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My top tips for revising for exams

Exams are a tough time for everybody, so don’t feel alone in being stressed out or slightly lost as to where to even start revising. This year there’s been so much uncertainty around exams, but we do know you will face exams one day so I’m going to tell you my top tips for revising.

Start early

Exams are important, one of my best tips for exam revision is to start early so you feel prepared, and follow a plan rather than revising whatever you feel like, which will ensure that although you may still feel slightly stressed, you won’t be panicking last minute about content. Revision is there to make sure you feel ready for the exam, so try to utilise this time as best as possible so you feel more confident when you do finally sit down in the exam hall.

Everyone’s learning style is different

Start thinking about how you revise best. No two people will have exactly the same learning style, so it’s really key to have a think about what exactly makes you retain information. Some examples of different techniques to try out include:

  • Making things bright, colourful and visually attractive – e.g. making posters
  • Going through the content and turning it into practice questions and answers
  • Making flashcards for other people to test you
  • Try and teach someone else the content, or plan lessons on it
  • Exam past papers – timed and non-timed
  • Studying mark schemes and examiner reports from the year before.
  • Making Powerpoint presentations of the content
  • Recording yourself or someone else speaking about the content – nice to play on walks or runs
  • Going to school run revision sessions or using online resources such as YouTube or BBC Bitesize

One thing I would say in terms of revision tips is: don’t just copy out the textbook. Not only will this retain very little information, but the information you retain will be memorised textbook content, and you won’t know how to apply this. Application is a big focus, especially in the newer GCSEs, so make sure you’re solving problems and thinking about how content applies to real life rather than just memorising words on the page.

Make a plan

Next I would recommend making a plan – how much time do you want to dedicate to each subject? What are you going to spend this time doing? And how many hours a week would you like to achieve in order to get this done? I like to give myself weekly targets as I find daily targets can be compromised quite easily! For example, this week I want to spend 4 hours on Geography revision, and 5 hours revising English. Ticking off these targets and seeing what it adds up to overtime is really satisfying and makes me feel like I have a lot of work behind me to give me confidence in the exam.

Small breaks and rewards

After you have planned out revision (and don’t use this time to procrastinate!), you can start to implement these techniques and start getting those hours in. I think my best advice for this part of revision, which is definitely the hardest, is to remember that the end is in sight, and to keep taking small breaks – don’t just sit at a screen for six hours. Reward yourself with a little walk around or snacks to keep you motivated during the lulls. Also, sometimes revision can feel like hitting a brick wall. If this happens, take a break, and come back later, or try a different subject. In the worst case scenario, try again tomorrow! This is why having weekly targets fits a lot better than daily, as it can do more harm than good to keep forcing yourself to revise.

Stay calm and good luck

Finally, its time to take the exam. I tend to make a summary of material the day before the exam, in leaflet or poster form, then have a brief glance over this in the morning whilst you eat a good breakfast! Stay calm, take deep breaths, and feel confident in yourself. If you’ve stuck to plan, there is no reason to think that the exam will be anything more than a chance to show what you’ve learned in the last few months. With this in mind, I wish you the best of luck!

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Ruby Tomlinson

Hi, I'm Ruby, a second-year English Literature Student from Van Mildert College. Over lockdown, I've been putting my running shoes on to get out and about around Durham city and the surrounding countryside. The student ambassador team has been working really hard to make video content for you to hear from real students, so please don't be shy: have a look at our vlogs and feel free to get in touch with any questions.
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