Mock exams are just around the corner. If you’re feeling stressed about them, you’re not alone. Most teens we polled in a webinar survey said they weren’t sure what to revise and how to get started.
One of the best things you can do is get a professional to check on your progress and revision skills regularly. We just so happen to have some of the best in the business! Check out what tutors are available to help here.
To help kickstart your revision, let us give you some top tips. Below, you can read some helpful advice on how to ace revision so that you feel confident and ready, going into exams. In summary:
It's rather risky to think of mocks as unimportant, as we have mentioned in another blog, mock exam results have a big impact on your predicted grades which are often used to rant admission into further education that you apply for after school. They even determine whether you will be taking foundation or higher-level papers for the main exams. On the plus side, they offer great experience and practice for exam preparation. So if you treat them like the real thing, you'll be better prepared for the final exams in the summer term!
The earlier you start, the more in control you’ll feel in the lead-up to mocks. When you’re cramming, the mountain of work from months of lessons can make you feel overwhelmed and stressed. But when you’re anxious, your brain doesn’t focus, process or recall info as well as it normally would. So that you don’t get into a panic, and really give yourself the best chance possible, start revising early. If you haven’t started yet– don’t worry. Just start now.
Break up the week into chunks of study time for different subjects. It’s a good idea to give more time to subjects you find hardest. Or if you know there’s a big project coming up, set extra time aside for that course. Now you might be used to using traditional handwritten revision timetables, but if you are any good with spreadsheets, we recommend moving to a digital, retrospective timetable, which popular studytubers praise. It stops you from procrastinating and spending hours on a hand-drawn timetable that you may need to redraw 4 or 5 times.
Rather than predicting what topics you will struggle with and need more time on 6 weeks in the future, this timetable is colour coded, can be reused and updated several times until you are confident you are prepared. It works by using colour-coded boxes to determine how confident you felt after each recorded revision session on each topic in every subject!
Additionally, a good way to keep the day’s lessons fresh in your mind is to look over notes and homework when you get in from school. If you make a habit of it, you’ll feel more in touch with what’s going on in class–which can give a huge boost to your self-confidence. Likewise, it will highlight any topics you need to allocate extra time to revise!
You know you need to start revising–but how do you actually do it? Do you study for hours on end for just one subject, or cover a few subjects on a Saturday afternoon? With Pomodoro, it’s all about breaking up study time into manageable chunks and giving yourself short breaks in between. You can read more about other time management techniques for revision here. Here’s how the Pomodoro technique works:
First, choose a subject to revise in. For example, GCSE English.
Revise the subject by choosing one study activity. For example, you can highlight keywords in your notes and homework, read texts from the English course list, work with flashcards, create a mind map, or plan out how you’d answer an exam question from a past paper
End your work when the timer rings and take a short break (about 5 mins). Stretch, move, get a drink of water and have a snack.
Tip: Do a different study activity in each Pomodoro round. So if you read 2 poems for your first Pomodoro round, for the second, create mind maps about the themes, characters and settings of those poems.
It’s important to take breaks when you study. Your brain can only focus for 90 minutes (max) at a time. Even when you’re taking a break, your brain is still working out problems (which is handy!) and those questions which might’ve had you stumped before, can feel more doable when you get back to them.
Studying the same way every time can feel boring and it’s actually not the best use of your time. People learn in different ways–and mixing up how you study means you’re giving yourself more chances to go deeper into learning a subject. Here are a few examples of each, but they may be different depending on the person!
If you’re tired after a long day at school, it makes sense to choose an activity from the low-energy list. You’re still learning, but it doesn’t feel like a slog. You can put together a menu of high, medium and low-energy activities and pin it to a corkboard next to your desk to take some of the guesswork out. Remember: Little and often is a much better approach than doing a long and tricky task every week.
There are times when you’re just feeling lost and don’t know the answers. It’s a completely normal part of learning– getting stuck. There are lots of different ways to work through a problem. You can ask your teacher after class for help, or see them during their office hours. If you don’t feel comfortable doing that, there are homework clubs where subject teachers are there specifically to answer your questions.
Other teens in the room will be in the same boat so you’ll know you’re not alone, so if your friends want to meet up and study a certain topic, it can really help to hear other people your age explaining a topic they understand while balancing out each other's strengths and weaknesses. In this day and age, you can always organise an online videocall study session!
Don't forget you can also ask questions in online forums, use free online lesson resources and watch some explainer videos as a quick break. Sherp has free GCSE Maths videos from our experienced tutors and teachers. Don't hesitate to contact any of them for further help so you can get around that topic you just can't quite understand alone. They are professional educators after all!
You’ve done all you can to prepare for your mocks. There’s nothing more to do now but to give yourself a break. On exam day, focus on making yourself feel relaxed and comfortable. Eat a healthy breakfast, and wear comfortable clothes. Schedule a 20-minute walk.
We recommend bringing a bottle of water into the exam hall to stay hydrated. Taking sips is a way to take mini breaks as you move through exam questions. If you begin to feel anxious at any point, use the box breathing technique. Breathe in for 5 seconds, hold for 5, and breathe out for 5. This easy breathing exercise helps get more oxygen into your brain, and it also helps you focus on your breath instead of on exam stress.
Take spare pens (black to fit exam rules)– you can never have too many pens. Take time to plan out your answers, in the same way, you practised in revision. If you run into a question that’s tricky or that you don’t know the answer to straight away, sometimes skipping it and answering the ones you do know is the better option. Answering a few questions can help give you the confidence to go back and tackle the trickier questions you skipped.
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