There’s loads of advice online on about how to prepare and revise for exams – you’ve probably been reading it. Plus your teachers have probably (hopefully?) given you some guidance, so we’re not going to reinvent the wheel here.
Instead, we’ve pulled together the top advice out there to create a neat guide to help you prepare, revise, relax and, ultimately, get through your exams in one piece.
Preparation, preparation, preparation
We’re going to say it one more time: PREPARATION! We're putting revision under this heading too, because really the two go hand-in-hand.
For anything, whether it’s exams, interviews, or even throwing a party, properly preparing for it will take away much of the pressure on the day. If you know you’ve done everything you can to get ready before you step through the door of the exam room, you’re already in a great position!
Make a list
Sounds almost too simple! But actually, making a list helps you focus the mind. Write down everything you need to study and tick it off as you go. Seeing things getting crossed off a list can be extremely motivating. Plus, if you put in a little treat for yourself at regular intervals, like a chocolate bar, or a Netflix session (without interrupting your studying, obvs) it makes it even more rewarding when you reach each goal.
Read and practice past exam papers
You can usually find these on exam board websites – your teachers will be able to point you in the right direction if you’re not sure. Have a look at the last three or four exam papers, plus the mark schemes (mark schemes are really useful for correcting your mistakes after you’ve gone through the paper). Doing this will give you a really good feel for how the paper is structured, the types of questions you may be asked, and the best way to answer them.
Download the subject specification
Did you know that each exam board publishes subject specifications? And did you know that these can be downloaded by anyone?
They’re quite a long read, but these documents can be super useful to help you prepare because they break down everything you need to know, including how the exams are split and the weighting for each paper, giving you a really good idea of what to expect. Ask your teacher to help you download the right one.
Draw up a revision timetable
Bet you thought you’d seen the last of timetables for a little while! But putting together a timetable is another great way to focus your mind. Start by putting your exam dates in for each subject and work around that.
Don’t forget to build in regular breaks – revising for four hours straight isn’t beneficial; you’ll just stop taking stuff in. Try to take a 10-15 minute break every hour. Have a cup of tea, feed the cat, speak to another human – anything to clear your mind a bit for the next revision instalment!
Also, another good tip is to try not to revise late at night. You’ll most likely be tired and that doesn’t lend itself well to retaining information! Try to get as much rest and sleep as possible. Keep doing ‘normal’ activities as well to give your brain a rest.
Try to relax
We’ve all been there, we’ve all revised for exams, or had driving tests, or interviews. Of course it can be stressful – you want to do your best, after all. But, there are ways you can keep calm and make sure your motivation stays in the plus, rather than the minus. In week 11, we put together some great tips on how to manage stress. Have a read!
Strength in numbers
Sometimes revising with others can be a bonus. You are not alone! If there’s two or three of you, you can share tips, test each other, talk about the subject to help things sink in, and generally be each other’s champion.
In the exam room
You’ve revised as much as you can. You’re ready to go. So how to keep all this in check when you sit in that chair behind that desk, with that clock on the wall…
Be an early bird
Give yourself plenty of time to get to your exam. Start as you mean to go on by getting there with plenty of time to spare, instead of turning up all flustered five minutes late. Also, make sure you’ve brought all the equipment you need – it’s a good idea to get all of that ready the night before, so you’re not turning your bedroom upside down looking for your calculator on the morning of your exam.
So many questions!
First of all – make sure you read the questions properly! Read them once, read them again, read them a third or fourth time, if you feel you need to. The more you read and understand the questions, the better off you’ll be.
As you’re reading through the questions, make a few notes of any main points you think of so you can come back to them when you’re writing your full answer.
Most exam questions are weighted so make sure you give the appropriate amount of time in relation to the weighting. If one question is weighted at 80% don’t spend all your time on the one that’s 20%.
Try to present your answers as clearly as possible. Stick to the main points and cut down on waffle. Keep it clear and concise. Also, keep your handwriting in check – someone’s got to physically read through these papers; your cause won’t be helped if the marker can’t read what you’ve written!
Mind gone blank midway through? Don’t worry. Take a step back for a minute. Try to clear your mind, take some deep breaths and start again. If you need to, move on to the next question, you can always come back later.
Time’s running out
If the end of the exam period is approaching and you’ve still got a question to answer, add some bullet points of what you want to say, with a brief explanation if you’ve got time. Even this can count towards your mark – better to have something relevant down on paper than nothing at all.
We know you can do it. You've got this.
Tasks for this week:
- Get studying! Using our tips above, put together a revision timetable and you're good to go. Make sure you take regular breaks and don't study into the wee small hours.
- Read our guide to managing exam stress.
- Walk into that exam room feeling confident and knowing that you'll do your best!.