Need revision advice? We asked our students...by Jenny Shippen
Looking for some top exam revision tips that actually work? We spoke to our students Ashley, Olivia, Giorgia and Leila to get their best revision advice.
1. Set a timetable
Everyone needs a different amount of time to feel ready for their exams. Consider how you learn and how much revision time you will need to set aside – you could base this on your mock exams.
It's always good to have a revision planner to organise your time, too; there are lots of free, online planners to get you started.
Next, you’ll need to make a realistic revision timetable; an unrealistic timetable would be back-to-back revision sessions with no breaks. A useful tip here is to be generous with time allocation, or even set short ‘catch-up’ periods at the end of the day or week, to make sure you stay on track.
"When I started my revision timetable, I would cram in as much as I could in one day, but this was not realistic, and things could go awry. Allow for mishaps and unforeseen events that can cause changes and slow down your plan." Giorgia (Zoology, BSc)
It’s a great idea to add your exams to your planner, as it’s easier to see them in a timetable rather than a daunting long list of dates. It also helps prioritise the order of subjects to revise. A top tip is to colour-code your subjects, so they’re easy to identify.
Check if your school is holding any revision classes and schedule those as well.
2. Prioritise difficult subjects first
We know a timetable is a game changer in terms of managing your time, but how do you prioritise revision subjects?
Exam dates can simplify the order of your subject revision, but so can ‘eating the frog’.
"Eating the frog" is all about doing the hardest task – that complicated, mind-boggling topic you just cannot seem to get your head around – first. Tackle this first and your revision can only be more productive; you will also have a feeling of real accomplishment and satisfaction.
"I needed to brush up on my maths to help with my chemistry A Level. I made sure I prioritised time to work on this." Giorgia (Zoology, BSc)
Prioritising the topics or subjects you may not feel strong in will ultimately help set your timetable and allow for the most effective use of time. You can also look at what needs to be covered in each topic, creating a checklist to make sure you don’t miss anything.
Your teachers are there to help you, too. So, if you are struggling on a certain topic, reach out to them. You could also buddy up with a friend to tutor you in the area that you are stuck on.
And remember, a timetable is not just about revision, it’s also about scheduling enjoyable, rewarding breaks.
3. Taking a break – the key to motivation
During your revision and exam period make sure you look after yourself. It can be tough trying to memorise lots of important facts, figures, theories and concepts and your motivation can slump.
Being prepared, breaking down revision tasks into chunks, and giving yourself time to rest, will help you develop long-term, consistent memory and skills for your exams.
Regular breaks and rewards are key to achieving a balance. You could:
- go outside for some exercise and fresh air; jog, walk, do some yoga – whatever you enjoy
- meet a friend, but try not to just talk about revision and exams
- watch TV
- play your favourite music
- treat yourself to a snack
Think about what you consider a treat, and make sure you have these planned throughout your day, they will help motivate you during your revision periods.
"I started off my revision so intensely that I was too stressed and could not learn as much. Being in a calmer and healthier mental state allowed me to be more productive." Leila (Film Practices, BA)
If you feel you need a break, you probably do. Don’t ignore this. We’ve all experienced a time when we really want to get a task done, but our focus just isn’t letting it happen. In these instances, step away from the work, and do something completely different to get a proper rest.
As your exams get closer, you might want to revise a bit more, but don’t burn out – it is a lot harder to revise efficiently when feeling overwhelmed and drained.
Breaks also mean fuelling your body! Ensure you are hydrating and eating well and try to consume more whole, non-processed, natural foods to avoid crashes in energy.
4. Revision styles
Try a few different ways of revising – from using mind maps to sticky notes, audio notes, diagrams and flashcards.
Once you feel confident in your topic, posting notes containing keywords, quotes, facts or equations on the objects you see a lot – such as your mirror or bedside table – will help keep what you’ve learned fresh in your mind.
"I found that what was on the sticky notes was in my long-term memory without me even being aware of it. This was super useful as it was an ongoing technique." Leila (Film Practices, BA)
Another revision tip is to condense your notes. Even the process of going over your notes and shortening them, helps you start to remember the most important information.
"Mind maps are a great way of condensing large chunks of information into shorter notes." Olivia, (Linguistics with Spanish).
5. Practice makes perfect!
Look at past papers. After condensing your knowledge, you can then put what you know into practice, while also getting used to the exam format. Past exam papers can be found on the websites of exam boards.
"At first, I would focus on specific questions, rather than whole exam papers because I knew the style of question I was weaker at. After I felt more confident, and it got closer to my exams, I started working through whole practice exam papers." Ashley (Linguistics, BA)
Don’t worry if you can’t stick to the timings at first, it’s more about learning the content and seeing what you may need to revisit. But as your exams get closer, timing yourself is strongly recommended.
So, that’s our top five revision tips from our students; we really hope you find them helpful. Our final piece of advice is to believe in yourself and remember that exams only measure one small part of you. You’ve got this!
Published By Jenny Shippen on 11/05/2022 | Last Updated 30/11/2023