Finding it hard to get started with your revision? Can’t settle down to it? Just staring blankly at your notes? You need to get motivated. The purpose of this blog post is to give you some tips on how to get started and work effectively.

1. Set high standards

There are few things more despairing than having to repeat exams, to have to do extra work or even repeat a subject because you have not achieved the grades you are able to. Aim for top marks instead of just a pass, as having a challenging goal will inspire you to put in considerably more effort.

2. Devise and stick to a Study Plan

Begin planning for your exam early in the academic year, sticking to a strict study plan and revising your notes on at least a weekly basis, so you don’t have to cram or stay up the night before the exam. Experiment with new study methods you may not have used in the past (such as reading your notes out to yourself out loud, using mind maps to clarify large quantities of information and using note cards for revision during the day).

3. Set realistic goals

If you are working on a thesis or long essay and you are starting to feel like you are never going to complete it, start working on it early so you have the luxury of breaking your work up into several smaller parts. For instance, if you are working on an Honours thesis and you need to write 10,000 words, try writing just 1,000 or even 5,000 words per study session. Reward yourself for days in which you achieve double your target word count, by enjoying some free time the following day.

4. Find inspiring teachers

If you are able to select subjects, opt for those taught by teachers who inspire you to new heights of excellence. An inspiring teacher is one who sees your potential and who often goes above and beyond the call of duty to motivate you in a given subject. This type of teacher may suggest excellent sources of further reading or may even lend you their own materials. They stand out from the rest because they clearly have a passion for their subject matter, which they are keen on passing on to their students.

Feeling comfortable with a teacher will also enable you to approach them about your study strategies; make sure you are on the same wavelength when it comes to identifying key areas of the course/subject which are likely to appear on future exams.

5. Do more than the bare minimum

When a subject is difficult, the best way to master it is by delving into it more thoroughly (in the case of humanities-based subjects), or tackling more difficult problems than the ones you are currently being asked to solve (in the case of science or maths subjects).

This does not mean spending an inordinate amount of time on minute details; it simply involves spending a little of your free time reading up on an author or subject you are studying, or tackling a few difficult problems with the help of a tutor, Internet resources and even YouTube videos. As your knowledge base becomes more advanced, previously difficult aspects of a subject grow considerably easier or more familiar.

6. Create a Study Group

One of the best things about school and university is the chance to share ideas with fellow students. Use group study time wisely, keeping chatting and socialising to short, set breaks. During a study session, test each other’s knowledge by asking questions which are likely to be encountered in the exam, ask each other questions about areas you may be having difficulty with and share resources.

7. Avoid distractions

Don’t have your computer on or your phone nearby if you may be too tempted to surf or socialise with friends. Avoid pausing several times, this could cause you to waste hours of valuable study time. You will also need to find the most suitable place for study, if home is a bustling, noisy place, it might be best to find a cosy spot in the library, where you can truly concentrate for long, uninterrupted periods of time.

8. Reward yourself 

Don’t concentrate on just one reward for successful performance at a final exam; rather, give yourself many small rewards (be it a trip to the cinema, afternoon run or break time watching your favourite show) for study goals accomplished. The reward for your final exam can be more significant e.g. a trip to a country you have always wanted to visit, or a once-in-a-lifetime experience such as scuba diving or even parachuting!

9. Create other goals

Difficult courses and subjects can wrest from our motivation because it can often feel like they are consuming all our free time. If you manage your time efficiently, you will be able to enjoy other pursuits (leisure, sport, reading for pleasure, etc.). Being motivated is often dependent upon feeling fulfilled with your life in general. You need to fill various baskets (social interaction, family time, etc.) to achieve a sense of completeness.

10. Find inspiration

If you are in secondary school, the book, 7 Habits of Highly Successful Teens, can be highly motivational. Habits mentioned by the author include being proactive, beginning a task with the end goal in mind and prioritising tasks. Older readers will likewise find a wealth of helpful books and online resources which provide core character traits shared by successful individuals.

11. Be true to yourself

It is important to set goals and to aim to achieve great things, regardless of what those around may be doing. If you decide to just go with the flow, you’ll end up where the flow goes, which is usually downhill, says author Sean Covey.

12. How you behave affects how you think

A lack of motivation stems from not thinking that we have the capacity to achieve success. By adopting habits of successful people (consistency, proper time management, setting goals, etc.), we can begin to feel more successful, which is bound to affect our exam results in a positive sense.

I hope that you have found these tips useful. If you would like to share the things that you do to get motivated for exams, we would love to hear them.



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A vagabond traveler whose first love is the written word, I advocate for continuous learning, cycling, and the joy only a beloved pet can bring. There is plenty else I am passionate about, but those three should do it, for now.