Revising for exams takes up more and more of your time as you go through school. Don’t let it overwhelm you; good planning will ensure that you’ve got plenty of time to do everything you need to do, and can use your time as productively as possible.
Your school will normally give you lots of help, especially for major public exams such as GCSEs, highers or A-levels. The main things you need to do are:
- Know exactly what is expected of you in the exams; you can find out the exam specifications online (make sure you know exactly which board and which exams you’re doing). And take time to read the examiners’ reports online – these are a very handy way of telling you what the examiners do and don’t want, and will help you avoid everyone else’s mistakes!
- Know when every element of the exam is happening (including eg oral or practical elements)
- Work out what you need to do in order to meet the exam specifications by the relevant date or dates
- Make a realistic timetable which:
– sets out all the specific tasks and topics you need to cover in order to meet the exam specifications
– varies the tasks and subjects so you’ll be more effective
– allows plenty of time for rest and relaxation
- Find the revision techniques which work for you
- Stick as far as you can to the revision timetable (but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t always manage – that simply means that you’re human).
You can set up a revision timetable online here or print off templates here – or just draw up your own, on your computer or on paper. This one, from teenage brain expert Nicola Morgan, specifically includes time for rest and relaxation!
- revise actively rather than just read through notes. Making your own revision cards or mind maps, going over past papers and test questions etc and reorganising the work into your own words will make sure you do know and understand it;
- use a variety of techniques to retain your interest – some written, some oral, some on your own, some with friends;
- don’t try to do too much in any one session
If you like watching YouTube, try Eve Bennett’s revision channel – lots of useful tips from someone who did GCSEs (very successfully!) in 2016, A-levels in 2018 and is currently studying at Oxford University. Eve also lists other recommended revision resources.
- You do need to devote quite a lot of time to revision if you want to do well, but don’t get hung up about the number of hours you do or don’t do – and don’t spend your time comparing your revision habits with your friends or with people online. Concentrate on making steady but actual progress in whatever way works best for you.
- It’s not the end of the world if you don’t manage to revise as much as you’d hoped. Don’t panic, just focus on doing useful stuff in the time you have left. Commercially published revision books or online revision resources such as BBC Bitesize will ensure that you’ve at least got the basic information for each topic.
- Exams are not the only thing that matters. Even if the worst really does come to the worst, and you perform badly, it doesn’t mean your life is over. You can retake, you can study in a different way or in a different environment which might work better for you, you can do more practical training or work which might suit you better. Don’t get overwhelmed by exam stress. We wrote a special blog post on managing exam stress in summer 2018 – with some extra tips to keep you calm and (relatively) happy!
The exam period often lasts for several weeks, so it’s very important to pace yourself. Don’t exhaust yourself in the first couple of days, and look after yourself as well as you can. Everyone has their own exam strategies, so do what works for you; but try to:
Cut down the things to worry about on exam days: take some time the night before to get everything ready, and double-check that you know exactly where and when you have to be waiting before each exam.
During the actual exams, make sure you:
- read the question and tailor your answer as closely as possible to the wording
- divide your time sensibly according to the marks available for each question
- use the correct specific technical words for key concepts
- don’t make silly errors (eg in maths calculations or language)
- try to answer every question (but don’t get bogged down in a particular question you don’t understand, especially if there aren’t many marks involved – write something and move on)
- ignore everyone around you (as far as possible)
It’s not normally a good idea to compare notes with your friends after exams, or to go over things in your own head. Concentrate on the next exam rather than the one you’ve just done.
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