All exams can be scary for young people, especially GCSEs and A-levels, well they don’t need to be! Going into revision with a plan and solid idea of how you are going to revise can boost your confidence, improve your grades and most importantly calm your nerves!
Allow plenty of study time
Don't leave it until the last minute! While some students do seem to thrive on last-minute cramming, it's widely accepted that (for most of us) this is not the best way to approach an exam. To help sort out your time management, set up a timetable for your study. Take note of your exam dates and start building a schedule in the weeks leading up to the big days. Taking note of specific exam dates allows you to arrange your study time accordingly and prioritise more difficult A-level/GCSE subjects.
A tutor will also be able to help you organise your time so that you are being as productive as you can in the build up to exams. Regular sessions with an online tutor will keep you on track and make sure that you are sticking to a joint planned schedule.
Make sure you have enough space to spread your textbooks and notes out. Have you got enough light? Is your chair comfortable? Are your computer games out of sight?
Try and get rid of all distractions, and make sure you feel as comfortable and able to focus as possible. For some people, this may mean almost complete silence, for others, background music helps. Some of us need everything completely tidy and organized in order to concentrate, while others thrive in a more cluttered environment. Think about what works for you, and take the time to get it right.
Use visual learning
Visual aids can be an extremely useful revision technique. Draw or doodle freely while you study. For a visual learner, it's important to break down information into drawings or diagrams, to make recall easier in the long run. Diagrams, mind maps, and freehand drawings can be useful ways of improving both your understanding and creating a much easier memory aid than reading the text alone. Do not be afraid to use colours in much the same way––colour in your drawing or highlight the text.
Practice Past Papers
Past papers are an amazing way to prepare for exams, They help you get used to the subtleties and techniques used in each subject. It is also a great idea to time yourself attempting old questions so that you can really hone your exam technique and be prepared on the day. There are loads of great resources to find past papers and practice questions online, like here at Maths Made Easy.
Set Achievable Targets
Cramming chapters of trigonometry the night before a big exam is probably going to do more harm than good. Likewise, trying to revise the whole of Shakespeare several weeks out before being tested might not be the best way to remember the information by test-time. Consider having an academic point of contact throughout the exam period too to stop a slump mid exam week.
You could revise throughout the year by spending 15 minutes each day making notes you'll be able to rely upon later. By doing it in short stretches, you will remember more and feel less stressed. A month before your exam, you will have finished all your notes so you can spend a few hours a day reviewing notes and doing timed writing practice.
After each lesson write up your new notes on a flash card (it only takes a couple of minutes!) and keep it with your work. This way you're consolidating your knowledge and saving time and panic at the end of the year.
Come together with a group of your friends all studying for the same exam. After hours of revising on your own, some face to face help goes a long way. No doubt there are hundreds of questions you have that they may be able to answer and vice versa. As long as you can stay focused for the whole session, it’s a great idea to have a more lighthearted study period to take the stress away from classwork and revision.
Take regular breaks
While you may think it's best to study for as many hours as possible, this can actually be counterproductive. Studies have shown that for long-term retention of knowledge, taking regular breaks really helps.
Everyone's different, so develop a study routine that works for you. If you study better in the morning, start early before taking a break at lunchtime. Or, if you're more productive at nighttime, take a larger break earlier on so you're ready to settle down come evening.
Try not to feel guilty about being out enjoying the sunshine instead of hunched over your textbooks. Remember Vitamin D is important for a healthy brain.
Now you should be in a great position to begin your revision and ace your exams! For all the information we know so far about the 2021 GCSE and A-level exams of various exam boards, check out another article of ours here (Edexcel, OCR, AQA).