Exams are an unavoidable part of school life and beyond. With the right prep, you can minimise the stress and reach your full potential. To help you on your way to exam success, we’ve outlined some great advice (if we do say so ourselves) on how to ace revision.
The first stage of your revision should ideally start months before your exams. This will give you plenty of time to understand the course content. If your exams are in May or June, aim to have all your notes written before the Easter holidays, giving you the chance to really absorb it all before your exams.
Below, we’ve outlined some general tips for effective revising. These aren’t specific revision techniques; you can find those in our other guides (we've linked to them below). Instead, this is a guide to help you structure the whole revision process.
Find your method
There are many different ways to revise a topic or subject. Some are better suited to certain subject areas, and some are better suited to particular learning styles. We’ve written guides on four popular revision techniques that work, so use them to figure out which methods work best for you:
Plan your time
Time management plays a key role in acing your exams. Not only do you need to know when you have tests, but you also need to understand how long you have to plan and revise for them. Making a calendar that runs up to your final exam can help with this, as can a list of everything you need to do before you take your exams. For example, you might decide that you want to practice with past papers, create flashcards, and draw a mind map for each topic. Once you have this list, you can plan out what you need to do each day.
From this list, try revising in small chunks. Most people have an attention span of 20-25 minutes, meaning that pushing ourselves to work beyond this period leads us to start switching off, even if we feel as though we’re still working. Try to work in small bursts, and take short breaks in between.
Choose the right space
Your work environment should help you focus and work productively. If you’re lying down or sat back in a comfy chair, your mind is telling you to switch off, relax and go to sleep. Many students choose to study in their bedroom, where they have their own comfortable space, but there are usually tons of distractions in an environment like that.
If possible, find a space that’s quiet and free from distraction. Libraries are often great places to study, and even choosing a different room in the house can help. Try and leave your phone in another room, and stay away from the TV during and in-between study sessions - you’ll be far more productive. Apps such as Freedom, Forest and StayFocused will let you block websites/apps that you know are distracting you for as long as you like.
It can sometimes be hard to muster enthusiasm for revision. This lack of motivation can take many forms. You can feel overwhelmed, find yourself procrastinating, dislike the work, feel you have no reason to study or get distracted by social media.
To stay motivated, there are a few things you can do:
- Write down your goals. Give yourself some small and achievable targets that will eventually mount up. Perhaps you got 65% on your most recent exam. So aim for 68% next time. Then 71% after that.
- Create a to-do list. Break your work down into small and manageable chunks. This gives you a clear idea of what you need to do, and means you get a boost each time you tick one off.
- Practice mindfulness. If it’s all getting a bit much, the practice of mindfulness can help calm your mind and improve your focus.
- Study with others. To break up the monotony of studying alone, team up with your friends to tackle particularly difficult topics. Your collective brains can work together - and teaching someone else can be a great way to test your subject knowledge.