Lauren Charlton, one of our amazing insiders from IconInc - The Glassworks, has given us her top tips for getting the most from your exam revision.
It seems to be that time of year for most students, where exams are upon us. All of the hard work you have put in over the year will come down to those few hours you spend in the exam hall. So how can you revise over the next couple of weeks to ensure that all your hard work pays off? Whilst also ensuring you achieve the grades that you desire and deserve. Although I am only in my first year of university, I have been through IGCSEs, AS Levels and A levels, and come out with grades I am very proud of. I thought I would share some of the tips I use while studying for my exams, and how they worked for me.
Please remember, different people work well with different techniques. I have always studied ‘science-based’ subjects, so the approach you make may be slightly different for essay-based subjects but I hope everyone can use some of the advice below to improve their revision skills one way or another.
Plan your time: Firstly, be realistic. You aren’t going to spend 14 hours a day revising, and even if you do, it probably wont be very productive. Make a revision timetable, that is flexible and not too onerous. This will help keep you accountable for studying certain topics each day and making sure that you stick to it. Allocate more time to topics you find difficult; there is no time spending hours studying the things you can do really well just because it makes you feel good!
Download past papers: For me during my A level and IGCSEs, past papers were essential. They give you experience to the type of question that may be asked, and you can look at the mark scheme [after completing the questions!] to see how to examiner likes the answers to be worded. Don’t just skim through the paper and answer the questions orally. Physically write down your answers and also give yourself a time limit, as time is often the enemy in exams!
FILL IN GAPS IN YOUR KNOWLEDGE
“Remind yourself what you have already learnt, then identify the gaps you need to fill in”
Try active reading: For this technique, write down what you already know about the topic, then make a list of what you need to revise more. Then go to your notes and textbooks and actively look for these ‘problem’ topics. When reading the notes, have the exam questions in your head. How does this information help me when answering questions?
Summarise your notes: There is no point just copying out your notes word for word. You probably wont process all the information and it takes a lot of time. Read a page of notes. Stop and think about it. Write brief notes or do a spider diagram. Use subheadings, bullet points and colours to emphasise important points. You can then use these when studying the night before the exam to refresh your brain of all the information in a short period of time. The process of actively picking out important information and WRITING [not typing] it down also helps the information to stick in your head more easily.
Test yourself: After you have studied a topic. Don’t just put it to one side. Test yourself. Whether it be with flashcards, a past paper, or getting a family member to test you. This will help you to identify if there are still some areas you need to focus on. We are all guilty of skimming our notes and saying “yes, I know all of that now” but in reality, without the notes in front of us, there are still some gaps in our knowledge.
Write timed answers: This is more important for when you get closer to exam time. Practise writing some answers or answering a block of questions in the time limit you will get for the exam. This is great for getting used to writing the answers by hand, getting a clear idea of how much you can actually write in the time, and again find out what gaps need to be filled in with more specifically targeted revision.
YOUR REVISION ROUTINE
Set times, targets and rewards: Work out when you are most alert and productive. I am definitely a morning person, so I would study all morning and then have the afternoon to do my training and just chill out! Have a list of achievable targets for each session and tick them off to allow you to motivate yourself further. Set up some short-term rewards such as a coffee break, phone call with a friend, piece of cake or quick gym session [keeping active is very important!].
Using a revision timetable: Give yourself at least one full day off a week. Your body and mind need it to recharge and refresh! Give yourself topics to study each day, what you will do [past papers, spider diagrams, flash cards etc] and how long you will spend. Don’t spend a full day on one topic. You will get bored of it after a few hours and the information studied later in the day wont be fully processed. Swapping between topics also helps you to make connections between the material to help it get embedded in your memory
Work in blocks of 2-3 hours with mini-breaks: Change topic/subject every 2-3 hours. Trust me, you will feel more refreshed and get more done. The brain can’t focus for more than 40 minutes, so every ½ to ¾ of an hour, give yourself 5 minutes to get a drink, have a stretch or get some fresh air. After 2-3 hours give yourself a longer break [e.g. lunch, dinner, gym session, dog walk etc].