Top Tips for Starting Exam Revision
The word of the moment is ‘mock exams’. For those sitting their exams this summer there is frustration and conflict whilst we wait to hear of the format of GCSEs and A-Levels. In my therapy office, I have already noticed the shift in worries and anxiety surrounding exam outcomes, perhaps higher than usual.
Being the first year group who are likely to sit traditionally formatted exams next summer, there is an anticipation surrounding what this will look like. This understandably is causing stress to many young people.
Having spent 10 years teaching A-Levels, I have collated my top tips for revision to make home and study a little more peaceful and under control:
#1 – Get your notes in order
Spend some time getting your school/college notes in order. Having everything together means that you can get organised and have everything at arms reach. Collect subjects together and if you have any revision guides, text books or support notes group them with your notes.
#2 – Identify the topics you have covered in class
Speak with your teacher and identify the topics that you need to revise. Having a clear idea of which topics you need to revise means that you are well equipped and prepared. The better your preparation the more confident you will feel about your revision.
#3 – Ask for some past papers
Ask your teacher for any past papers that they have that you can use as part of your revision. If you have completed any past papers at school or have your mock papers make sure that you have some feedback so that you can use these to identify key areas you need to refresh or cover.
#4 – Make a revision timetable
Great now you can take time to create a revision timetable. The more comprehensive your revision timetable the more focussed your revision can be. Taking time to create a timetable which covers all subjects and topics means that you know everything is covered well before the exam.
Quality is most important, we can all spend hours staring at a text book, but purposeful revision is the most important. Focus on breaking revision into 90min-2hour blocks so you cover 2-3 subjects a day. This means you could work for 2 hours a day Monday – Friday and take the weekends off revision and still be prepared. See note #6 before writing your plan.
#5 – Revise in different ways
When you plan your revision plan a range of different types of revision, just reading notes will slowly drive you crazy and does not allow you to see that you have taken it in. You can make mind-maps, make key note cards, practice quizzes or exam questions, read your notes or text book or test a friend
#6 – Factor everything into your planner
When you create your plan factor in all things that are necessary – include; breaks, meal times, fun things, exercise, commitments, study groups, days off. You can colour code subjects to make your plan more visual. Having a plan which has purpose, but also covers all areas of well-being also means that you are able to support your mental well-being and prevent exhaustion.
#7 – Take time off
Whilst it can feel like revising all the time will help it actually has the opposite affect. Our brain learns in patterns. By working in shorter spells and coming back to information so you need to recall it your brain strengthens the patterns. Recalling information a few times with breaks in between would allow you to learn faster than just staring at the notes for 6 hours. Working smarter rather than harder really does help revision! Therefore taking time OFF is important to allow the brain to rest then you can come back and recall the information later to consolidate it. For instance, revise one topic for an hour – take a break – then come back to it and see how much you recall and strengthen the gaps. Having fun is actually beneficial to revision.
#8 – Sleep
Sleep allows our body to rest, refresh and restore itself. A lack of sleep can make us feel overwhelmed, stressed and anxious as our body feels under threat. Therefore ensuring that you stop revising at least 2 hours before bedtime and getting at least 8 hours sleep is a great way to ensure that your brain can revise more effectively and you feel in control.
Whilst you are asleep your brain also consolidates the learning that you have done. The brain is able to process the new data and patterns and sort everything through, so when your parents say ‘it will feel better after a good nights sleep’ – they are right!
#9 – Develop a positive mindset
Spending some time to work on your mindset is a really good way to prepare for exams and assessments. This means training your subconscious mind that you feel open and able to revise and learn. You can then focus your conscious mind on success and confidence by practicing using positive language when talking about your revision and exams. Keep your sentences short, factual and positive ‘I am revising every day’ ‘I am hardworking and capable’ ‘I revise smartly and well so I am well prepared’ ‘I enter my exams with confidence’
#10 – Plan how to celebrate
The great thing about exams – we know when they will be finished. So once you have a clear revision planner and have started implementing it – then plan some fun activities to celebrate which will keep you motivated to stay on track. Rewarding yourself with something fun means you have a high and some well earned time out once the exams are finished.
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