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Tips for exams

Exam time
Everyone reaches their limit when it comes to exam time. Not sleeping enough, getting stressed and feeling a lack of motivation are common issues when faced with revision and exams.

1. Create a study plan

Before you even begin thinking about studying for an exam, you need to put together a clear and realistic study plan. It's best to do this as soon as you find out about the exam and not when it's already creeping up on you. If you have several exams close together, it is important that you plan your days well so that you don’t get stressed or forget to study. To make a good plan, you must find out exactly which topics are covered in each exam. If you haven’t got a list of these topics, ask your teacher or create one yourself.

Your plan needs to be realistic. Each day, set yourself a goal of what you want to achieve. This could be a number of pages in the textbook, a specific topic you want to cover, or a number of exercises to complete.

It’s important for you to schedule breaks in your study plan. If you don’t, your brain will reach a point when it can no longer take in new information. At this point, any additional studying will be useless.

It’s also a good idea to include some buffer time in case something doesn't work out the way you planned. For example, a topic may turn out to be more difficult than you expected or something else might come up meaning that you can't stick to your study plan. To ensure that one bad day doesn’t mean the whole plan goes out the window, try to plan enough time so you can safely cover everything you need to before the exam.

2. A tidy workspace

A tidy desk or workspace is important to revise and study effectively. It’s easy to get distracted when you have a mess on the table. Sorting your pens in colour order is definitely more fun than cramming biology terminology. To avoid temptation, tidy your workspace before you even start studying. Make sure you have enough paper and pens, and always have a bottle of water or a cup of tea to stay hydrated.

3. The right learning method

In order to learn efficiently, you have to find out which learning method is best for you. Are you creative? Do you like to make eye-catching lists and mind-maps? Or do you learn best with flashcards? Does being in a study group help you stay motivated? It’s best to try out lots of different methods to find the one that best suits you. On our blog you can find different articles that can help you find the perfect method to suit your learning style. For example, try out the Pomodoro Technique or the SQ3R method to see if they can help you study more effectively.

4. Practice makes perfect

When preparing for an exam, it’s important to practise the material as well as reading it. If you learn something new every day, but you never repeat or practise the older things, then you will soon forget them. This applies to memorising facts, vocabulary and information, but also to the practical application of theory.

If you have a study group, ask each other questions, explain the theory to each other and create possible exam questions that you can ask one another. If nobody has time, you can explain what you have learned to your parents, to a stuffed animal or even to the wall. By repeating and explaining the material, you memorise it better.

A great way of practising your knowledge is to work through past papers or old exam questions. When you feel ready, try doing a practice paper as though it's an exam. Work through a past paper without looking at any of your notes and then mark yourself against the mark scheme. This way, you know exactly what your strengths and weaknesses are before the exam.

5. Breaks

As already mentioned, make sure to plan breaks when revising. You may have heard of the Pomodoro method. This method is about dividing your time into studying time and break time. For example, you study for 30 minutes and then take a 5 minute break. Repeat this a few times before taking a longer break. This method divides the studying time into smaller chunks which gives your brain a short breather. How you divide your time is up to you; some people need regular short breaks and others may prefer one long break.

However, if you go straight on your phone and scroll through social media during your breaks, then that's not really a rest for your brain! You shouldn't take in any new information during breaks. Instead, you should do something healthier for your mind and body. Go for a walk, exercise, or just lie down and listen to your favourite song! After your break, you should have enough energy to move on to the next stage of your plan.

It's also really important to sleep well during exam periods as when you're tired your brain doesn't have the energy it needs to retain information. Read our blog to get some tips for sleeping well during exam periods.

6. Plan your exam day

Particularly if you have a lot of exams in a short space of time, it is helpful to plan your exam day carefully. When do you get up and when does your bus leave? Have you packed a few good pens and your calculator? Do you have your water bottle and a small healthy snack to take with you?

It's also a nice idea to plan a well-deserved break after the exam. Cook something tasty, watch a movie, meet up with friends for ice cream and go to bed early. It's much easier to motivate yourself during exam periods when you have these small rewards to look forward to.

7. Keep going!

Don't give up! Try to motivate yourself with rewards and breaks and always keep your goals at the forefront of your mind. Remember that you are not alone and that everyone has bad days. When all else fails, take a break. That is exactly why you include buffer time in your study plan! Rest and come back to your revision when you are more motivated and full of energy.
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