Revising for exams can be difficult and it can be easy to develop bad revision habits. Follow these top tips to ensure you are fully prepared.
1. Start early
Effective revision is not something that can be rushed so start well in advance of the exam date. This will lessen the chance of having to do last minute cramming and pulling all-nighters in the library.
Try and start your revision early each day as your brain is fresher, making it easier to work. Not starting until the afternoon means you’re likely to be up later and trying to revise whilst tired.
It’s a good idea to have a routine with your revision where you aim to start and finish at roughly the same time each day.
2. Decide what you’re going to revise
Look over your syllabus and decide how you’re going to approach your revision. Find out the format for your exam as this will determine how much of the syllabus you need to revise.
For instance, with essay based exams you don’t need to cover the entire syllabus as it is more effective to learn some of the content in greater detail. In contrast, short answer-based exams will require a broader, yet less detailed, understanding of the syllabus.
3. Make a plan
Once you know what you will be revising, you can make a revision timetable. Make this detailed, including any relevant papers or notes you need to look over. Block out time for socialising, exercising, and any other breaks or plans you might have. Stick to this as best as you can and avoid the temptation to jump straight into your revision without one.
Whilst you might think that making a plan is time consuming, in the long run it will save you time as you won’t be having to decide what to revise on a day-to-day basis.
4. Find a method that works for you
There are various revision techniques including flash cards, past papers, mind maps, group work and recording yourself talking and playing it back.
There is an element of trial and error to finding what works for you, and bear in mind that what works well for one exam may not be the best method for another. This is all the more reason to start early, as you need to take time to find out how you revise best.
5. Eat healthy
Whilst revising, it can be easy to end up in the library all day surviving off excessive amounts of coffee and junk food. You may feel like doing this instead of spending time cooking proper meals. This may be more time efficient but it does not amount to more productive revision. Eating a healthy, balanced diet will leave you feeling more energetic and focused.
6. Regular exercise
Exercise gets the blood flowing. This means more oxygen will reach the brain and help it to function better. Anything you can do to get the brain working well will be welcome during the exam period. Plus, it makes for a nice respite from studying.
7. Take breaks
Effective revision does not mean constant revision. If you start to lose focus, take a break and do something completely different. It is better to do five, one hour-long sessions broken up, than revising solidly for seven or eight hours.
Taking breaks during revision gives the brain a higher chance of remembering what you’ve crammed into it.
8. Get a good night’s sleep
This is especially important the night before an exam, but applies to the entire revision period. Getting to sleep at a reasonable time means you will wake up earlier and be able to fit in more revision during the day time. Sometimes, revising later is unavoidable, but try keep these instances to a minimum.
9. Stay calm and positive
Perhaps the most important thing to remember throughout the whole revision process is to stay calm and positive. If you have a bad day, try to not let it affect how you revise the next day. Remember, performing well in exams is not the be all and end all of your university experience, and whilst they are important, they are not worth getting really stressed about.
There is no perfect formula for exam success and you may not find all of our tips to be right for you. The key is to work out how you revise most effectively and stick to that as best you can. Ultimately, when it comes to revision, you get out of it what you put in! Make the most of the study skills support available to you at your university – there will always be someone at your university who can help if you get a bit stuck. Read some basic principles for academic essay writing that allow you to create valuable academic work.