Having recently read Lucy and Will’s blogs on application and interview tips, I though it would be helpful if I could offer some of my tips on exam success.
I sat my GCSEs some nine years ago and since then I’ve put behind me somewhere in the region of over 100 exams (I worked it out). As a result of doing a degree without a dissertation, I have become all too familiar with the term ‘revision’ and I hope that for those of you who are setting off for your AS/A2 or degree exams, this blog will be of use.
The first tip is to find out what works for you. This is really a matter of trial and error but, as everyone learns in different ways, it’s important to find out how you best retain knowledge. Be it question practice, reading, listening or in groups it’s worth trying all out so you can get a feel of how you best learn. Sometimes revising at night can help as your brain reorganises the information during your sleep.
High on the list is to take breaks but avoid procrastination. It’s all too easy to tell yourself you’ll go and make another coffee, or check Facebook quickly but being able to revise effectively requires a great amount of self-control. It’s very important that you take breaks in between studying but keep these to around 15 minutes every hour or so. This keeps the mind fresh. Use the break wisely, so you feel like you’ve actually taken a break, I like to play the guitar and have a cuppa during a break as it’s a way for me to relax and prepares my mind for another session on the books.
A lot of passing an exam comes down to confidence and keeping your cool. Hitting the books will help to build confidence as your knowledge develops. I like to artificially build confidence by having a positive attitude to the exam and I will constantly tell myself that I can do it. Testing your knowledge is a good way to see where you need to focus and will help to increase your confidence. Sometimes it can be helpful to get a blank piece of paper and just brain dump all you know about a certain subject. I do this the night before every exam as it helps me to feel assured about the exam.
When revising, it’s important to avoid distractions. Whether this means finding a quiet space, turning your phone off or just having a clear head, it’s almost impossible to revise with something distracting you. As a result, revision in front of the TV isn’t really revision and I’ve never bought into the idea of listening to music although I hear this helps for some people, again, each to their own!
In the run up to the exam, it all falls down to how your head is. Clear it of anything which is bothering you and gain complete focus on the task ahead. I find self-control is really important and I therefore tend to eat well and avoid alcohol for weeks before the exam, it works for me, it might work for you too!
On the day of the exam you have the opportunity to show the examiner what you’ve been working on. Tackle the easier questions first and always keep your eye on the clock. Keep hydrated and always remain focused, never let your mind wander!
The worst case scenario during an exam is the panic. The lesson is to keep cool and carry on, you have a few hours to make good a bad situation, flicking frantically through pages isn’t going to help you. Take a minute to calm down, take the exam paper by the scruff of the neck and do what you’ve prepared to do. Everyone goes through that feeling of panic, how you deal with it is more special.
When the exam is done, it is important to reward yourself, whether that’s a fancy meal or a night out with friends, it’s vital to relieve some of that stress and find yourself back in normality.
I hope this helps and good luck to anyone who is preparing for exams over the coming months.