Exam season is coming up and already the attendant boot-quaking is evident. If you’re preparing to sit GCSEs, you are no doubt well-aware that this ordeal will have an inordinate impact on your future.
If you’re preparing to sit A-Levels, your exam results are not quite as impactful – universities tend to be a bit more lenient in most cases; still, not striving for the best results is somewhat akin to cutting off your nose to spite your face.
While nobody is accusing you of not being capable of passing exams, there is still the fact that, under such pressure, you may end up spinning your wheels where effective study skills are concerned.
There is also the matter of hubris.
It is perfectly logical to assume you know your material backwards and forwards after two years of study; that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still revise all of it lest some vital nugget of knowledge fall through the cracks of your mind.
Finally, there is the matter of exhaustion: after so long focusing on the same subject material, you may just be burned out on it.
Between test anxiety, the possible belief that you are a master of information and simply being fed-up with studying the same subjects, exam results become a matter of real concern.
Let your Superprof outline a study plan to help avoid such a scenario and get the best possible results on your upcoming exams.
Know What You Need to Know
Stuffing your head full of knowledge is only a part of exam preparation; you also need to know what to expect from your exam – whether it is all essay questions, a blend of those and multiple-choice or all multiple choice.
Wouldn’t that make life easy!
Besides looking over exam past papers to get an idea of what to expect from your upcoming challenge, you also need exam techniques.
Exam techniques include planning everything about the days you will sit exams, from what you will wear to what you will eat. This is a stress-reduction technique that will free up brain power, the better to focus on what you have to do.
Others include mind-mapping, eating right and getting enough sleep; taking study breaks is also vital to effective studying.
Make a Study Plan
The most effective way to revise is on schedule.
That sounds a bit formulaic but there is a great deal of logic in it.
Let’s say you have 10 GCSEs to prepare for (that is the average number). Four of the subjects are of particular interest to you, three of the subjects require a bit of understanding, two of the subjects require a passing grade and one of them frustrates you to no end.
Obviously, the subjects you are interested in will be more exciting to study; you might be tempted to spend more time on them than on those that are more difficult for you. We would advise the contrary.
- You should spend a fair amount of time reviewing GCSE Maths and English – the required subjects.
- The three subjects that are more troublesome to you require more study time than those four that excite you.
- Study time for the frustrating subject should be interspersed among the four subjects you like.
- You might spend only 30 minutes studying that subject and another 30 studying a well-liked subject, for example.
However you make your study plan, be sure it includes plenty of downtime to spend with family and friends and to de-stress.
Find out more about how to make an effective revision timetable.
Sample Exam Papers
Past papers and marking schemes are an invaluable resource. Not only can you get a feel for how the exam is laid out but you can also detect how questions are rephrased to ask for the same information.
Looking over past papers can also give you an idea of what will be on the test and what you’re less likely to have to know… but, with that comes a caveat: every test is slightly different.
What might not appear on one past paper might feature on the exam you’re about to sit.
The examiners' websites are very generous in offering past papers that go back several years; even if the exam has been reformed, you can still get a rough idea of what your exam might contain.
Besides, going over past exams is great practice for when you will sit yours.
Multiple Learning Methods
Not too long ago, the consensus among education experts was that rote repetition was the ultimate memorisation tactic.
While there is some merit to repeating facts and figures for memory's sake, today, there are more diverse ways to learn.
You might, for instance, make use of apps on your phone or computer to review your test materials; anything from games to flashcards goes!
Non-digital revision cards count among the low-tech methods of study; others include using the information as soon as often as possible. Here again, past papers come in handy!
Perhaps the most overlooked method of learning is writing by hand.
These days, students tend to be proficient typists – not a bad skill to have but, where exam revision is concerned, it pays to hand-write notes rather than type them because, as you write, your brain is forming new neural pathways to cement that new information.
Seeing as you will have to hand-write your exam anyway, doesn’t it stand to reason that exam success might be predicated on the movements of your hand, at least in part?
Making Things Visible
Possibly the last thing you want to see after an intense session of reading notes and revising for exams is more information related to your exams. That is perfectly understandable.
On the other hand, passive exposure to revision materials are fairly inoffensive and can be quite helpful.
You might, for instance, tack mind maps up around your room that depict central themes of any (or all of) your subjects. No in-depth study needed of them; just having them in your peripheral vision can help cement those ideas.
The same can be done with Post-It notes. A bright scattering of key formulas can help you with maths revision, for example or, if you will sit GCSE history, you might tack up a few key dates.
We’re not suggesting cramming pieces of paper into every single available bit of wall space but this exam technique has met with success and it might work well for you.
Your Optimal Learning Environment
Some people might advocate for a quiet and orderly study space while others might feel out of place in such a tidy environment and be completely unable to focus on lecture notes and exam questions.
The takeaway is that not everyone has the same idea of comfort; you will have to discover your optimal learning environment and disregard what anyone might say about it.
If you are best able to memorise with music playing in the background, then, by all means, you should do so.
Conversely, if you prefer to conduct language revision while exercising, don’t let anyone dissuade you; you should study in the manner that best suits you.
And don’t forget to sleep! Find out why sleeping is critical for revision…
Don’t Get Distracted
Exam review is not the most engaging activity; it is so easy to stray from our timetables when something more appealing comes along… or even if nothing else comes along.
Let’s be realistic: if you are plagued by procrastination and find yourself constantly straying from the revision guide you made, it is clearly not working for you; you need a new plan.
You might create a revision schedule that gives you a night off every so often.
Taking a night off to reward yourself for your hard work has the dual effect of giving you something to look forward to on study nights and a blissful respite from your studies with no guilty feelings.
In fact, that is one of the most effective revision tips we could give you!
Things to Not Do When Revising for Exams
If we load you up with tips and tricks to implement during revision, we should also point out a few things you shouldn’t do before the exam, too.
Don’t neglect your diet: what you eat and how much of it will impact your study session and, ultimately, your exam results.
Skipping meals, making do with a packet of crisps rather than a full meal and overloading on sweets are decided no-nos; eat well to feel good and, come exam time, to be in full possession of your faculties.
Don’t get worked up: even though exam time can be incredibly stressful, it is best to stay calm and in control.
Don’t discount self-testing: of all the revision material at your disposal, past exam papers may just be the most valuable. Besides going over them on your own, you can ask your tutors or caregivers to test you.
This is a great way to find your weak points ahead of your GCSE exams and it makes your practising more focused.
Whether it is your Maths exam you dread or GCSE Biology, following these study tips is bound to ease your stress a bit so you can prioritise what you need to review and sharpen your exam skills.
Now discover the best revision websites and resources available to you…