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Articles > Money May, 01, 2012

Top exam tips

Aaron Porter
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8.00 / 10

The next few weeks in the academic calendar are often the most stressful for thousands of students up and down the country – whether you’re in school, college, sixth form or university. The exam crunch can become all encompassing, and it often feels like exams hold the destiny to a successful outcome for the next year, or even years to come.

Students taking exams- top tips for studying

Photo by Rune Mathisen

So here are 10 tips to hopefully help you out for the next few weeks:

Start your revision early

Ok, depending on when your exams are scheduled you might feel the time for this has already passed. But it’s never too late if you haven’t already – even if it’s just to cover some of the biggest topics you feel are most likely to come up, or topics you feel need refreshing.

Set out a revision timetable

Sometimes the hardest part about revising is actually working out where to start. Trying to break down 1, 2 or sometimes 3 years of study for revision can be tough. Often it’s best to make a timetable to work out which topics you hope to cover on a daily basis. Once you’ve pulled together a timetable, it needn’t be followed rigidly, but it’s worth sticking to it as far as possible.

When you have a number of exams spread out over a longer period, it also helps to have a revision timetable which takes into account when you might need to begin and end revision for particular subjects.

Try and break down a subject into manageable topics

Most subjects can generally be broken down into slightly smaller topics or themes which can often be helpful when it comes to revision. Some students find it helpful to try and move between tougher and easier subjects (easy – tough – easy – tough etc), rather than beginning with all the tougher subjects or leaving them right to the end – which you might not get round to reaching.

Find out what works best to aid your memory

Different students find different methods best for trying to remember information. Some students prefer notes, others work from memory aids like diagrams or mnemonics. It’s usually best to try not to come up with anything too complex, but it’s worth spending a little time figuring out how you best work to retain information you are revising.

Take a break if you find you are reading a page over and over again without taking anything in

We’ve all got to the bottom of the page, and then realised we’ve not actually taken anything in. It’s often a sign of tiredness, and if you’re genuinely tired and struggling to concentrate it’s almost a sure fire sign that you should take a break. Different people will have different attention spans. Some students will get into the routine of taking a 15min break every hour. Others can keep going for 90mins or 2 hours.

It’s not just breaks. Have a drink and prepare something to eat too

To help keep your energy up and stimulate thinking it can often be helpful to keep hydrated and to make sure you aren’t hungry. It helps with extending concentration periods and information retention.

Little but often is usually better than fewer marathon sessions

Most students find it useful to schedule regular revision sessions, usually a couple of times a day, rather than trying to schedule longer sessions a couple of times a week. Long and infrequent revision sessions usually mean there’s an incredible volume of information to take in, and the chances of retaining it all are much slimmer.

Make sure you’ve got the details of when and where your exams are

There is nothing worse than trying to find the details of precisely when your exam is on the morning, and then figuring out which building you need to head to. It’s best to make sure you’ve got a simple set of details for when and where your exam will be in advance, particularly if it’s a building you’ve not been to before.

Past exam papers can be helpful to predict for the future

Sometimes past exam papers are published and made available. Having a look and even attempting them can be an excellent way to familiarise yourself with the type of exam you might face. It can give clues to a typical structure used or the themes that come up regularly. Equally, it might give an indication of a topic which hasn’t appeared for a few years. Whilst it’s rarely productive spending too much time predicting what might come up based on previous years, it can still be helpful to check out what sorts of papers have been set in the past.

Success or failure, keep it all in context

Hopefully a productive revision period, on top of stimulating study through your programme, will set you up for exam success. But even if it doesn’t, it’s important to remember that are almost always other paths open even if you don’t quite hit the grade you’d hoped for. Sometimes there are opportunities for re-sits too.

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