The Ultimate Guide to Preparing for Exams
Exams can be really stressful so take some of the pressure off by getting prepared with the help of our ultimate guide.
We can all agree that exams are awful. They can reduce even the most chill of us to panic-stricken messes, yet they are unfortunately a necessary evil of education. Whether you're sitting GCSEs, A Levels, university exams or professional qualifications, the prospect doesn’t seem to get any less daunting.
While it might be tempting to try to forget that your exams exist by bingeing on Netflix or falling down a Pinterest rabbit hole, the only way to get the results you want is to properly prepare.
How do you do that you ask? We’ve pulled together all the best study tips and tricks to help you get in the best possible shape for your upcoming exams. Let the revision commence!
Set yourself goals
Before you start your revision, you should write out your goals as this will help you focus and give you something to work towards.
Start by writing down a list of your upcoming exams and the grades that you’d like to achieve. Next, make a list of topics that you need to understand for each exam and the question formats that the paper will use. This gives you an overall goal of what you want to achieve and makes it easier to plan your revision time.
Find your learning style
Everyone learns and retains information in a different way so it’s important to understand that what works for your friends or classmates might not be right for you.
There are many different styles of learning, but they are generally simplified into 4 categories:
- Visual - prefer to use images, graphs and other visual aids to learn
- Auditory - prefer to learn through listening and discussion
- Read/Write - prefer to learn by reading information and writing it out
- Kinesthetic - prefer to learn by doing
You might not fit exactly into one of these categories, but taking time to think about how you best learn will help you apply the right techniques to your revision.
Make a revision timetable
This perhaps the most important bit of preparation you can do. Having a detailed plan going forward will add structure to your studying and allow you to organise your time to suit your schedule.
Remember to be realistic when planning - there’s a limit to how much you can do in a day without doing more harm than good. You also need to account for other commitments like work or classes, and remember to allow time to socialise too - planning rest periods is a vital part of creating your timetable.
If you’re struggling with your timetable you can download our free study planner which has daily, weekly and monthly views.
Choose a study space
Your study space should be somewhere you feel comfortable, can concentrate and can easily access all your revision materials.
If you have a spare room at home to work in, this is ideal as it clearly separates your study time from your home life. However, if that’s not possible you can still claim an area as your own - just be sure to let your parents, housemates or little ones know when you need to be left alone to concentrate.
You can even mix it up for a change of scene and try taking your revision to a café or library as long as you don’t find these surroundings too distracting.
Deal with procrastination
None of us are immune to procrastination and in this digital age it can be so easy to be tempted away from studying by the many distractions the internet has to offer. It’s important to deal with this head-on as if you don’t nip it in the bud it can become a pattern.
Here are a few top tips to help you tackle procrastination:
- Stick to your study ‘start time’ even if you’re not in the mood
- Start with the task you want to put off most
- Get rid of your phone and other unessential electronics while studying
- If you’re studying for a full day, divide the day into different topics
- Take regular breaks (but don’t let them run on!)
Use any extra support you can get
There’s no shame in needing extra help with your revision. It’s far better to seek out help on something you’re struggling with than lose points on it in your exam. You can always reach out to your teacher or tutor and ask them to clarify anything you’re not sure of.
You should also use past or practice papers where you can to get a feel for the paper and to practice your timings. This will build your confidence and let you know which areas still need work.
If you’re a bit tech savvy you can also try using study apps to give you a helping hand. There are a huge number of these available, so to help you choose, we’ve picked out our top 10.
Have a healthy body and mind
Your physical and mental health can impact how you’ll be able to perform in your exam. You’re far more likely to struggle if your mind is distracted and your body is run down.
Keep yourself healthy by making sure you drink plenty of water and eat a healthy diet. We’re not saying you need to cut out sweets and treats but make sure you balance your snacks out with proper meals and a good fruit and veg intake. You should also try and fit a bit of exercise into your day as daily workouts are good for your body and can help boost your memory
To keep your mind healthy, you can try a number of techniques to combat stress. Some people will find relaxation aids such as yoga and meditation to be useful, whereas others might find talking things through with a friend or family member to be the best therapy.
Deal with exam anxiety
A bit of stress and anxiety in the run-up to an exam is normal but when they become overwhelming they can affect your performance. To combat stress and anxiety you can try a simple 3-part approach: Plan, Pamper, Prepare.
Planning ahead by setting your goals and creating a revision timetable allows you to feel organised and gives you plenty of time to seek out help if you need it. You should try to avoid leaving revision to the last minute and you definitely shouldn’t cram all night before the exam.
Treating yourself to a bit of a pamper session throughout your revision time will do a lot to combat stress. You don’t need to revise all the time, so take time out to enjoy yourself. Try to stick to regular sleeping and eating patterns as this will help you keep healthy and make it easier to relax.
Properly preparing for the exam day will help put your mind at ease, so you should organise everything you’ll need to take with you and pack it in your bag the night before. It’s also a good idea to plan how you’re getting to your exam centre - aim to be there earlier than the exam start time, so any traffic jams or public transport delays won’t make you late.
On the day of the exam, make sure you eat properly and take water into the exam with you. If you start to panic, calm yourself by breathing slowly and deeply.
Remember, you’re not alone in feeling anxious about exams - even the most successful people in the world can suffer from doubts about their performance. The most important thing is to prepare yourself as much as possible and try your best. Good luck!
If you’d like some more study tips, check out our handy infographic.
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