By Alison Home, on 16 May 2013
It’s finally summer in London but students everywhere are focusing on their studies rather than the sun. If you are taking exams this summer, make sure you read our top tips for revision so that you can keep calm – and get an A*!
- It might be a bit late for this now, but you should revise each topic as you study it. When you finish a subject, create a 2-3 page summary with all the key points that you need to remember. If you missed any topics or don’t understand something, ask a teacher or a friend to explain it for you.
- Make a revision timetable. Work out how long you have until your exams and split your time between topics. Allow more time for subjects that you find difficult, but don’t forget to revise the subjects that you find easier as well. If you have lots of exams grouped together, you will need to do most of the revision in advance and refresh your knowledge before each exam.
- Make sure you understand the format of your exams. Are they essays, problem-based questions, or multiple choice? Is there an oral exam (e.g. for a language) or a practical exam (e.g. for art or drama)? Can you pick several topics to focus on, or do you need to revise the whole course?
- To begin, go through your notes and think about your strongest and weakest areas in the topic. Look at past and mock exam papers, and think about which areas you might already be able to answer questions about.
- Spend most of your time revising the subjects and topics that you find the most difficult. If there are gaps in your work, consult your textbook, ask a friend or teacher, and do some research in a library or online.
- Create a new set of notes, which become more focused as you go along. Start with writing out everything you need to know about a topic, and gradually cut your notes down to the most important topics and keywords. Start with a few sheets of paper, then one side of A4, then A5, then a postcard and finally a post-it note! This helps you to actually remember the information rather than relying on your notes.
- There are lots of different ways to revise – experiment! Try writing essay plans for questions from past papers; setting yourself mock exams; making timed mind maps on a subject; making up songs, rhymes and mnemonics to remember key facts and concepts; writing colour-coded lists of information you need to remember; making note cards that you carry around and use to quickly test yourself when you’re out and about; making a recording of you reading out your notes.
- Take lots of short breaks – or your brain and your eyes will get too tired to work effectively. Turn off your phone and the internet when you are working – you can only take your breaks if you have been revising solidly.
- It’s natural to be stressed, but stay positive! Eat sensibly and make sure you drink plenty of water – avoid junk food and sugary, caffeinated drinks. Take regular breaks where you move away from your computer screen – play sport, go for a walk, or even just turn up the music and dance around your room! Get plenty of sleep, especially the night before the exam.
- Make sure you know all the important details in advance of your exam. Where is your exam taking place, and what time does it start? Make sure you have all the right equipment, including at least one spare pen. You might need to take specific items into certain exams – do you need pencils, a compass or protractor, or a calculator for maths, or the set texts for English? Do you need a bottle of water, tissues or throat sweets, or a watch to time your answers?
- Make sure to read the instructions on the paper. How many questions do you need to answer? Do you have to cover a specific number of topics? Look at the possible marks for each question – make sure you spend the longest time on the questions with the highest possible marks.
- Stick to what you know. Now is not the time to experiment! Don’t answer questions if you only know about half the topic. It can be good to choose all of the questions that you will answer at the beginning so that you are prepared.
- Make sure you answer the right number of essay questions – it’s no use doing two great essays if you run out of time to write a third.
- If you are answering a problem-based paper, quickly move on if you don’t know the answer to a question – don’t waste time and get stressed. When you have finished, work back through the questions that you didn’t know the first time. Have a go at every question – you might get some marks for your working, or using the correct units, even if the answer is completely wrong!
- Answer the question you are asked, not the question you revised – always make sure that you are doing exactly what you are asked.
- PLAN your essays. Make sure that you have a strong introduction with a clear thesis statement (‘This essay will argue that…’), which is repeated in your conclusion.
- SHOW your working – you can get marks even if your final answer is incorrect. Make sure that you write the units and check you have given your answer to the right number of decimal places.
- CHECK your paper at the end – make sure that you have written neatly (you won’t get marks if the examiner can’t read it!), that you haven’t made any silly mistakes and that you haven’t missed any questions by accident.
After the exam:
- Don’t dwell on your answers or talk about the exam paper with your friends – it will only make you anxious.
- Try to take some time to relax before you start revising for your next exam – even if it’s just one afternoon off.
- Focus on the next exam, and think about how you might improve your exam technique – did you run out of time, do you need more practice answering essay questions, did you forget your extra pen?
- Have a quick look at your revision plan. Do you need to adjust it?
- Stay positive! Once you have sat the exam, there is nothing you can do the change how it went. Concentrate on moving on to the next challenge.
This blog post was written by Charlotte Lydia Riley.