as hesitation.

Do not place less importance to this area. Make sure to prepare and rehearse your personal introduction multiple times. Keep the introduction simple: name, age, what University, major, nationality, etc.

My name is Anna. I am 25 years old and I am from China. I graduated from Macquarie University after completing my two-year programme in Masters of Communication. In China, I worked for ABC Company for three years before receiving a scholarship to study in Australia. I have an older sister who is planning to follow my footsteps study journalism in Australia.

4. Headset

The headset you receive for the test are very sensitive. So lesson number one is, you don’t need to speak loudly and disturb others. Be considerate of the rest of exam takers.  There is a section, prior to the Personal Introduction to test your microphone. Use that time wisely to speak and listen if it picks up your response. Rather than saying “Test, Test, 1, 2,3”, read out an actual sentence to get a better understanding. Secondly, as it is sensitive, your microphone is likely to pick up your breathing.  That may disrupt your responses. Make sure your mouth piece is slightly below your chin level. Once again, test it out.

5. Practice, practice, practice

Now that you understand the tactics, all that is left is to practice, practice and more practice. There are abundance of resources on PTE Academics website, third-party sites or even on YouTube for you practice with timings. The more you practice, the more confident you will be. You can even practice while you read a novel or magazine by reading the sentences out loud as you would do at a PTE Speaking test. TED Talks are good practice for Retell Lecture, where you listen to a TED Talk for about three to four minutes and retell the lecture in 40 seconds.

How useful was this article? Let us know in the comment section. Remember this is one approach that worked, there might be plenty other successful ways to approach PTE Speaking. Please do share below any that had worked for you.

Until next time…

All You Need to Know About Temporary Graduate 485 Visa as an International Student

If you just graduated – firstly, congratulations – secondly, if you are unsure what to do next, you may want to consider applying for the Temporary Graduate 485 Visa. For all International Students, I urge you to take advantage of the opportunity offered by the Australian government for you to gain skilled Australian work experience. Even for those who are still deliberating whether to study in Australia or what course to select, this article will facilitate your long-term plan of permanently migrating to Australia.

I am going to break down everything you need to know about Temporary Graduate 485 Visa and how to apply for it.

What is subclass 485 visa?

In colloquial terms this is also known as “Work Visa” or “Temporary Resident (TR) Visa” – all of this most likely are being referred to the subclass 485 visa. This visa is offered to International Students who have completed a minimum of two years of studies in Australia. The visa allows you to stay in the country for two to four years with unfettered work rights. During this time you may study full-time as well (I will tell you why this may be a necessity. Keep reading).

Why is it offered?

This was introduced in 2008, and in my opinion highly useful for International Students to obtain skilled Australian work experience. I also consider it to be a transition period for you to a) decide if you wish to be in Australia b) work on the next step like Permanent Residency.

Gaining points for PR

You are able to gain five extra points if you have one to three years of experience in the field that you are applying under the Skilled Occupation (SO) list. It goes without saying, but I will say it anyway. Use this visa as an opportunity to get the five extra points you require to get you over the line for the points required for Permanent Residency.

Further, if there are units required to be eligible under the SO list, you can enrol for those units in particular during the course of the visa.

Eligibility requirements

Being eligible for this visa is quite simple if you know the exact criteria.

  1. Hold a valid visa and is the primary applicant.
    • Either you are currently holding a student visa after completing at least two years of studies in Australia.
    • Or you must be in a Bridging visa A or Bridging visa B after completing at least two years of studies in Australia within the last six months of lodging 485 visa.
  2. Under 50 years of age.
  3. Meet the minimum English language requirement, which is 6 in IELTS or equivalent. You can use the same one that you used for the student visa, provided it is not expired.
  4. Does not hold any criminal record and does not have any outstanding debt to the Australian government.

How to apply for 485 visa?

If you meet the above criteria it is very unlikely you will be rejected as you have the eligibility to obtain the 485. However, there are chances it may be rejected due to errors by the applicant through incorrect processing or failure to provide required or proper documentation. I have listed everything that you need to do to in order to ensure there are no delays or rejections.

Two types of 485 visa

I think this is the first mistake: selecting the wrong type of 485 visa. If you select the wrong category, it may either be rejected or granted for a shorter period.

  1. 485 Graduate Work – if you have studied for a course below Bachelor’s degree and has the occupation under skill list, you may apply through Graduate Work category. This will be granted for 18 months.
  2. 485 Post Study Work – is the most commonly used category, and you can apply if have completed a Bachelor’s or higher and meet the two-year study requirement. You will be granted a visa for two years or four years if you have completed a Post Graduate research.

When to apply?

At the time you apply you must have completed your studies in Australia for at least two years. You need not wait until graduation but once your final results are released, you can request for a letter of completion and final transcript from the University admin. A small fee will be charged by the University for processing these documents.

When you complete your studies, the University is legally required to inform Department of Home Affairs that you have completed your studies. So if you depart Australia for a holiday right after completion of studies without applying for 485 visa, there is a possibility your current student visa will be cancelled and you will not be allowed to enter the country on return. The reason being, it may be assumed you are leaving upon completion of studies. Therefore, it is recommended that you apply for the 485 visa prior to any overseas travel after completing your course.

Documents required

Click below to access the list of documents you require and you should start gathering whatever you are able to well in advance to avoid delays.

Document checklist for Temporary Graduate 485 Visa

According to the Department of Home Affairs website, “provide certified copies of original documents. Do not include original documents unless specifically asked for them. Police certificates should be original documents. Documents not in English must be accompanied by accredited English translations.”

Can you do it yourself?

Most definitely! It is an extremely easy process and you can save some good money by doing it yourself. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. There is plenty of guidance online and still if nothing makes sense, simply contact Department of Home Affairs on 131 881. Be sure to contact them first thing in the morning to avoid being in the call queue for an hour.

All you need to make sure is that:

  • your documents are in order as per the checklist,
  • the documents are true copies,
  • the documents certified and quality scans,
  • you have selected the correct category as shown above.

How much does it cost?

Usually you will hear only about the application fee. But there are other fees you  have to pay in order to obtain the required documents. These costs are likely to change, so always refer to the respective websites linked below.

Application fee

The general application fee for an individual applicant is from $1,535.00. This cost will change depending on other factors such as dependence (spouse or children) and whether you lodge the application online or offline. Get an accurate estimate from Department of Home Affairs.

Police check

For overseas police checks, you will have to check from the relevant department in the foreign country. The national police check from the Australian Federal Police  will cost $42.00.

Health assessment

An Australian immigration health check-up is required to lodge the 485 visa. This must be carried out by an authorised Bupa heath centre. This visa requires a medical examination and a chest x-ray costing $232.60 and $280.00, respectively.

Medical insurance

It is hard to give an estimate as your medical insurances will vary depending on your requirements. You will require private insurance under Visitor Cover and the insurer is able to advise what is best suited as per your requirement. One of the cheapest and popular providers would be Bupa of approximately $1,200.00 a year and could be paid on a month to month basis.

If you have any questions relating to your 485 visa application, write to us on One of our Happy Helpers will be in touch.

Until next time…

How to find cheap accommodation for International Students?

What’s worse than job hunting? Obviously, apartment hunting!!! Whether you like or not, finding the right accommodation is imperative to the life of an International Student. Accommodation is the highest contributor of living cost for studying abroad. Many International Students end up compromising quality of living over cost of living. This is a valid reason at times, but if there is an alternate way to balance the two factors of quality and cost, it is definitely worth your consideration. I have made my fair share of mistakes when it came to accommodation. Without regretting over it, I like to think of it as I made the mistake, so you don’t have to.

Hear me out.

First time arrivals, here’s what you need to know…

When you are coming to Australia for the time, you always want to make comfortable choice but this might not necessarily be the right choice. For starters, here’s what you need to know and may have to consider.

1. Rent is paid weekly

I am not sure if this is the case for other countries, but in my native country, rent is paid on a monthly basis. In Australia, rent is paid in advance on a weekly basis. The average rent could vary from $160.00 per week to all the way up to $750.00 per week. The rent you pay really depends other external factors that I will address through out the article. Some rent includes all bills, meaning you don’t have to worry about electricity, internet and water, everything is included in the weekly rent. You have to get this clarified before signing the contract.

studio apartment for students

2. Security payment

Your landlord will request a security payment, we call a bond, at the start of your tenancy. This is usually equal to the value of four week’s agreed rent. Be sure to bring the bond payment when you come for the first time. While you are able to recover this at the end of tenancy, we have heard appalling stories where the students are scammed to a point that they have to forego their bond simply because the landlord refused to pay it back for unjustified reasons. I would recommend that you try to make an electronic fund transfer as oppose to cash payment, so you have a trail of evidence. In addition, be sure to accept a receipt confirming the bond payment with a note that it is refundable.

If you are being scammed or treated unfairly, contact Fair Trading division of your state for advise. Matters such as this are taken very serious under the Australian trading law. They will either act as a mediator to resolve the matter or direct you to organisations such as tenants unions and consumer advocates for further assistance.

3. Pack lightly

While we are working on a dedicated article on what you should and should not bring on your first visit. Just remember,  you can basically find anything and everything here in Australia.  As it is a culturally diverse country,  you will find local stores importing products from your home country. Being light on your travel will make your relocation from place to place convenient, less stressful and inexpensive.

4. Short-term contracts

It is so important not commit to long-term contracts at the beginning, especially before entering the country. Ideal situation would be a month-to-month contract or three months. This way, once you come to Australia, you will get a better chance to understand how you like the area, living situation, access to transport and other options. Even later, you should opt for short-term contracts, not allowing you to be tied to one that you may or may not like for too long. If you are bounded by a yearly contract, remember you will have to pay the rent even though you may not occupy it over the vacation periods. Waste a of $$$!

One might think, “Will I not find a good place to stay after the short contract?”. Remember, now you have all available search options like friends, websites, and many more, so there is nothing to worry.

student accommodation

5. Types of accommodation

There are many options for accommodation. The most expensive would be having your own studio apartment, but definitely has its advantages. Another option, also the popular option amongst International Students, is shared accommodation. Higher the number of occupants, cheaper it is for you. You can either share apartment / house with an independant bedroom (with / without ensuite bathroom) or share the bedroom if the room is of considerable size. I am sure it is self-understandable which type is more expensive than the other.

Formal during my time at campus accommodation

Factors to consider before settling

6. Proximity to University

Accommodation around any University is expensive than what you will find in the outer suburbs.  At the same time, if you look beyond dollar value, the convenience may out weigh the cost. Living closer to the University means you are able to maximise your University life and benefits on campus such as the library, study spaces, labs, etc. You also cut down on wasteful travel time back and forth and schedule group assignment meetings conveniently. In certain states such as New South Wales and Victoria, International Students do not receive concession on travel, hence adding to living costs. If none of these are of concern to you, as much as you are worried about the cost, definitely look at outer suburbs with easy access to public transport route to University.

7. Environment

One time during my house hunting days, I went to inspect a prospective shared accommodation space and I was horrified at the state it was maintained. Within few seconds of entering the house, I knew I wasn’t going to take it. Student life can be messy and untidy, but you need to make sure that it doesn’t affect your well-being.

We are very much affected by the environment and its energy. Pick an environment that suits you. I always wanted to ensure the space I chose is filled with natural light as that’s what makes me productive, dark and gloominess dampens my mood.

8. On-campus or off-campus

While on-campus accommodation is considered to be expensive, you are able to find different colleges in the lower range of $250 to $550 per week. The most expensive accommodation are single spaces with catering facilities, where residents are offered meals and they do not have to hassle with food preparation. While that is premier, you can opt for shared spaces in the lower range. Reliability and term of contract are the main differences between on and off campus. On-campus accommodation are generally for a minimum of one year. Off-campus accommodation are relatively inexpensive, but you will have to take time off your day to actually visit these locations. You can ask your mates if there are spare rooms where they reside.

While some off-campus accommodation lacks basic facilities, there plenty around Universities that are pretty good for the cost. Just make sure basic facilities are provided.

on campus accommodation at UNSW

9. How to apply for student accommodation?

There many ways to do this. Firstly, if you are coming to Australia for the first time, the best option would be checking online. There are so many sites such as University website for on-campus options and off-campus on GumTree, Flat Mates, Student, Uni Lodge, etc,

Once you are in the country, a common way to do it is through networking with fellow students. There are also plenty of websites and social media groups dedicated for student accommodation, primarily for International Students.

10. Final thoughts

The premier on-campus accommodations are a great option for comfort, convenience and reliability if you are under a sponsorship or is able to afford the rent. However, if you are light on your budget, first look at on-campus lower range options, then off-campus within close proximity to University and lastly accommodation in outer suburbs.

What are your thoughts on accommodation for International Students? Do you have any experiences good or bad that you could share?

Until next time…

Ten (10) Things to do in Summer Without Breaking Your Bank

Has your countdown to summer vacation started? We are a month and half away from every students’ favourite time of the year. Most International Students would have already planned what to do during this time down to the T. There is still a few of us who are clueless on how to make the best use of the three-month vacation. If you are the latter of the student group, this article is just for you. We are giving you ideas on how to spend your time without breaking your bank or feeling weary.

Ready? Let’s go…

boat ride at jervis bay

1. Find a job

How will you break your bank when you actually earn money over the vacation? There are so many ways International Students can earn, and the best part is that you have unrestricted work rights during vacation period. Many retailing stores are looking for employees to pick up shifts during the holiday rush. Don’t wait till the beginning of the summer vacation to job hunt, start now. The jobs get filled up right away.

2. Enrol in a couple of units

This is similar to summer school, where you can enrol for a couple of extra units. This will either help you finish your course earlier or make your last semester less stressful. Not all units are offered during summer vacation so just make sure the units you pick are relevant for your course and you receive full credits. As it is a short period, it may seem like a crash course with time sensitive deadlines.

3. Summer internships

Whether overseas or in Australia, an internship in your relevant field is a great way to gain some work experience. This will take a long way when you graduate and is seeking for full-time employment. Just as mentioned in point 1, be sure to apply for internships right away. You can begin your search at the University careers page. In addition to that try reaching out to your lecturers, who may be aware of possible opportunities.

4. Explore Australia

Remember when you first arrived in Australia, you had the Australian dream of travelling to every corner of the country but never had the time. Well, what better time than summer vacation to make that dream come true! Australia is a large country, cum continent. Realistically you may not cover every inch and truthfully it can be very expensive, but there are many places in your own state that you could explore. Insider Guides got a comprehensive article on Short Trips for International Students in all states.

As a bonus, whilst exploring the country, you can also make pit-stops at your friend’s and/or relative’s who live in other states or regional suburbs whom you don’t get to see often.

great barrier reef

5. Travel home

Tendency to feel home sick is natural, so summer vacation is a good time to visit your family and friends. This could be expensive especially if you haven’t booked your tickets well in advance. The best bet would be avoiding December and early January peak travel times. You could find much cheaper travel options from late January to mid February. Booking directly from airline may be expensive, so reach out to travel agents like Student Flights and Flight Centre. Make sure you haggle for the best price by collecting different quotes because travel agents do price-match.

6. Travel to cheaper Asian countries

Travelling overseas may seem expensive. Yet, if you budget and plan well, this is very much doable to some Asian countries for at least 10 days with less than $500.00 (excluding airfare). Airfare could range from anywhere between $400.00 to $1000.00; it is the only aspect that may break your bank if you don’t have savings. Airfare to Asia is cheaper if you live in Western Australia. However, in order to save on airfare, travel during non-peak times (late January to mid February) and book tickets for weekday departure and arrival. Two of the cheapest Asian countries I recommend is Bali and Thailand. These two countries are affordable and there are tons of activities and places to visit.

We will cover an article on budget travelling to Bali in the near future – stay tuned.

Nusa penida

7. Start or continue your hobby

How about continuing that hobby that you gave up amidst the busy study schedule? Or starting that hobby that you really wanted to but never got around? The most difficult part is getting started. Utilise these study-free three months to get started and even turn your hobby to a side hustle once your semester commence. There are so many ideas for a hobby and I am linking a few articles down below to help you brainstorm.

8. Start a mini-project

This is serious than a hobby and definitely more value adding to your resume. The project could either be relevant to your field or you can divert into a completely different field of your passion. If you are familiar with coding, develop a mobile app. If you are a photographer, develop website using SquareSpace to highlight your portfolio. Whilst it is a great way to occupy your time productively, you are also developing and enhancing your skills. If you don’t know where to start, thanks to YouTube you will find plenty of tutorials to help with your mini-project.

girl at the beach enjoying the sunset

9. Break away from your routine

For crying out loud it is summer vacation! If you are planning to stick to your normal routine as rest of the semester, you are missing out. Write a (100) list of things you like to do this summer, such as going to the beach, having breakfast at a new cafe, reading a new book, morning jogs, watching New Year fireworks, participating in Christmas activities, volunteering and so forth. Make through the list within the three months.

10.  Time for yourself

After a year of hard work, stress and all-nighters, you deserve some time to relax, catch up on sleep and spend time for yourself. It is perfectly acceptable to rejuvenate for about a week after exams before you dive in to all the summer activities.

girl at the beach

What have you got planned for this summer? Let us know down below.

Until next time…

Ten (10) Highly Effective Study Habits for University Students

I am sure you know how tough it can be to concentrate on that assignment or chapter when it really matters, but can’t!  This is especially true for those units that we do not love but cannot skip.  In most of the Australian Universities, you can’t go to class without preparation, which means you have to do the readings, answer the homework questions and any other work that will contribute to participation marks. If you are not used to such study structures, it can be distressing, and procrastination could put you behind for the semester and lead to last-minute cramming.

I want to help you to make studying interesting, effortless and effective. The methods below helped me to concentrate and avoid procrastination, and I have seen the same had worked for others too.

Here we go…

How to get started?

1. What time of day works for you?

Before you dive in to any method, you need to figure out what are the times that work for you. I am an early bird, so I feel the most productive hours of the day for me are 7 am to 10 am. Whereas some are night owls, who works better during late nights. Once you know this, you can dedicate those hours for difficult units.

Are there any other specific things you require while you study? Study buddy? Jazz music in the background? Snacks? Stress ball? If so, great! Use it to your advantage.

2. Pick the right environment

We are very much affected by the environment and its energy. You need to pick an environment that make you comfortable and productive. For instance, natural lighting in a clean and clutter-free room is just right for me. International Students don’t have the luxury of their own space as most live in shared accommodation. Try to create or rearrange to make it suitable environment for you to study.  Alternatively, you can opt for other options like the University library, public libraries or outdoor spaces like parks, University lawn – whatever you prefer.

studying in the library

3. Create a realistic and effective study schedule

Before the week commences create a realistic study schedule. Unless it is the week of the study break, you will have to incorporate other work like assignments, homework, readings etc. The point of creating a schedule is that a. you have assigned slots based on the necessity b. you are not wasting precious brain power to think what and when to study rather start studying right away. An ideal schedule will break down every hour to make  most of the week. Time is precious.

I want to reiterate that you need to create a “realistic” schedule. Meaning you need to consider your priority for the week. International Students juggle four units and 20 hour work weeks, there is a chance your priorities may be jumbled. Ideally, study sessions must be broken in to 30 minutes with 5-10 minute breaks.

Consider the breaks to be your reward for studying effectively.

4. Remove distractions

Distractions could be anything that takes your focus away from the books. Most common distractions include people, pets, texting, scrolling on Facebook, notifications on your smart phone and Netflix. It is said that we need to separate our study area from our bedroom, whilst this is a great solution, it may not be so for International Students in shared accommodation.  However, keep your smart phone or any other distractions away from arms reach. If it means old school method of writing with pen on paper, do it. This is why it is important to schedule in 5 to 10 minute breaks after every 30 minutes of effective studying – to allow you to utilise the time for entertainment.

Here is a simple thing that distracted me just last week. I unsubscribed from Netflix couple of months ago knowing that it was consuming lot of my time without adding value. Last week, I got an e-mail notification from Netflix that season five of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, one of my favourites, was now available on Netflix! I tried so hard resist, but I gave in and binge watched the entire season whilst feeling extremely guilty.  Next month when I unsubscribe, I will definitely disable e-mail notifications.

Study Effectively for exams

How to study effectively?

In my opinion, effective studying means studying twice as much in half the time. There is no point spending 6 hours trying to gauge one chapter, rather spend an hour and have  a deeper understanding of the same chapter.

Want to know few other effective study habits? Keep reading…

5. Don’t study hard, study smart

Everything in your textbook are not coming for the exam. So use the crystal ball method. You need to pick and choose the important areas and focus solely on those sections. It is your lecturer who makes the exam questions, so to study effectively in University listen in class to what areas are being emphasised, refer to questions, lecture notes and finally think like the lecturer.

Best way to understand how well you comprehended what you learnt, you must try to teach someone else. If you don’t have anyone around, just pretend there is someone next to you and try explaining. Sounds weird? Not really, if it helps.

6. Revising what you learnt

Our brain does not store information for weeks. You will remember tomorrow, only 50% of what you learnt today. The day after you will remember 25% and in a week, you might remember only 10%. Factoring this in your schedule is vital. This means it is important to revise what you learnt today within a couple of days. In order to do this, the best and easiest method would be making short notes of what you studied within the day. This way, you only need to refer these notes on revision day – quick and effective.

student studying and stressing

7. Using visual cues

This might not work for everyone, but using visual cues are great way to remember facts and figures without making it too difficult. Our brain is able to grasp and store the information longer when depicted in visual form. Learning through webinars and YouTube are useful additions to classroom learning and are entertaining.  If there are any concepts that you are finding difficult to understand, try searching it in Khan Academy YouTube channel. Chances are you might find it. For me, and agreed by many students, his way of teaching is interesting and effective.

 8. Using acronyms

From using it on text to now even using in verbal communication and making it popular enough to be added to the dictionary, our generation is the generation of Acronyms. Why not we incorporate this to studies? Acronyms are highly useful for courses with a lot of concepts and theory. It is an effective way to remember a sea of information by simply remembering a combination of letters.

Shout out to my loving mother for me teaching me this method back in high school.

9. Make studying effortless

How tough is brushing your teeth? Not that hard, right? That is because it is a habit. Similarly our motivation to study must be effortless and make studying interesting. In order to achieve this, start small. Try studying for 10 minutes, increase it to 15 within next few days, then 20 and finally 30 minutes. This is definitely not a short-term tactic but something to develop overtime. You will eventually learn to concentrate on studying for long hours without any trouble.

Accomplishing other small and easy tasks on a daily basis, also contributes to motivation.

Try this. As soon as you get out of bed, make your bed. It is am easy task, but a task you accomplished, whilst making your room cleaner. A clean bed is the key to a calm mind.

Regardless, there will be days you lack motivation or feel burnt out, then don’t force yourself, take a break!

University student studying in library

10. Stay physically active and sleep 8 hours

As soon as exams creep in and schedules tighten, there are two activities we tend to drop right away: going to gym and proper sleep. Both are important to keep our mind stimulated during the stressful period of exams. They help with retaining information, releasing stress and relaxing your mind and body. Gym is not the only form of physical activity, you could do daily jogging or play a sport with a mate. In terms of sleep, it is always recommended to sleep during the night and wake early morning. However understandably, student life doesn’t always accommodate to proper schedules. So try to at least have 8 hours of sleep without distractions.

In the comment section, let me know if you use any of the above methods or what is your best study method?

Until next time…