Thursday 12 January 2012


I have exams coming up, so naturally I'm procrastinating for all I'm worth instead of doing revision. But for anyone else with exams, I thought I'd post some revision tips. So without further ado, here's the three-point plan that has always stood me in good stead:

Requires effort. Results may vary. Different techniques may suit different people. If you do not succeed in your exams, it is not the writer's fault.

1. Technique
2. Content
3. Relaxation

Step One: Technique:
Practice questions are the key here. Do all the practice questions you can get your hands on, and find out everything you can about how the answers will be marked. The goal is to know how to answer any type of question that might be on the paper.

Do them open-book: right now you're just practising the answering the styles of questions you may be asked. Using the information will help you to remember it, and anything that's still not there will be dealt with in phase two.

Start doing this early.

When you feel confident that you know how to get full marks or near on all types of questions, we go on to

Step Two: Content:
Now you start learning everything by heart. Find out everything you are expected to know, and learn it. Keep doing this until you know everything.

You should do this phase over the days leading up to the exam; I usually start one or two days ahead, but you should work out what time-frame works best for you.

Use whatever method of memorising works for you; one I find works well is:

Read through your notes and write a list summarising everything you might possibly be expected to recall. Do not highlight things in your notes: writing it out will help to fix it in your memory.

Now we go back to the way you were taught to learn things in primary school (at least, I was. If you weren't, better late than never: bur the four words in bold into your brain now): look, cover, try, check.

Look at the list and try to fix things in your memory.

Cover up the page.

Try to remember everything on it, making sure to explain to yourself what it means rather than just parroting.

Check how much you remembered and got right.


It may help to write it all down during the 'try' phase, so you can check the new list against the old. And again, writing will help to fix it. If you have a willing friend, give them the list and ask them to listen while you recite everything that's on it, then tell you what you missed.

And when you can recall everything every time, easily, stop. Which brings us on to

Step Three: Relaxation:
You should bear this in mind through the first two stages as well: the run up to an exam is no time to be wearing yourself out. Try to get plenty of sleep, take regular breaks from revising to do something fun, treat yourself. Your revision period is not the time to start a new diet or exercise routine, or try to kick a bad habit, and you may want to consider easing up on things you're already doing. Perhaps temporarily cutting down the number of nights out, or relaxing a diet to just keep weight off rather than aiming to lose more: your brain needs carbs to run efficiently.

And then when you've finished the first two parts, you need to leave some time before the exam to rest and recover and go into it on top form.

It will do you no good to cram outside the exam hall.

If you have a morning exam, you should aim to have finished step two before you go to bed - which should be reasonably early. For an afternoon exam, you should have finished before lunch. Beyond that, it's too late and cramming won't help.

Think of your memory as a filing cabinet. When you revise, you're looking at all your papers, but if you go into the exam with them still spread out over your desk, you'll only be able to see the ones on top. You want to give your brain time to tidy up so you can find everything.

Give yourself a treat, do something fun - but not too exhausting, get a good night's sleep, and set your alarm. You don't want to be rushing to get ready. Make sure you have time for a good breakfast (or lunch for an afternoon exam) and at least a few minutes to relax before you leave.

It may help to have a last brief look over your list before you set off, but do not take notes with you. Leave in plenty of time so you don't have to rush. If you get nervous or tense before exams, consider using something like Kalms or Rescue Remedy to help you stay calm: most exams let you take in a bottle of water, and you can add Rescue Remedy drops to it and sip it in the exam. If coffee helps you concentrate, make sure you've had some. Make sure you've been to the loo, even if you didn't think you needed to go. Take deep breaths.

Do not panic, unless you are being examined on being chased by a bear. Panicking will help in that situation, but not many others.

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