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Study tips for veterinary (and all other) students...

Posted in 1. Mental health resources @ Oct 19th 2016 - By Dr Cathy Warburton, Make Headway
Study Tips For Veterinary Students V2

Studying? It's that time of the year.....

I've noticed lots of posts on social media with the hashtags #vetstudent #nosleep #sacrifice #examtime so I thought I'd ask Dr Cathy Warburton, Coach and well-being consultant/educator from Make Headway for some tips to help with studying and exams. These tips are not just for veterinary students though - feel free to share them with any student currently preparing for exams.

Tips for studying

Tip 1: It's about what you retain, not how long you sit at your desk

Being effective at study is about what you retain not how long you stay at your desk – task management not time management. Try the Pomodoro technique where you spend 25 minutes totally focused on a task with no distractions followed by taking a 5 minute break. In this time, don’t just read your notes, actively engage with them – ask yourself questions, answer your own questions in writing etc. Controlling your distractions means turning off the automatic notifications on your computer and putting your phone on silent or better still, in the next room.

Tip 2: Make your breaks effective

In the 5 minute break, do something that gives your brain a rest – maybe 5 minutes out in nature, doing some exercise, a quick chat with a friend or make a cup of tea/have a healthy snack. The sorts of evidence-based things that are on my CLING poster can boost your positivity and brain power. Every couple of hours, have a longer break, maybe half an hour. Again do CLING activities. These will nourish your body and brain and give you the fuel to keep going. Sitting in front of the TV or checking your facebook is unlikely to help your brain – unless you find a really funny clip which makes you laugh out loud.

Tips 3: Sleep is essential

Don’t compromise on sleep. We need 6-7 hours of sleep per night to file away the things we have learnt that day. We have more REM in the later hours of sleep and this is when the brain plays and makes connections between information filed in different areas. These new connections can be very helpful in an exam setting.

Tip 4: Brain can't take any more? Stop!

If your brain is refusing to take anything more in – stop! Go and have nap – 25 minutes helps to clear your working memory and when you wake up you will have more energy and focus and be ready to go again.

On exam day

Tip 1: Give your brain every chance to perform well

  • Choose sleep over cramming the night before an exam
  • Eat healthy, low GI food to stabilize your blood sugar and supply your brain with glucose.
  • Consciously take a few deep breaths if you feel your breath getting short (adrenaline does that). Your brain needs oxygen.

Tip 2: Stress isn't all bad

Stress activates the fight and flight response with the associated sweating, pounding heart etc. See this for what it is – a helpful strategy designed to marshal your powers and energy to face the challenge ahead.

Use your stress as a force for good. You can do it! Good luck.


About Cathy

Cathy is a coach and well-being consultant/educator with Make Headway.  Prior to this, she worked as a veterinarian, trainer and manager in private, university and corporate practices for 25 years.  Please visit her site at to make an enquiry about coaching or to find out more.


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