What is Swot Vac? 

Swot Vac stands for ‘Study Without Teaching Vacation.’ It’s the week between Week 12, the final week of classes for the semester, and the beginning of the exam period. Swot Vac is a small stretch of time for students to prepare for their exams without the added pressure of keeping up with classes and assignments.

Vacation means it’s a holiday, right?

Despite the name, Swot Vac is not a pre-exam holiday. It’s a chance to really focus on studying for exams once in-semester assessments are over. Not having classes to go to during Swot Vac means you have to work a bit differently to what you’re used to during semester to make the most of your study break and ensure you’re well prepared when you get to the exams.

Speaking of exams…

This semester exams will be run a bit differently to the way they’ve been conducted in the past. Exams will all be online.  They may be eExams that you will complete from home, and many will also be open-book. Or they may be take-home tasks that you upload to Moodle.  Preparing for these kinds of exams is a bit different to preparing for traditional closed-book exams held on campus. Research and Learning Online has plenty of advice on how to prepare for online and open-book exams, and there are some extra tips listed below.

1. Get to know your exam timetable

Make sure you know exactly when all your exams are happening. This will help you plan your study to give yourself enough time to prepare for everything you might need to cover ahead of the exam. It’ll also make it easier for you to block out the time you’ll need to keep free to actually complete each exam.

2. Plan your time

Make a study plan for each day of Swot Vac, and any free days you have between exams. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but laying out how much time you’re going to spend revising for each exam will help you make sure you’re not spending too much time on any one unit. You’ll probably want to prioritise the units you’re finding the most difficult, but you need to allow enough time to be properly prepared for your other exams too. If you’re doing units that don’t have exams, you’ll also need to factor in the time you’ll need to devote to finishing off your final assessments to meet their deadlines.

Studying in short bursts will be more effective than lengthy sessions without breaks. Most people can’t focus on a task for more than about half an hour at a time, so trying to study for longer will result in you getting distracted and not actually getting much done after the first 30 minutes. A useful tool for productive short sessions is the pomodoro technique. Put away your phone or other distractions and set a timer for 25 minutes. For that 25 minutes, just concentrate on studying. When the timer’s done, take a five minute break to do whatever you like, then leave the distractions again and go back for another 25 minutes of focused study. 

For more tips on managing your time while studying online, have a look at this post.

3. Organise your exam space

This semester all exams are online, so you’ll need to complete them at home on your own computer or laptop. This means you’ll need to find a space where you can work uninterrupted while sitting your exams. Ideally this would be a quiet room with a door you can shut to keep other people out, but if that’s not possible, have a think about the other options available to you. Don’t forget you’ll need to be connected to the internet to do online exams, so you may need to consider your options if the connection at home is poor or unreliable. 

And if you think your study space could use a tidy-up, Swot Vac’s a great time to take care of that too. Some online exams need to be completed in a space meeting certain requirements, so getting your space organised now will save you valuable time on exam day. 

If you live with other people, you might need to have a chat about what you all want to do while you’re doing exams, especially if you’re sharing study spaces. Swot Vac is a great time to do this, while you’ve got a bit of time to relax without the stress of looming assignment or exam deadlines.

4. Plan your resources for open-book exams

An open-book exam means you can have items such as notes or a textbook with you when you complete the exam. Before you get stuck into studying, think about the resources that will be most useful for you during the exam, and how you’ll set them out to be easy to use when you need them. Research and Learning Online has more information on preparing resources for open-book exams, and other advice about studying for and completing online exams.

5. Remember to take time to rest, relax and reward yourself too

Swot Vac is a time for study, but it’s also a break from classes. Remember to take some time out alongside your exam preparation. Spend an evening catching up with that show you’ve been missing, or take an afternoon off to catch up with your mates. You’ve got through twelve weeks of uni already, so it’s a good idea to reward yourself to help maintain motivation for the final stretch of exams.

6. Look after yourself

During Swot Vac you’ll be busy studying, but you need to remember to look after yourself too. That means doing all the usual things like eating well, staying hydrated, exercising – and getting enough sleep. It can be tempting to stay up late during exam time studying, but a good night’s sleep will help you feel more energised and study more effectively, setting you up for success on exam day. And looking after your physical health will also help you maintain a healthy headspace throughout the stressful exam period.

It’s normal to feel a bit stressed or nervous in the lead-up to exams, and you might be feeling more worried than usual in these uncertain times. But if those feelings are overwhelming you, or getting in the way of your ability to do your normal activities, it may help to talk to someone. The Monash University free counselling service is available 24/7 for all Monash students.

7. Get study help if you need it

If you need more help with preparing for exams or studying online, don’t forget to use the services available to you as a Monash student.

Swot Vac can be a good time to unwind, but if you make the most of the break you can set yourself up for a successful exam period. With the right preparation, you’ll ace even tricky online exams.


Olivia Thompson is a librarian at the Hargrave-Andrew Library and Maxine Cuskelly is the Library’s faculty team leader for Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Science.