Exam season can be a challenging period for students, and fully preparing for them can be difficult. If you have an exam looming, or you’re just looking to build some best practice ahead of time, our revision tips and techniques will help make studying a little easier.
By Grant Longstaff. Published 18 October 2023.
Start your revision earlier
We don’t want to state the obvious, but sometimes it’s necessary. The earlier you start your revision, the more likely you are to retain the information and succeed. Last minute, late night cramming can work up to a point, but it can also leave you feeling apprehensive and tired which can negatively impact your performance in an exam. With time on your side, you’ll hopefully find your revision sessions less stressful, and an improved mood can help you retain information more easily.
Consider how you like to revise
How do you like to revise? Do you like the comfort and familiarity of your room, or is it a chamber of distraction? Does the hustle and bustle of a coffee shop help you focus? Do you prefer the imposed silence of a library? There’s no wrong way – or place – to study. The trick is to identify what works for you. If you find silence too imposing make a revision playlist of your favourite songs to keep you energised. Likewise, if you need to drown out background noise try a lo-fi playlist or white noise video on YouTube.
It can also help to create a revision plan, so you know what you’re studying and when. This can help unnecessary time wasting when you sit down to your books. When it comes to planning, consider the time of day and length of time you’ll revise. If your concentration is going to wane after an hour, or you’re not a morning person, make sure your plan reflects this. Your study schedule must be manageable if you’re going to make it work. Finally, make sure to include breaks, they’re just as important as the revision itself.
Turn off your phone
Or at least pop it on silent. We know this is hard, but the benefits for your revision can be huge. A silent phone won’t ping to demand you check messages, Instagram reels, and emails. Without the distraction of chatting and social media, you’ll increase your concentration and remove the temptation to procrastinate. For extra points, try to avoid your phone when you take breaks in your revision too. It’s a chance for you to absorb and reflect on what you’ve been studying and makes your screen detox more significant.
Don’t just read
When you first sit down to revise it can be tempting to simply pick up your notes and start reading. Whilst this can be beneficial, to really make things stick it might be best to consider alternative approaches. Try to rewrite complicated ideas and theories in your own words, use flashcards, or talk your answers through with a friend. Decorate your room with sticky notes as a constant reminder of key points. Use your phone (yes, for this it’s fine) to record voice notes of particularly meaty topics so you can listen to them on the go. The trick is to mix up your approach to revision. Don’t rely on just reading.
Past exam papers
One of the best ways to prepare for a future exam is to use previous exam papers. They offer the best insight into what topics might crop up and in which format. In an exam situation it can be easy to misread or misinterpret a question, so by familiarising yourself with past papers you’ll be more at ease when the test finally arrives. You could also recreate exam conditions with a timer in order to acclimatise yourself before the actual exam. Remember, completing test exams is only half the battle. Ensure you review your answers. You could even exchange completed papers and discuss the thornier questions with fellow students to collectively improve your knowledge.
Sometimes you might come up against a topic that, for whatever reason, just won’t quite sink in. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Talk to your lecturers, ask if there’s some other way they can help break the information down. Speak with your friends. You’ll likely find that your classmates are feeling a little overwhelmed too, so crushing a problem together can be a satisfying distraction from the textbooks. Revision can feel lonely, so it’s important to seek help when you need it.
Ultimately, your approach to revision is unique to you. What works for one person may not work for another. Figure out what works best for you. Discover more study tips, or read our study guide for neurodiverse students, for more ideas and techniques on how to smash your next exam.
We know exams can be a challenging time for students. If you’re already studying with us and need support our Student Support and Wellbeing teams are here to help whenever you need them.