The ultimate revision guide: how to prepare for an examSee All Articles
Learning how to prepare for an exam only comes with practice, and sometimes it is a skill that is tough to master. We have the best advice for students who find it hard to revise, or are unsure where to begin amongst the pile of class notes and some last minute exam preparation tips!
One of the best tips for students is to not leave all of the studying until the last minute. Although some individuals thrive on last-minute cramming of information, it isn’t for the rest of us. It also isn’t the best way to approach an exam as in most cases the information won’t stick in the mind for long, and puts a lot of pressure and stress on the person! Write down all of your exams from your timetable and the days that you have them, then organise your studying around this timetable. Some subjects need extra care if you find they are more difficult than others, or because they are much earlier, whilst others you need to work on a certain topic because you can’t just seem to get it.
Organise your study space/room
Ensure that you have enough space to spread your notes, textbooks and refreshments out around you. Is there enough light in the room? Are you comfortable? And are all distractions out of arms reach? These questions can affect your studying habits and revision success if ignored. For some students, they prefer to revise in complete silence, whilst others prefer background music. Certain individuals want a completely organised and tidy space to concentrate, and others are fine in a cluttered and ‘messy’ environment. If you keep this study space the way you like it – for example, if you like it tidy, then don’t allow it to get messy again! – You are more likely to sit down and revise, instead of spending time to get the space ‘just right’ again and again.
Don’t fail to plan
One of the things that most students do to jeopardise their exam success is to not prepare fully for their exams! It isn’t just about the revision process, but it is also about the time when you start your revision – one week before the exam isn’t going to get you very far. Also, some exams require students to have a list of items that they’ll need to bring, such as, student ID, certain colour pens and pencils, a transparent pencil case, and in certain exams, a scientific calculator. Get these items as soon as you find out about them and put them in a handy and safe place.
The College/Sixth Form website
The majority of colleges and sixth forms will have online learning platforms or website where students are able to access information outside and during regular contact hours. These websites, depending on the institution, will contain lecture slides, past papers, example exam questions and secondary sources as well as information that will improve your revision ten-fold!
Understanding exam techniques
Exam techniques is, on a basic level, how you perform in an exam and something small can make a different between a good grade and a bad grade. During the exam, it is extremely important to read the questions, carefully to guarantee that you comprehend all of the information that the question is asking, and what the examiner is looking for. Another mistake that occurs, is to misread the instructions, whether it states to answer ‘one question from section A and two questions from B’ or ‘to persuade, argue, or inform’. Marks can be lost for simply not reading the question and following the instructions correctly. Lastly, time-management is a vital part of passing exams. If the exam is three hours long and there are three questions to answer, then students should attempt to spend only one hour on each question.
Look after you
The quality of your self-health can affect your revision and exams if you don’t look after you! It doesn’t benefit anyone if you stress yourself out too much, or spend all night studying. The brain’s ability to retain information has been proven to decrease if individuals are feeling tired or stressed, therefore, make sure you try and sleep well, drink plenty of water, and have decent foods for meals.
Diagrams are your best friends
Visual aids are useful for some individuals, so play around with flow charts, diagrams and colours to see how helpful they are to your revision. Challenge yourself to write down everything you know about the topic at the start, highlight where the gaps lie and focus on these areas. Then go back and do this process again once a week and you should start to see progress in your revision. Also, repetitiveness is part of successful revision! It doesn’t mean that you should read over the same sentence 100 times and then BAM you remember it perfectly, but slow, gradual and repetitive revision will stick in your mind long term – this process won’t work one week before the exam!
Go back to the past
Practising old exams and past papers is one of the most effect ways to prepare for exams, as it aids students to get used to the format of the questions as well as feeling comfortable in exam conditions. Students can fill out these past papers under exam conditions at home and ask a relative or a friend to mark them, and then see how well they did. This method will improve time-management – which can be really tough to gage during a test – and highlight any areas that you need more revision.
Talk, talk, talk
Talking things out loud sound differently to how they do in your head. Use your family and friends to your advantage by explaining an answer to an exam question to them. Hearing yourself talk physically about the topic will allow your brain to work through the answer in a different way – whereas before you were just writing it down. It will help to get the information nice and clear in your head, and show any pieces of information you missed. It is also great practice of answering in an ‘exam format’, as most exam questions require you to explain in depth, or to answer it in a scenario where the examiner doesn’t understand the topic (remember when your teachers told you to answer it as if it were an alien?) Your friends and family might not have studied that topic, and actually not understand all of the jargon and terms you are discussing, so explaining it to them in the simplest forms is good practice.
Last-minute revision tips for exams
- Remember to take regular breaks – studying for long periods of time can be counter-productive and have more of a negative impact than a positive one. Long-term retention of knowledge, and taking regular breaks is more successful.
- Eat for your brain – junk food, snacks, and lots of processed food and sugar isn’t good for your brain and your body, and especially during exam season. Eat nutritious foods that have been proven to aid memory and concentration, such as, nuts, seeds, fruit and fish as snacks.
- Plan for the exam day – get everything prepared the night before the exam and don’t leave it to the morning to rush around and realise you don’t know where your exam is, what time it is or the items you need to bring with you. Plan everything the previous night, and get enough sleep.
- Drink like a fish – of course we are talking about water here! Lots of water will keep your mind and body hydrated, which will allow your brain to work at its very best! Ensure you keep drinking plenty of water throughout the revision, and on the exam day. The best way to consume water is to drink it slowly, throughout the entire day. Don’t drink a litre of water then not touch a drop for 4 hours! Don’t drink too much – especially if you don’t feel like it, or you’ll need to visit the bathroom constantly, and you can’t do that during the exam!
- Don’t panic! – The most important piece of advice we can offer is to not panic and to relax. Panicking and allowing yourself to get stressed and pressured by exam season will only harm your health, mental well-being and sleep patterns – which will in turn really affect your revision and exam techniques! At the end of the day, it is just an exam, and if you put the work in advance, you’ll do great!
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