Memorising Herbs

Wow, busy couple of weeks there! So far I’ve had two of four exams for Herbal Fundamentals. These exams aren’t huge (though the last one will be) but because- as in any good exam- we don’t know what the questions will be, there is an awful lot of stuff we have to memorise. He’s what got me through:

– Know the topics. My tutor had a list of herbs, broken down by weekly block, that would feature on the exam. She gave us this so we didn’t have to memorise every single herb (the 20+ she gave us were enough!). She also listed grouping we’d need to know, in this case actions like demulcent or constituents like mucilage. For these, we’d need to know definitions and applications as well as the list of herbs in the classification.
– Organise your Notes. Know what you need for each topic or subheading and lay it out. I made a spreadsheet for the herbs, listing the info I needed: Latin name, common name, actions, constituents, indications and parts used. I also broke down the other headings on paper.
– Know yourself. Are you a visual learner? I am, so I made flashcards by printing my excel sheets and played ‘memory’ with them. I also made bright, colourful lists, grouping my herbs any which way I could (body systems, constituents, actions etc). I have in the past also made voice memos to listen to and wall charts (great for things like chemistry). Get creative, and figure out what makes it stick for you.
– Clarify if you need to. I wasn’t sure if, for example, we needed to learn dosage. I could have risked it and ignored it, or tried to memorise it and cram unneeded info in. I emailed my lecturer and she was more than happy to tell me it wasn’t needed.
– Pick your time. If you are doing exams online, don’t do them when you’re tired, stressed out, in a hurry or unwell. If you don’t have that flexibility, try to take it easy the day before and plan your exam day so you aren’t rushing, or adding unnecessary stress.
– Open book? Plan for it! Open book exams sounds easy but they’re bloody hard! Organise your notes so you can find what you need in a BIG hurry. Use post-it’s to separate sections in notebooks or mark relevant parts of your textbooks and print out typed notes if that’s easier. Make lists (like ‘digestive herbs’ and ‘herbs with sapnonins’) and have them readily accessible.

My results? 100% for exam one and 93.3% for exam two. Hopefully using these tips again means the next couple go well too!

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