To all my fellow students, if you are currently preparing for an exam I feel your pain. Over the years of my academic career, I have had to do plenty and definitely did not enjoy them. Unfortunately for you, you still have to do them. Fortunately for you, I am here to give you some guidance on how to make the most of your time before D-day!
Whether you’re a final year uni student, or someone prepping for your very first GCSE paper, the following guide should give you a set of handy tips to follow to ace that exam…
Step 1: Breathe
While a little stress is good for you, and helps keep you on target and focused, chronic stress helps no one. I think as students it is very easy to forget that sometimes the best course of action is to just take a breather, lower those stress levels, and look after yourself. Granted too much of that leads to procrastination, but if you’re sitting there finding yourself all worked up over one particular topic, or getting frustrated because nothing seems to be going in anymore, take a breath, walk away, distract your mind for a second, and then come back to it.
Step 2: Learn HOW the paper works
Yes, knowing what is on the exam is obviously something you will need to know. However, knowing how the paper is structured and what is expected of you when you’re sitting in the exam hall will help you out immensely. How long you have in the exam will determine how much you are expected to write, and how many marks per question will dictate which you prioritise, and the amount of content in your answer. If the exam is multiple choice, you might be better off revising with flashcards, focusing on memorising particular terminology. If the exam is essay based, find out what the possible topics are and work on how much you can write about said topic in a limited amount of time.
Step 3: Make your revision practical
Ok so what do I mean by practical? Well if you’re just sitting there, and all you are doing is reading and re-reading textbooks or your class notes, you’re doing it wrong (unless that actually works for you, in which case, ignore everything I’m going to say!). Make your revision as active as possible. Contrary to popular belief, though some people have slight preferences as to whether they are a visual or auditory learner, the more active and practical your learning, the easier it is to retain things. Period. So turn your revision into an activity. Personally I like to make revision posters (if I’m expected to remember a lot of information on a particular topic), and then rehearse it as if it was a script for a play. It makes it fun for me, and the act of rehearsing it out loud tests what I do and don’t know. Try teaching what you think you know to a friend. Quiz someone else doing the same exam, and see who can get the most points.
Step 4: Reward yourself!
No matter how you end up revising, it is important to keep yourself going for however long your exam period is. While I would air on the side of caution in making sure you don’t self-indulge too much, treating yourself to your favourite snack while you revise, or watching episodes of your favourite series on Netflix in between long study sessions is a must do! I can guarantee that if you’re hating your time revising, you are going to remember less and feel worse for it. So go ahead. TREAT YO’ SELF!
Step 5: Keep in mind the bigger picture…
Finally, try to be mindful of the bigger picture here. There is no point working this hard if you are not getting anything out of it, but by no means am I encouraging you to put your hands up and give up now. If you feel yourself bogged down by everything you have to do, try to remind yourself of why you are doing this. Maybe you’re working hard to get into your dream university, or you’re doing what you can to learn about an area that you’re really interested in and eventually want to work in. In any case, as hard as it is to do so when you’re in the thick of it, remind yourself of these things, and be mindful that whatever you get on the exam, it does not dictate the rest of your life.
I hope reading this has helped, and I wish you all the best this exam season. Good luck!