Top revision tips: preparing for exams

To help students prepare for exams Educate has compiled some revision tips.

Exam season is fast approaching, and for many, January’s mocks will be a very real indicator of what to expect in the spring. Students up and down the country will be beginning to feel understandably nervous and wondering how best to prepare and revise for upcoming exams, be they mocks or the real thing in just a few months. So Educate asks what are the best revision tips for students?

After months and even years leading up to the exam period, getting the best preparation directly before the big day is crucial. This is where listening to advice from those that have been there before, as well as teachers and experts, could just prove to be the final piece of the exam-prep jigsaw. Annie, 18, from Southport suggests working with others to bounce ideas and questions off when studying can be a real help.

“I work best when I’m not alone. Having other students doing the same subjects as me to ask questions helps a lot,” Annie advised. “I don’t really make streams and streams of notes, I just read what I’ve got and think of possible exam questions that could be asked and then take it from there.”

Liv, 17, from the Wirral completed her GSCEs last summer. Her revision tips include being smart in the approach to revision as well as making sure any weaknesses are addressed.

“I make sure to ask questions after the lesson and then study those areas because that’s where I am weak and need the most improvement,” she said. “I also go over my notes each night having made as much as possible during the day’s lessons. That’s what works for me.”

Further to Liv’s revision tips, Maria, from Liverpool, also saw the benefits of repetition as well as good organisation to keep her well focused on each task at hand. “I made bullet points of each topic and then would have a folder with past exam questions and then work through those until I was confident,” she said.

“Then, once I’d done them all, I’d do past papers which I found really helpful.”

Tom, 19, from the Wirral recalls how he dealt with the inevitable pressures that can come with a fairly intense period for students. “During revision, I found it best not to stress too much,” said Tom. “What worked best for me was to record myself reading out essays and then do a low effort task to just allow the information to get in my memory in the background through repetition.”

“Performing such tasks as sewing patterns, drawing and walking my dog all worked well.”

Avoiding stress is a theme that runs through many of the revision tips and advice from former students, teachers and educational resources. For perspective on the scale of student anxiety during exams, the NSPCC dealt with 3,135 counselling sessions on exam stress in 2017/18 with just over a fifth of these taking place in May – peak exam season.

BBC Bitesize has provided several handy revision tips in this department including ensuring usual sleep patterns aren’t affected, maintaining a sensible diet and staying active.

“Get plenty of sleep,” the guide suggests. “Go to bed at the same time every night. You’ll be able to stay out late as much as you like when exams are over.”

Studies have shown that 27% of boys and 39% of girls skip breakfast some or all of the time. The so-called most important meal of the day is crucial for staying focused throughout the day and can even help with recalling information.

“Eat properly. Eating a balanced diet with plenty of vitamins will make you more alert and positive. Now, more than ever, your five-a-day is crucial.” “Keep moving. Exercise can train your brain, like a good diet, regular exercise will make you more alert and positive.” Times Higher Education magazine suggest that too much comparison with peers can also lead to increasing the burden on students and affecting exam preparation.

They say: “While it is helpful to discuss topics with fellow students and often to revise together, try not to compare other peoples’ revision to your own.”

“Chances are you’re doing just fine, and listening to other people talk about what they’ve learnt will only stress you out and may make you feel like you aren’t progressing as well as them.”

Of course, there are plenty more distractions for students today than even a decade ago. Perhaps the worst culprit for this is technology – particularly mobile phones. There is evidence to suggest that students who spend more time texting and using social media get lower grades. Bitesize suggest a complete switch off before bed.

“Don’t use your phone just before you go to sleep. To get the right kind of sleep, you need to clear your mind and wind down first.” For parents, as well as students, the exam period can be tough and it’s important that everyone plays their part to avoid any unnecessary stress, difficulties or arguments.

Exam experts Justin Craig Education suggest that parents stay realistic when it comes to helping their child as well as, of course, providing structure and support. “Encourage your child to outline their revision timetable in the form of the written plan. This will also give them the opportunity to take responsibility and learn to prioritise their work.”

“There are limits to how much work can effectively be done in a day. Relaxation and leisure activities are important for keeping students healthy and well-balanced.”

As well as being a source of much-needed stability in what can be a hectic time for students during exam time, parents should also be aware of respecting their child’s boundaries.

“Although we understand parents want their children to succeed, continual questioning about revision can sometimes be viewed as interfering and may have a negative effect,” Justin Craig Education added. As much as students, with the guidance of family, should be sure to protect themselves from burnout and stress, of course a high degree of dedication is still required. After all, a lot of hard work has already been put into studies and so it would be a shame for commitment to falter now. This is something that Head of Sixth Form at Millfield School, Neil Whiskerd, agrees with in his message to students.

“Dogged determination to cover all parts of the syllabus requires you to be diligent, conscientious and hard working,” says Neil. “It is difficult to accept that you are not on holiday but merely away from school during this vital time in your education, put the hours in during this short but intense period and the rewards are huge.”

Neil, who is in charge of overseeing the transition of students from GCSE to A-level and beyond, is also a big advocate of routine as well as being smarter with the way students approach each revision subject.

He says: “Ensure that your day is split up in equal proportions in order to satisfy each of your subjects and stick to your routine religiously.”

“Two hours after breakfast, two hours after lunch and two hours after supper. Aim for six hours a day and importantly tackle your weaknesses in the syllabus as much as reaffirming your strengths.”

Neil also warns against ‘passive’ revision wherein students risk putting the time in without, frustratingly, reaping the rewards.
“Make sure that you are active in the manner you test yourself,” Neil continues.

“Revision is not a passive process. Use a variety of strategies depending on whether you are a kinaesthetic (learning as a physical activity), written or oral learner.”

“Maybe revise with a buddy who shares your learning styles. The worst thing you can do is pretend that reading a book alone without dissecting its contents and making your own notes is actually actively revising.”


You may also like...