Top Revision Tips: How to Revise for Your Exams

How to revise for your exams, make effective use of your time and prepare to pass

Most people don’t enjoy taking exams. We just thought we’d get that out of the way right from the start. So, if you’re here, reading this page, you’re likely to be one of those people. We feel your pain. If you love taking exams, you probably already have revision off to a tee. So, get revising. What are you doing here? For the rest of us, let’s spend a little time getting to grips with how to revise for exams

Mindset

Think about the examination room. It probably sends shivers down your spine. And that’s fine - but think again. An examination room has plenty of positives -

there’s a

serenity in the silence,

a grace to the geometry

of the desks;

all laid out in lines,

the whisper of pen or pencil on crisp, white paper.

It’s calming

when you consider it.

When you walk into the exam room, you're probably going to be nervous. Spend a short time breathing deeply and listening. Orientate yourself. You're just there to demonstrate what you know. And, of course, revision is a significant part of "what you know". So, what do you know?

What is your learning type?

We all learn in different ways:

  • Visual learners need to see things to make connections
  • Touch learners (aka “kinaesthetic”) find physical activities like puzzles and “doing” right for them
  • Aural learners, respond better to sound and music to help them develop learning
  • Verbal learners prefer putting complex theories and ideas into their own words to learn

Chances are, you could be a mix of those - or one may be your specific learning type. Try this test to find out. Once you know what type of learner you are, you’ll know which approach to take when revising. But, variety is the spice of life (so they say). Mashing up your revision sessions - trying different learning approaches - could really help. Because revision can be a bit boring, can’t it? Mixing up your revision styles helps to keep your studies more exciting (did we really say exciting?) and engaging.

Try:

  • A YouTube revision video
  • A Quizlet study mode
  • Writing a speech, as if you were teaching the rest of the class
  • Testing a friend
  • Past examination papers
  • Working under timed conditions
  • Sticking Post-It Notes around the house with facts and formulas

Pomodoro Your Way To A Pass

It might sound a little like a Spanish bull-ring fighter or a pizza topping, but Pomodoro is actually a technique that helps the brain to absorb facts. Think about those occasions you’ve sat in the library. The first twenty minutes or so have probably been super-productive. You found your book, you starting reading, it was all going well and you were soaking it all in, and then, you fall asleep. Or someone asks what you're doing, and you end up having a conversation. And you find that out of two hours, only twenty minutes of them were productive. And that’s because - for most of us - our brains only really work for relatively short periods of time before they get tired.

Enter Pomodoro. A Pomodoro is basically an approach to working that’s believed to maximise your productivity. It works like this:

  • Work for 25 minutes
  • Have a 5-minute break

That’s a Pomodoro. Simple. And when you’ve completed your fourth Pomodoro in a row, you reward yourself with a longer break - 10-15 minutes. Revision shouldn’t feel like torture. You need to reward yourself with a break to keep your brain active. There are Pomodoro apps - check out your App Store. A reward could be anything that gets you away from your work desk. Sit in the sun for 5 minutes, listen to your favourite record, get up and stretch your feet, make a quick phone call (but make sure it doesn't last longer than your break!).

Start First Thing

There’s no time like the present. And one day you’ll realise that mornings when you’re not at school start before midday. The earlier you start revising, the more time you’ve got. It’s like the wise words of Admiral William McRaven - “if you make your bed first thing in the morning, you’ll have accomplished the first task of the day.” And revision is a bit like that. Start early, and feel a sense of pride in a job well done. Cramming for an exam a couple of hours before you walk into the examination room doesn’t always work - you’ll find that you end up stressing yourself out.

Lists

Writing lists can be a great way to frame your revision time. Make a list of everything you need to know to pass your exam.

In Maths, for example, you might have:

  1. Fractions
  2. Financial Mathematics
  3. Algebra
  4. Ratios and Percentages
  5. Inequalities

Which of those (if any) are you confident with? Write the list in order of your confidence, with the most difficult at the top of the list.

Then work your way up the list.

Warm up

You wouldn’t run a marathon without a warm-up. So don’t expect your brain to kickstart immediately into solving killer algebraic formulas without a few easier exercises to get the grey matter working. Start with exercises that require some thought, but not too much. Try a Quizlet study game like Match or Gravity to get started. Work from the bottom of your list and gradually work your way up to the top.

Create an altar to revision

Sitting on your bed, listening to blaring dubstep might be how you relax, but it’s probably not the best environment for working. If you can, work at a desk in a room with a door that you can close. Get everything into neat, little piles so that you're not drowning in paper and books, like @alimastudies and @emily_studies below. Make sure you have your notes, your textbooks, your pens and paper, and your pencils are sharpened. Revision is a ritual, so get everything ready so that you're not going to be distracted.

To Be Silent?

Some people can’t bear silence when they work - but they’ll have to get used to it because exam conditions don’t usually allow music. But, if you must listen to music, try tunes without lyrics.

Perhaps you listen to Radio 1 or 1Extra? The problem with radio, however, is the talking. DJs telling their funny stories in between songs is fun to listen to, but terrible for revision. If you can’t work in silence, try this:

  • Play BBC Radio 3. It’s mainly classical music and film scores. Play it at a volume that you can barely hear - it just kills the silence a little.
  • Choose a playlist - there are loads on Apple Music or Spotify - find one that just plays instrumental music, or even better: ambient music.

If you listen to music while you work, play it at a volume that you can only just hear. That way, you’re less likely to be distracted.

And finally…

Here’s a list of other weird and wacky ways that could help you revise for exams:

  • Record yourself reading your notes out loud. Then play them back at any given opportunity: when you’re washing up after Sunday lunch, or going out for a run, or playing on your Xbox, play your recording. You’ll be surprised how much you take in.
  • Wear a particular scent while studying for different subjects - and wear the same fragrance on the day of the exam. Or eat different sweets for each subject and take those into the exam room (if you're allowed). That way, you associate smells and flavours with specific revision sessions.
  • Read your notes out loud using different voices or accents. That way, you remember the accent which should help you remember the fact as well.

Don’t panic

The most important tip is to keep calm. Calm comes from breathing. If you breathe deeply and slowly, your heart beats slower, which pumps blood around your body at a slower rate, giving you a sense of contentment. Fast and shallow breathing does the opposite - makes your heart pump faster, increasing your stress levels. There are tons of meditation apps, just like there are tons of revision apps so get on your App Store and value your chill.

Exam time, of course, is stressful for everyone. But finding a revision programme that works for you, while changing your mindset through deep breathing can help take all the drama out of the crisis.

GCSE Revision

Revising for your GCSEs? Find helpful tips for languages, maths, sciences and more.