This point will be quite obvious but a crucial one at the same time.
The exams are getting closer and closer so most of us turn their focus on what’s between now and them. And rightly so. However, they will pass (and will be passed, hopefully :-)) as fast as they came so it is not going to hurt if we already spend some time thinking about the year after, with new units and, well, new exams ahead of us.
No matter how many units you intend to take next year, start as soon as possible, even before October. We have access to the VLE so it is possible for us to download first chapters of most of the study guides. They are enough to start getting accustomed to subjects they cover and to assess the overall difficulty of new material they contain.
Starting earlier in the academic year has many advantages, with no disadvantages I can think of and three of them are of higher importance than the others, at least in my opinion:
1. By taking more time we can plan further study with less uncertainty. Let’s be honest, we do not know how much time a unit requires before we actually try it. We all have different strong and weak spots and for some of us advanced statistics will prove easy and enjoyable but for others the same will be true with less mathematical subjects. By knowing the beast we are going to fight with, we improve our odds for the time when the actual fight begins.
2. Apart from the internal limitations that we have to take into account, there are external factors that can make studying harder or even impossible for some time. Family crises, accidents, natural disasters, unexpected (positive!) turns in our professional careers – they all mess with the pacing of our preparations for upcoming exams. Sometimes it is just impossible to stick with the plan. We can remove some of the risk by studying more earlier. Don’t give your life any chance to make it harder for you to actually complete a unit. Learn as much as possible before some unexpected and demanding event occurs.
3. The total amount of time we spend on a unit is one thing but the distribution of this time is a completely different issue. Two months with forty hours a week are not the same as four months with twenty. There are problems that require time for our minds to digest them. We have to struggle with them, move away for some period just to go back to them later. These cannot be solved just by piling up hours in one long block spent on studying. Apparently, such problems are also the most crucial ones for broader understanding of most units. They also give the greatest joy when we finally get over them. Respect these problems. Chew them, feel their taste, treat them with proper care. Give them space in your minds. This is done best by spreading the overall study schedule as much as possible.
There are more points for early start that I could make but the ones I have mentioned are the strongest ones. If you have any comments on the above, I would be glad to read and respond to them.
Good luck with your preparations, mine are becoming more and more frantic!