Smart strategies to help you prepare for your exams.
It’s that time of year where GCSEs, A-Levels and IB exams are just around the corner. Where trying to cram everything you’ve learnt in the last two years into a one-hour exam seems totally impossible and incredibly stressful. So how do you maximise your revision and minimise your anxiety? Great revision technique.
We’ve got the best tips to make sure you stay calm, healthy and focused during the next few weeks.
- Get organised
Create a revision timetable before you start revising and do your best to stick to it. Use your exam calendar to plan your revision around the exams you’ll be taking first and plan your timetable accordingly. Online calendars like Google or Spark allow you to link other people into your plans, that way your family and friends will know when you’re studying and not to disturb you.
- Work smarter not harder
Studies have shown that the human brain can concentrate for 90 minutes at most. Your brain absorbs the most information in short doses, so whether your studying French grammar or trigonometry, let your brain digest what you’ve fed it by taking regular breaks to have a snack and refresh. If you know you’re not able to concentrate for longer than 45 minutes, no problem, schedule 15 minute breaks in between each session. Understanding how you work and using it to your advantage is key to exam success.
If you find you work better with music, apps like Spotify or YouTube have amazing playlists dedicated to getting you to concentrate. Our favourites are the ‘Focus’ playlists on Spotify.
It’s hardly surprising that we prefer to study the subjects we’re most interested in, but trying to forget about those that you find challenging or boring will ultimately only bring your final marks down. Try to begin the day with 15 to 20 minutes of studying the subjects you find the most challenging, then take a break (see Tip 2), this way you’ll get the worst of revision out of the way before your day has really begun. If you find it impossible to concentrate on the subjects you hate, asking a friend or parent to help will maximise the time you do spend on them. Which leads us on to…
- Find a study buddy
They say that a problem shared is a problem solved, and the same goes for revision. If you’re struggling to motivate yourself, seek encouragement from others. Set up a study group with your friends, meet at someone’s house, the library or even a cafe to test each other. If you prefer one-on-one help, ask your friends to co-revise and test each other. Then have parents or siblings test you each evening. Or seek help from your Tutor Connection Tutor.
- Take care of yourself
Not one study of revision has ever shown that revising around the clock and neglecting the other areas of your life equals better grades. The more organised you are with your time, the more time you will find you have to look after yourself. Eat well, drink plenty of water and make sure you’re getting enough exercise, even if this is a quick walk after lunch to get you focusing in the afternoon.
Bad diet and lack of nutrients slow down brain productivity and increase the body’s production of cortisol, the stress hormone, so making sure you keep your health in check during study leave is crucial. Additionally, make sure you take some exercise, whether it’s walking, sports, yoga or just some deep breathing, anything that helps to keep you motivated.
If you find you’re getting stressed or feeling rundown, one of the following apps could transform the way you work:
My Water Balance:
Helps you keep track of your water intake throughout the day.
Forest: Set how long you want your phone switched off for, and Forest will block all calls and messages for that time.
Engross: Designed with the student in mind, Engross not only turns off all distractions, it allows you to add tasks that, until completed, mean you cannot use the phone. Even better, when you find your focus waning, use the ‘Hit me if you get distracted’ tool and it’ll help you get back on track. https://www.engrossapp.com/
My Study Life School Planner
Organise revision around your exams with this free online and offline app which will keep you on track all through study leave. https://www.mystudylife.com/
The flashcard website now has an app, where you can create and download your flashcards and have them on the go. Because even five minutes of revision is still revision:
One of the top apps for calming exercises and breathing techniques to help lower stress, anxiety and help sleep:
- Total Immersion
Surround yourself with revision notes in your bedroom and bathroom (and anywhere else your parents will let you stick flashcards). Turn your bedroom, bathroom or office into a shrine to your revision. Stick poetry quotes, sums, biology key words around your bathroom mirror, above your bed and on the sides of your desk. Wherever you regularly spend time, there should be notes. After a few days you’ll subconsciously look at them as you brush your teeth and before you know it, the information will be stuck in your brain.
- Practice Past Papers
Perhaps the most under-utilised resource in all of revision, practice makes perfect. It is essential for productive revision that you familiarise yourself with past papers and their mark schemes. Most exam boards have a selection on their website and many sites like Reddit also post links regularly. If you feel you’ve not had enough time to practice past papers, ask your teacher to mark some for you as you do them, this way you’ll quickly pick on your strengths and weaknesses and be able to tailor your revision.
- Utilise digital tools
The internet really is your best friend when it comes to revision. From apps, to YouTube and the plethora of forums and revision sites, there’s no excuse not to get stuck in and study online. Whether you prefer to watch videos, listen to podcasts or test yourself with online quizzes, digital resources are the most time efficient and concentrated forms of revision.
Our pick of the best include:
- Create a dedicated study area
This is a simple but often overlooked essential. As with being healthy and organised, having a ‘safe space’ where you feel calm and focused is imperative when revising. Before you begin, clean your desk, put files and papers into plastic wallets and folders and make sure you have pens, highlighters and tools close to hand. If you don’t have a desk in your room, find a place at home that’s bright and quiet where you can work for the weeks of study leave. Having a space dedicated only to study means you’ll start to associate that space with work and once you’re away from it, you’ll find it easier to relax.
- Get enough sleep
Whether it’s stress or late-night study that’s keeping you up at night, neither is going to help you achieve your grade goals. During study leave, make sure you get at least 8-10 hours sleep a night, and try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. It’ll be challenging, but avoid smartphone use in bed: the blue light emitted from screens inhibits your brain’s emission of melatonin (the sleep hormone) and keeps you up at night.
If you have any other tips or would like to share any other bits of advice please get in touch, we’d love to hear from you.
Best of luck!