Exams are stressful, and that is no secret. Especially when you’re not sure how to revise! So we have scoured the web and our knowledge to come up with a list of top tips for exam revision to help you through the next few months!
1. Get a copy of your syllabus
If you’re doing a course that has been around a while, this will be relatively easy. For A-Levels and GCSEs, these are usually readily available on the internet. For university courses, these will often be in your course or module handbook. It may be less comprehensive than lower level syllabuses, but that will usually depend on your course.
Getting a copy of your syllabus gives you a detailed list that you can use to check you’ve gone over everything you need, and will also help you find any gaps in your knowledge that you need to focus on. A lot of the time we don’t realise we have gaps in our knowledge because we don’t know that we’re supposed to have learnt it.
2. Make a revision timetable
This seems simple, and everyone says it. But we don’t mean just any revision timetable, we mean one that is realistic, covers everything and doesn’t lead to you burning out. The best way to start making a timetable is to find out how many topics you have to study and divide the number of days you have until the exam. If you have multiple modules, then do this for each module or course, and combine them all at the end.
Make sure, when making your timetable, to include refresher sessions. That way the topics you learnt at the start won’t have disappeared from your memory by the time the exam comes around. Also, be sure to test yourself when you think you’ve finished each topic, that way you’ll know if it’s time to move on.
3. Develop a routine
Once you know what you need to do and when you’re going to do it, develop a routine. IF you work Monday mornings, Wednesday evenings and Saturday all day plan your revision around that so that for as long as you need it to, it becomes a habit. If you want to start working from 9 am every day, make sure you go to bed at a decent time so that you won’t feel groggy and tired as soon as you get up.
If you shape your life around your revision, you’re much more likely to get more done than you would if you fit in revision around your life.
4. Reward and look after yourself
There is a reason that we give pets treats when they learn things – and as weird as that sounds, do it for yourself too. For every topic you learn, or for every day that you stick to the timetable, reward yourself. Whether that’s with an episode of your fave show, or a chocolate bar, or even a glass of wine.
Likewise, your brain is not going to collaborate if it is overworked, underfed and dehydrated. So whilst a lot of us get the temptation to work until 2 or 3 am – don’t. And get in your 3 meals, and drink plenty of water. Students tend to make our bad revision coping mechanisms trendy, but staying up until 4 am, drinking 4 red bulls a day and only eating avocado toast or pot noodles is not going to help you pass that exam.
5. Practice on old exam papers
If you’re worried about not being able to do the exam, even after revising, then practising on old exam papers is a great way to practice exam techniques. Plus, if you do it in exam conditions, you can train your brain to not freak out and forget everything the second the exam timer starts.
6. Pace yourself
Don’t try and read 3 textbooks worth of content in one day. It just won’t work. You know it, we know it, so don’t do it. Pacing yourself allows the information to sink in more, and not just leave your brain the second you read it. Plus, if you pace yourself you can work in more of a Pomodoro fashion, which is proven to help retain knowledge.
Exercise can help relax us, and it also improves brainpower. Plus, it’s a good way to distract yourself. So break up your revision with a walk to the shop or a jog around the blog. Or maybe even start your day with some exercise. It doesn’t have to be running, of course, you could always do some stretches or even have a game of Just Dance. Just get your body moving!
8. Shrink your notes
When you’ve got a whole notepad or folder full of notes, remembering everything seems impossible. But if you go through them with a fine-tooth comb and scrap anything unnecessary, you’re going to make it easier. Our suggestion is to get rid of anything that isn’t going to be on the exam, like anything your teacher may have said on a tangent, for example.
Then go through and take out any words you don’t need. If you have “2 plus 2 is not the same as 2 squared” written down, then get rid of “plus” and swap it for the sign, and the same with “is not the same as” and “squared”. That way, suddenly it’s a lot smaller and easier to digest. Keep doing this and turning things into acronyms, diagrams, anything that will help, until you can fit the work onto notecards.
9. Say keywords in a weird voice
Read through your notes, whether that’s before, after or during shrinking them. Whilst reading, whenever you get to a keyword or phrase, say it in a funny accent or voice. This basically works like highlighting, but because you’re making yourself, and potentially your study buddy, laugh, you are likely to remember the word or phrase.
Fun tip: the same works with locking doors etc. If you are always worrying about leaving the oven on, locking the front door, or something similar – then make a weird noise every time you do it. You will remember making a weird noise, and thus remember that you did the thing.
10. Pick study buddies carefully
Good friends are not always good study buddies. If you and your best mate chat constantly and are always showing each other memes, then maybe studying with them is not the best idea. Alternatively, find someone on your course that you get on well with, and work with them. That way not only are you less distracted, but you can help fill in each other’s gaps too!
11. Post its
Litter your whole house or flat with post-its. Put them everywhere you go regularly. Toilet door? Oh nice, now it has a chemistry equation on it. Oat milk? The dates of all the WWII battles. If you have tidbits of info you need to remember that just is not going in, subliminally message yourself by placing the info EVERYWHERE.
12. Turn your notes to songs and poetry
If you’re creatively inclined, turning your notes into something more fun may well be a great way to get them to stick in your brain. In the process, you force yourself to think about the notes and key information for a while whilst forming the song or poem, and then afterwards, you can memorise the finished product.
13. Get hold of the examiner’s reports
If you don’t know what these are, they are basically the Bible for exams. Examiner reports tell you everything you need to know about exam techniques, and where people tend to slip up. A lot of people doing exams often make the same mistakes, and by reading the examiner’s reports, you can make sure you don’t fall into the same traps they have!
If you follow these tips, you’re bound to be less stressed, and that leads to better results. May the odds be ever in your favour!