Exams and Revision

How to prepare for exams

As Benjamin Franklin famously said, “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”. We’re not sure if he was talking about his exams, but it’s definitely good advice for any student. Proper preparation for your exams is the key to success. But with the amount of testing the average student today goes through, it can start to feel like you spend more time revising than learning. Here’s our guide to smart exam preparation to take the pain out of revising, and get you the result you deserve.

Start early: Your exams won’t just focus on what you learnt last week. They test you on a whole year’s worth of study, so sometimes you can be asked a question in May on a topic that you covered in September. Instead of trying to cram all that knowledge into your revision session right before the exam, why not review what you’ve learnt more regularly? Doing a short review of what you’ve learnt every few weeks means that your revision is spread out throughout the year. It’s a little bit of time out of your day that will save you hours of cramming when exam time comes around.

Early exam preparation

Make a plan: When you’re facing the prospect of an important exam, it’s tempting to just open your textbook and get revising. Stop. You need to make a plan. Write a list of what you need to revise. Once you’ve made your list, break down each topic into smaller sub topics, and make a note of which textbooks and resources you need to look at to refresh your knowledge. Looking at your revision in bite size chunks is a lot less daunting. You can then assign an amount of time that you want to spend on each of your sub topics, whether it’s 5 minutes or an hour. That way you’ll know how much time you need to devote to your revision. This time management technique will put a stop to the revision all-nighter.

Use memory techniques: There’s lots of different ways to make facts more memorable. If you’re the kind of person who is great at remembering song lyrics, why not turn your most-hard-to-remember dates, names or formulae into a rhyme? Perhaps you’re a more visual learner? Why not create spider diagrams and flow charts to present the information you have to learn in a more memorable way.

Learning techniques

Ask for help: Some topics just don’t seem to click, no matter how hard you try. The classroom isn’t always the best place to tackle these difficult subjects. Your teacher is often working with multiple students and not always able to give you individual attention. A private tutor is a great way to get some one-to-one learning. Online tuition isn’t as expensive as you might think, and it more than pays off when it time to sit down in front of that exam paper.

Get a study buddy: A problem shared is a problem halved. Working with someone else is a great way to revise. It gives you a break from sitting in your room by yourself, staring at a wall of text. A study partner can also offer insights into a topic that you might not have thought of. Set each other tests, and make sure you keep each other motivated. When you’re starting to get tired of revising, having someone else there to cheer you on can prove invaluable.

Learning group

Test yourself: Making yourself mini tests is a great way to revise. Use cards or post it notes to write your own test questions and then put the answer on the back. Then shuffle the cards and pull out your questions at random. This is a great way to test your knowledge at home. Another great way to test yourself is to answer sample questions and give yourself a time limit – the same way you would in an exam. Getting used to working this way teaches you how best to manage your time in the exam room, and also makes working against a ticking clock seem much more natural.

Reward yourself: Revising is hard work. You deserve a reward; you earned it. Also, studies show that incentivising learning helps information stick. So whether it’s a square of chocolate or half an hour on the Xbox, that little treat helps all the work you’ve just done to stick.

Relax: This is the most important one. Nerves can get in the way of you doing your best when that all important paper is put in front of you. Take some time away from studying to see your friends and get some exercise.  As long as you’ve revised hard and smart, you’ve got this.

You might also enjoy: ‘How to keep motivated’

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