Cambridge University post grad students guide to acing exam season

As exam season gets underway, the pressure on students ramps up. Microsoft is helping support students, by showing how their technology can best support them and provide useful study tips from those that know best!

They have partnered with two Cambridge graduates Rosie Crawford and Mariana Quiroga Londoño, to create a set of useful tips to take students through this exam season and aid their progression, with productivity and mindfulness top of mind.

Rosie’s Tips and Tricks

Rosie is a 24-year-old Archaeological Science Researcher at the University of Cambridge, who is working full-time on an archaeological science research project, called REVERSEACTION. Rosie also studied at the University of Oxford achieving her Bachelor’s degree in Archaeology and Anthropology. The following tips are based on what works best for Rosie, after trialling various study techniques throughout her academic career.

  1. Move around: Changing up my study or work location regularly helps me to stay motivated and productive. For example, work from home first thing, a cafe in the afternoon, and the library in the evening. I’d recommend having a lightweight laptop for carrying around all day.
  2. Make a List of Three: Choose three key tasks from your to-do list that MUST get done that day. These should be those tedious tasks that take the most effort to get done. Once these ones are ticked off, you’ll find everything else much easier to complete.
  3. Prioritise your mental and physical wellbeing: Often, when you’re demotivated or procrastinating, it’s because you’re burnt out. When I notice I’m getting into a cycle of burnout and demotivation, I try to take a full day off & use my “List of Three” the opposite way, to do three things that make me happy, like seeing friends or going out for a coffee.
  4. Figure out when you work best: Complete your biggest, hardest chunk of work at the time of day you work best, and leave easier, smaller tasks for the remaining time. If you work best at night, I’d recommend reducing screen-time, or using Dark Mode and Night Light to protect your eyes and for better sleep hygiene.
  5. Speak and don’t delete: A hack I learned during my Masters, was to use the ‘Dictate’ feature of Microsoft Word when completing assignments and writing my dissertation. You can get ideas on paper without overthinking too much about perfecting each sentence. Give yourself a ‘no delete’ rule whilst writing, to speed up the process and target perfectionism.  

Mariana’s Tips and Tricks

Mariana Quiroga Londoño is a final-year PhD candidate in Stem Cell Biology & Haematology at the University of Cambridge, where she also completed her MPhil in Medical Science in 2020. Mariana is a first-generation graduate who earned her Bachelor’s degree in Bioinformatics at ESCI-Universidad Pompeu Fabra in 2019.

  1. Avoiding procrastination: Creating a designated workspace that is tidy, quiet, and free from distractions helps me stay focused and minimises the temptation to procrastinate. Before starting my study session, I always ask myself, ‘Do I have everything I need around me?’ to avoid unnecessary distractions. I remind myself to take breaks and maintain healthy fluid intake, as rest is essential for productivity and preventing burnout.
  2. Tracking progress: To control my progress and remind myself of my achievements, I maintain a ‘done’ list. This allows me to see how much I’ve accomplished in a day and avoid feeling unproductive. Which is why the ‘done’ list on Microsoft To Do is invaluable for recognising the full extent of my daily work.
  3. Allocate timeframes to tasks: I allocate specific timeframes for tasks and keep my phone out of reach to avoid distractions. If I don’t complete the task within the given time, that’s fine—the aim is to get as much done as possible within that time frame! 
  4. “Get in the mood”: romanticise your study time: From childhood, my mother encouraged me to ‘romanticise’ my study time by showering before (not after) working or studying, enjoying a warm drink, or visiting a library or café to ‘get in the study mood’. 
  5. Rewards after work: After completing my daily tasks while working from home, I reward myself as a way to stay motivated. This approach builds excitement for the completion of the tasks, knowing that a well-deserved treat awaits me afterwards! 

Microsoft’s Study Tips and Tricks

Being Productive:

  • Avoid feeling overwhelmed by your to-do list: Stay on top of your to-do list with Microsoft Viva, which gives you daily debriefs of tasks to be completed and reminds you of things you may have forgotten. It is a great tool to help you stay on top of your priorities.
  • See all your tasks at once: Use Snap Layout to see your to-do list at once, ensuring you stay on top of all your revision topics, and so that your list doesn’t seem too daunting.

Connection:

  • Stay connected: Keep in touch with your teachers and fellow classmates using Microsoft Teams, a quick and easy way to have a meeting, narrowing down all the fine details without leaving your home.
  • Ensure everybody is supported: If your classmate missed a revision session, include them with the help of Microsoft Teams where you can record sessions and ensure nobody is left behind.

Portability:

  • Your device on the go: Browse, work, play and learn anywhere and everywhere with your Surface on the go. From study sessions in the library to taking a break around campus, your Surface is optimised for note-taking, sketching and streaming your favourite games with Windows 11.

Power:

  • All day power: From classes to the library, Surface will be your reliable study partner and  support you throughout the day. You can perform your best with guaranteed all-day battery life up to 11 hours and fast charging for those last minute cramming sessions.

Creativity:

  • Create a study board to plan your revision days: Windows 11 offers multiple tools to help you manage and stay on top of your revision whether you’re on Whiteboard, a free-form intelligent canvas for real time ideation, creation, and collaboration, or using the Snipping Tool, you can be as creative as your mood takes you. Draw, type, or add images, stack things up and move them around. Choose your writing instrument, including a pen or highlighter. The options are endless!
  • DIY: Use creativity to create revision timetables you can put around the house, the car or even your desk at school using MS Paint and our Snipping Tool. A great way to stay on top of your revision and get your friends involved too, making revision more exciting and enjoyable! 

Balance and Focus:

  • Late night studying: Get the most out of late-night revision with the help of Dark Mode, which will help you focus after a long day, or pulling an all-nighter at the library. Dark mode reduces the brightness of the screen, making it easier to see your content while causing less strain on the eyes. When you launch a focus session, the app starts counting down with a shrinking circle showing how much time is left.

Windows 11 for Education:

  • Reimagined for a new era of digital learning, Windows 11 upgrade for education helps to unlock a student’s potential with powerful tools to learn, collaborate and create— all in a secure and trusted environment.

Tips for parents to help younger students: 

  • Keeping up with schoolwork: With the Surface Go 3 you can help your family tackle their assignments on screen. With the device’s kickstand, Surface Pen and Ink Editor in Microsoft Word, your child can get through their homework and learning in a more interactive way.
  • Learning tools available: Microsoft Learning Tools has more than 16 million monthly active users globally across Word, OneNote, Outlook, Microsoft Edge, and Office Lens, and is supported in more than 30 languages. With these, you can help improve your child’s reading and writing for all learners—regardless of age or ability—with proven techniques from Microsoft Learning Tools.
  • Encouraging learning from an early age: For a little one new to your device and where you have ultimate parental control, the Surface Go 3 can feature apps and games for supporting decision making and development, such as Baby
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