How best to prepare for exams

The prospect of revising can be annoyingly daunting and procrastination is what most of us do ahead of exams. So the first thing to remember is; you’re not alone and you are certainly not the only one watching Youtube videos instead of making a start.

Deadlines that seem far into the future, i.e. months away, seem elusive and easy to manage ‘another day’. Tomorrow, however, comes closer all the time and makes us feel bad if we still fail to act. In reality, the anticipation and fear of the task (the overhanging cloud) is always more ominious than the task itself. So the only way to start is to actually do it!! Even if you only start with a few pages, it will be a beginning. This sounds simple, but the truth is we often spend more time thinking and fretting about revision than actually just starting revision! And once you have started at least, that’s it.

It’s like when you’re at the edge of a scary-looking ski slope and that is the only way to make your way back home. All you need is that final push to get going as waiting any longer on top will not solve anything. On the contrary.

The best advice regarding revision is therefore super obvious, start early. The earlier, the better.

With a good amount of preparation, organisation and determination, it’s really not that bad. While embarking on the journey of exam revision, remember that this shouldn’t be a short journey - and by short, I mean a few weeks or even months before the exam.

If you put in the effort - like paying attention in class and spending time over set work- it will make your life so much easier almost immediately. Because if you actually understand a subject, it means that when it comes to revising it, the task is much simpler. If you are revising a subject that you know nothing about until the late moment you start revising it, it will be panic time. Late starts may not bode well for your exam performance (which, at the end of the day, is the most important thing) as you may be overtired and not thinking clearly.

There’s often lots to get through and lots to remember, especially with GCSEs; so starting now means that you give yourself enough time to slowly and patiently work through each subject. And it will pay off. Just imagine how amazing you will feel walking out of an exam and having aced it.

People have different approaches to structuring revision, but I found it really useful to set myself goals. I’d make a meticulous timetable for the week and plan to the hour what I was going to revise. So Monday morning 9am-12pm, let’s say, I’d plan to revise not only English, but Shakespeare Paper 1. That way you can make a list of absolutely everything you need to get through and tick it off once you’ve marked out a couple of hours a week for each bit. I’d make massive timetables that I could stick on a wall, so that I could see it (though some people prefer to do this on their computers, and that’s fine too). And the satisfaction of ticking things of your revision list…..

Some practical tips & activities, just in case. Given that everyone learns differently, have a go at a range of these and see what works for you.

  • Some people like visuals: colour-coding your revision, write out mind-maps or decorate flashcards
  • Others learn via videos: BBC bitesize does some great ones, especially for science, or you could watch adaptations of novels or plays, and there’s always Youtube
  • For some people, just writing out facts and information helps memorise them effectively.
  • Apps can also be really great; we all spend so many mindless hours on our phones, so why not download some useful revision apps (like vocab ones for languages or even for quotes) and try and do this instead of scrolling through Instagram?
  • Leaving sticky notes with dates, quotes or equations around the house (like on the mirrors or the fridge) can be a useful way of absorbing information
  • Lastly, talking through a subject with a parent or friend can be one of the most effective ways of digesting the information you’ve learnt. I used to go on long walks with my Dad and just talk about a historical event or a book I was revising and it seemed to stick in my brain every time.

Recommended links: