Exam season is upon us, so I thought I'd share with you the things I do to make the exam season less daunting and stressful. I'm definitely not an expert when it comes to revising for exams, however, after a good 4 years of sitting exams and 20+ exams later, I've come up with a list of tips and tricks I swear by during the exam season:
1. Plan your revision in advance and stick to it. As soon as exam leave starts, I'll make up a revision timetable splitting up my day into study sections. This involves deciding on subjects I'll revise during the morning/afternoon/evening and whether I'll be focusing on making notes or answering past paper questions. I find this helps to keep me on track with my revision as well as ensuring I go over everything I want to cover before the exam.
2. Find a time and place that allows you to study productively. I find I'm easily distracted if I revise in my bedroom, so I like to reserve my bedroom for relaxing in study breaks and study in the library instead. If there's not a library in your school, many public libraries have quiet study spaces. Different people study best at different times during the day. For me, I find I am more productive in the morning and in the evening so I will make plans in the afternoon - when I am less productive - to meet with a friend or go on a walk for an hour or so to restore for my next study session.
3. Study actively. There are lots of different ways to study: note-taking, group study, making posters and mind maps, answering questions and many more! I'm a visual learner, so I like to make diagrams and create posters. Below is an Instagram photo of my wardrobe last year during my school exams. I did things such as sketch out biology diagrams and draw pictures of what I thought the characters in my English books looked like and surrounded the drawing with character quotes for a more enjoyable way of remembering them. I've also found teaching others is a great way of making yourself confident with what you know. People learn best in different ways, so stick to what you find helps you best!
4. Take regular breaks from studying. You won't be able to remember everything you are studying if you are on a 6 hour study session without any breaks. Try to concentrate on a subject for an hour and give yourself a 10 minute break to grab a snack, scroll through Twitter or watch a YouTube video and then go back to studying. I like to study one subject in the morning and then switch to studying another subject in the afternoon, this way you're less likely to lose interest in what you're studying and make you remember more of what you have learned.
5. Vary your revision techniques. It's important to make sure you know everything you're supposed to for the exam, but don't forget to practice exam techniques too by trying some past papers. When I start to study, I focus on learning my notes and then attempt some past papers to apply my knowledge to a question I might possibly be asked in the exam. There is nothing worse than learning a whole course and being stumped in an exam because you haven't looked at an exam paper before!
6. Use different sources to add to your knowledge. Pre-written notes from your subject organiser are very helpful, but it's good to read other sources too. When I'm studying, I like to combine my lecture's pre-written notes as well as my own and from a textbook to make sure I have detailed notes and that I have covered everything that could possibly be asked in the exam. If you are younger, study guides are really helpful too. A lot of resources are available free online or in the library, but if you know of anyone older who has sat that exam in the past, ask if they would let you borrow some of their textbooks!
7. Make a list of enjoyable things to do after your exams are over. I know getting exams over and done with is in everyone's thoughts, so make yourself a list of exciting things you want to do after they have finished. This will help motivate yourself to study so you can look forward to what's in the future. Things on my list include shopping for a new summer wardrobe and re-designing my blog.
8. It's OK to be stressed. Something I learned in my psychology classes in school is that you perform better being slightly stressed than not being stressed at all or being overly stressed. Stress is natural for everyone, especially when some exams can determine your future and everyone wants to do well. If you feel as though you are getting too stressed about exams, take a break from studying or talk to someone about it if you're concerned.
9. Keep yourself healthy. During exam time, it's easy to get caught up in studying and forget to look after yourself. It's important to eat healthily and drink lots of water to feed your brain. Things I like to snack on when studying include nuts, oatcakes and fruit. It's also important to give your brain a rest and get a reasonable amount of sleep to help your body restore itself for another day of studying.
10. Try to relax the night before the exam & be organised on the day of the exam. I tend to read over a few of my notes in bed after a bath and have an early night. You want to be on top form for the exam, so there's no use staying up late studying as you'll be exhausted and less alert in the exam the next again day. On the day of the exam, make sure you have a decent meal, get your essentials organised and get to the exam venue in plenty of time before it starts. I like to make sure I have a few extra pens with me as well as a bottle of water and some rescue remedy pastilles in case I get a little anxious before I go into the hall. Make sure you know your seat number (if you have one) and are familiar with all the rules during the exam including mobile phones and what to do if you're ill etc. Allow yourself a couple of minutes during the exam to carefully read each question and roughly create a written plan of notes for each of your paragraphs to keep you on track if your exam is essay based.
I hope these tips were helpful. Exams may seem like a pain at the moment, but it's only a few weeks of your life before they're all over. Please comment with any tips you have during the exam season as I'd love to hear them and they'll help others too! :)
GOOD LUCK! x