The last two years have been extremely disruptive for anyone studying at any level.
Few classes have been face to face, and even fewer exams have taken place. If you’re not feeling match fit when it comes to revising and taking tests, it’s hardly surprising.
It can be tempting to bury your head in the sand and ignore your revision altogether, but exams are going to happen in 2022, and there’s no time like the present to get your battle plan together and learn how to prepare for exams again.
Not all exams will require the same amount, or the same type of revision.
Grab your diary, and make sure the exams, the subject, the duration and the venue are all written in. Next, highlight those that will need the most work – either because they are study-intensive subjects, or because you need to worker harder to achieve good results – and list them in your study notebook.
These are your first revision priorities, and you will be devoting around 10% more time to these than subjects which require effort from you to get the same result.
This list will be different for everybody – some people can do complicated trigonometry in their heads, others can list monarchs and historical battles with ease.
2. Make a Plan
Again, with the help of your diary, count how many weeks there are from now until each exam. If you’ve left it very late and you’re counting in days rather than weeks, don’t panic – there’s still time to make a difference. Intelligent preparation is key.
Short bursts of work and frequent switching between subjects will help your recall, so don’t block out entire days to work on one subject (or if you do, divide the day into different aspects of the subject to give your brain a chance to absorb the information).
Everyone’s learning style is different, so make sure you put your first priority subjects where you learn best – this may be first thing in the morning, or at the end of the day when you’re in your learning stride.
Limit each session to 35-45 minutes, and take a break of around 15-20 minutes after each session. Snacking and a glass of water is positively encouraged, as you need to feed and water your brain! Fruit or nuts are better than sugary snacks and fizzy drinks, and if you’re a coffee drinker, beware of the caffeine crash!
As you get closer to each individual exam, add a 10 minute booster session immediately after each break to reinforce your study period.
3. How to revise
It might seem obvious, but for two years we’ve been assessed on our grades and we haven’t needed to retain information in the same way as we would in an exam situation.
For some, reading notes or chapters of books over and over might be effective, but most of us will need to make use of flash cards, post-its, and mind maps – particularly effective for dates and events! – to plant that information in our long term memories.
There is some evidence to suggest that reading information from paper rather than screens will help you to retain it more easily, and making notes rather than just highlighting will reinforce that retention even further.
If you can get hold of previous papers, it’s always helpful to see how questions are worded, and to make sure you understand exactly what is being asked of you.
Finally, after such a long time, it’s easy to put too much store by this year’s exams.
Not doing as well as you expected or hoped can seem like the end of the world, but exams can be retaken, and gap years can enhance your learning and your life experience in ways that will enrich your studies in the future. Remind yourself that whatever the outcome, you have worked hard, and no work is ever wasted.