Hello friends! Todays post is going to be all about exam revision and is mainly aimed at A-level students but these tips can be applied to GCSE’s or even university exams too!
I get a lot of people asking me how I was so productive and how I kept myself going through exam season in year 13, when I was revising crazy amounts and was still so full of energy/had time for everything else in my life. I was going to post this back then but I decided against it, it was too late to start what I’m about to say halfway through exam season, plus I was super busy trying to revise myself then. I’m no expert in education so don’t take what I say to be 100% correct. I’m just going to put up whatever I was advised to do and worked for me but different things suit different people so keep that in mind whilst reading. I’ve decided to just put up a list of things and you guys can take from it what you want.
1) So, first things first, take care of your body! This is a point I cannot stress enough. It is key to being happy and being more productive but is often overlooked and dismissed as not being important.
- Exercise on a daily. Exercising before/ between revision helps stimulate your brain and you’re more likely to have a more productive revision session if your brains ‘awake’ (obviously.) Even if it’s something like jogging on the spot for a few minutes. Just anything really.
- Eating healthy is also crucial, what you put into your body has an impact on your brain too, it makes you feel better and gives your brain the ‘quality fuel’ it needs to be super productive, plus eating clean makes your skin feel awesome and who doesn’t want nice skin? But just to throw in a few facts, a ‘2012 study published by Population Health Management found that eating an unhealthy diet puts you at a 66% increased risk of productivity loss.’
- Sleepppp. Sleep is so important. Fix your sleeping routine as soon as you can. Between 7-9 hours is okay, go to 6 if you have to but your brain needs to rest. There is no way you can be super productive for weeks without giving your body time to relax and process whatever information you’ve thrown at it that day.
My best friend and I did a 30-day challenge around March time. It was sort of like a detox/exercise challenge and it worked so well for us. We ate clean, swapped coffees and fizzy drinks for water and herbal teas. Exercised everyday and were super productive. Plus they’re good ways of managing stress. Exams and school in general can be quite stressful, use it positively and find something which helps calm you down. (I’m writing this now after a month or two of having done none of that realising I really need to fix up and bring my productivity levels back up)
Basically, be nice to your body and it’ll help you do better at life.
2) When it comes to your actual lessons, ask your teachers beforehand what topic they’ll be teaching you next lesson. Then before the lesson, go over the topic in your textbooks so you understand what’s going on more. My school, as bad as it was, actually made us do this as homework for each lesson and I’ll admit that it did help a lot. Reading over a chapter and trying to self teach yourself it, then going into your lesson with questions to ask will improve your understanding of the topic.
3) My dad has always told me that every evening I should review the content I have learnt that day. Look it up in my textbooks and go over what I learnt earlier on to consolidate my learning. Then at the end of the week, go over whatever I’ve learnt in that week. It’s long and is effort but it really does work.
4) Don’t be afraid to ask questions. I was also the loud kid who asks/answers most the questions in class so I’ve never really been one to shy away from questions but I know people struggle with this. If you don’t get something then ask your teacher for help or send them an email after class or anything. Your teachers are there to teach you and explain things, asking questions helps so much because at the end of the day, that question could help you in your exam and affect your understanding of a whole topic and not asking if you don’t understand something because you’re ashamed or afraid or shy or whatever really isn’t worth it. Ask questions; make sure you understand whatever you’ve been taught. If you can’t bring yourself to ask during the class then email your teacher afterwards. There aren’t actually ‘stupid questions’ chances are someone else is thinking the same but is too shy to ask. Just ask your teachers; it’s their job to teach you, they literally get paid for it.
5) SMART targets are basically what have gotten me though hundreds of hours of revision this past exam season (that’s not an exaggeration by the way). For each revision session, set yourself a target which is S – specific, M – measurable, A – achievable, R – realistic and T – timed. Write them down on a post it note every morning and tick them off throughout the day. Seeing it there is motivating and crossing things off one by one is quite satisfying and rewarding. What I did was have the titles of whatever I needed to get done that day on my post it note and then send my list of SMART targets to my best friend and update her whenever I completed a task.
6) When you’re learning content, break each revision session into content/questions/review. For example, I spent 20 minutes doing content revision, 30 minutes on exam questions and 10 minutes afterwards to go over what I’ve revised and mark the questions I’ve done.
7) You need to know what way of revision suits you best. Take the learning test, here’s the link: http://www.educationplanner.org/students/self-assessments/learning-styles-quiz.shtml. If you’re a visual, try associating colours to topics and answers, if you’re an auditory then notes won’t help you much, try saying the content out loud and teaching it and if you’re a mix, try videos. There are so many ways to learn the actual content; I do a range of things. So I make flashcards if its key points I need to know, notes don’t help me at all, highlighting is my life, as are videos. Oh and I teach my teddies (yes I am 18 and I have teddies, no I am not ashamed), I know that if I can’t explain something out loud then I don’t know it. Find what works for you and stick to it. For Year 13 I made all these pretty chemistry notes, they were all highlighted and everything, knowing they never really help me but thinking they might. I didn’t make notes for biology and I got a better grade for bio. Do what suits you; don’t waste time ‘revising’, don’t play yourself and know that regardless of how you learn you need to. Practice. Exam. Questions.
8) Make sure you take breaks! I probably don’t need to say this because a lot of people start procrastinating and taking 2 hour breaks after 10 minutes of revision (I’m guilty of this as well) but every 20 minutes or so, put your pen down, get up and walk around or something, break your state then get back to doing what you were. It wakes you up. That and breaks are a good thing to take when you start feeling overwhelmed by your work load. Take a break, calm down and give yourelf a pep talk then get back to work.
9) You have to know yourself and your limits. Don’t be jumping into 10 hours of revision a day if you’re used to doing less than two. You’ll end up burning out and never wanting to look at a book again. Ease your brain into it, start with 2 then 4 then 6… don’t kill yourself revising and be realistic with the work load you’re giving yourself.
10) Location. If you know me then you’ll know how much I loved my library days. I could get so much work done in the library in very little time and actually do it well. I was so happy on the days I revised in the library because I’d get 6/7 exam papers done and marked within like 5 hours and actually do well on them. I was lucky my local library was of the calm and quiet libraries in the area so it worked well for me. Again, everyone has their own place; Costa was another revision spot for me. I’m not as productive at home but that’s just me, again. Find what works for you and use it to your advantage.
11) Know your best working hours. Personally (just a heads up there’s going to be a lot of talking about me) I work best in the morning. Something that takes me 20 minutes at 6am will take me at least 40 at 9pm. Everyone is different, so see when you’re most productive and use the time you work best to tackle your most difficult tasks and your easiest tasks for your ‘slow working hours.’ Another idea would be to not just dedicate a whole day to one subject, pick two or even three and alternate throughout. Just find what works best for you.
12) Revision timetables. I’m one of those people who hated hearing about them now I swear by the study planner on GetRevising (https://getrevising.co.uk/planner). Back in September, when I started year 13, I’d logged in all my exams for the year and put in how many hours I wanted to get done before each exam, when I’m at school, any other commitments I have, etc. and it calculated it all for me. Because I’m me, I change my mind about which subject/topic I want to revise on the day so paper timetables have never worked for me. The online one on the other hand basically saved my productivity levels. Lots of people say that revision timetables don’t work for them; I used to say that too, until I made it work and gave it a chance. I decided what subjects I wanted to revise and set my SMART targets the night before to mentally prepare myself for the next day. I managed to make time to get a lot of revision done, spend time with family and friends, exercise, and read, because I logged in what I wanted to do early on.
13) Organise, organise and organise some more. Organisation is very important. Keep your notes organised, organise your time. Everything. Of the first things I did at the beginning of Year 13 was make a colour coded excel spread sheet with everything I needed to get done before each exam, it worked a gem. Keeping track of what you have and haven’t done makes life so much easier, it helps set SMART targets for each revision session and it feels awesome to see how much is green. (I’m a very extra person, but organisation is key.) You may not want to do what I did, but for the exams I did this for and where it all went green, I got As (no I’m not putting my grades up on a public platform, I don’t tell anyone sorry). Here’s what my maths spread sheet looked like (yes I did retake a few maths modules because some silly child didn’t take year 12 seriously)
14) Everyone you ask will tell you this so I’m going to as well. Practice. Exam. Questions. The content can only get you so many marks; the actual application of the content is a whole different game. Practice past papers and exam style questions as much as you can, know past mark schemes to find out what examiners are looking for. Read examiners reports as well. Get your papers marked because there’s no point trying questions without marking them and know that questions repeat all the time. Closer to exam season make sure you’re doing more and more past papers/questions and are timing yourself. This is the one thing everyone will tell you. I know with the new GCSEs and A levels there aren’t many past papers, I was part of the first year to do the new A levels but still do past papers from the old specifications. There are questions in your textbooks definitely do those. Do the specimen papers and past specimen papers and don’t do them whilst looking at the mark scheme because you might as well not be doing them in that case. It’s okay to get things wrong, you’re meant to make mistakes so you can learn from them and improve, go over the topics you’ve struggled on after each paper, almost every conversation with my mum during exam season was about practicing papers and it’s of the best advice ever. (I’m mainly speaking for the sciences because I’m a science student but I guess its similar across the board)
I really hope these tips help, they’ll probably be more useful closer to exam season but there are important things you can be doing from now as well
Take care and good luck for any upcoming exams