Whilst at sixth form, I worked with the BBC on their revision help campaign, BBC Mindset. The programme helped students across the country struggling with techniques, worries and concerns. As a revision coach, I gave people my tips – and I’m now going to give them to you too!
By the time you’ll be reading this, it’ll be May. Exams start in just a couple of weeks. I know the feeling. Whilst I definitely don’t condone leaving your revision to the last minute, we’ve all done it. Assuming this has happened and you’re panicking, the most important thing to do is to remain calm. The exams are still a few weeks away. You’ve got time, if you focus. I’d start preparing for the exams which are soonest. If you do that, you’ll feel more confident about them. We’re looking for small wins here!
Start by looking at your exam timetable and digging out your subject guides and specifications. Take three pens: red, green and yellow, and place a coloured tick beside each topic in each subject – green
if you know it inside out, yellow if you could do with going over it, and red if the words read like gibberish. That way, you’ll feel the pressure ease off when you realise the task isn’t as complex or horrible as it may seem.
Next step: make a revision timetable. Whilst it may seem scary to allocate every minute of your time for the next 6-8 weeks, it doesn’t need to be. The key thing to remember here is that you can be flexible. I was always under the impression that a revision timetable needs to be 100% set in stone, and that deviation from it is a mortal sin. That’s simply not the case. You need to ensure you can deal with anything that may come up – but don’t use flexibility as an excuse to distract yourself. Organising your time in one hour blocks should help.
Within those one hour blocks, try to give yourself a five minute break every 20 to 30 minutes. You can’t concentrate by sitting amongst the books for eight straight hours. You have to get up, stretch your legs, eat, drink and get some fresh air. So that you don’t get too comfortable with the break, however, I’d set yourself an alarm, so you come back after a few minutes. Trust me, I’ve learned the hard way that sitting at the table for hours at a time is never useful. You can’t force yourself to read and write forever, you won’t learn anything as all you will be thinking about is your next break!
Don’t panic so much about remembering absolutely everything on the topic. If you can’t remember this theory or that case study that you really want to use as an example, it’s not a problem! The examiner would never have known that it was ever on your mind; I’m sure that you can include it if it ever floats back into your head later on in the exam.
Set up a consistent workplace, and make sure you feel comfortable there. Whether it’s up at the kitchen table, in the dining room or in your bedroom, you need to have a space where you can feel comfortable and studious. A space where you can work undisturbed is essential. If you want to really avoid the distractions, put your phone in a different room. When revising, I usually put my phone downstairs and work upstairs, or if I’m revising in the library at university, I’ll leave it in my car. Emails can come in, and distracting Snapchats can be left until later. Perfect.
You need to make sure you understand how questions work! I’d print out some past papers, so you get fully accustomed to how the questions read and the kind of things the examiner likes asking. Unfortunately, ‘A’ grades don’t just come with flourishing subject knowledge. You also need to know how to answer questions in a format that the examiner is au fait with. Your teacher should be helping you to remember this, but I’d also take a look at the examiner’s commentary (found with the paper online). It may look boring, but it’s a gold mine. It’s a document written by the examiner which tells teachers what students did well on, and what they didn’t do so well on, in any given exam.
I wish you the very best for your exams, and if you have any questions, email email@example.com