With the school timetable so badly disrupted for the past couple of years by Covid-19, it’s easy to feel that no matter what you do, you’re out of practise when it comes to revising for and taking exams.
As normal service resumes, it’s worth revising how to prepare for your exams alongside your other preparation.
These tips should help you do well on your mocks and give you the extra confidence you need to sail through the actual exams when the time comes – whatever level they are.
1. Organised revision notes
The first thing you need to do is get your notes together into some kind of order so that you can make a revision timetable.
Give your notes clear headings, and make sure any quotations are relevant and useful. If you can, get hold of past papers. The more organisation you put in now, the more time you can spend on actual revision.
2. Keep calm and carry on
The stresses of the pandemic and disrupted learning mean that you might feel under greater stress than usual preparing for your mock exams.
The most important thing to remember is that these are just what they say they are – mock exams – and their only function is to give you an idea of what the final exam is likely to entail.
Little and often is going to work best for your preparation, and don’t forget to intersperse that with long walks or half an hour off to watch television. If there are subjects that you’re not so strong on, now is the time to ask for extra help
3. Get that timetable together
Even putting your timetable together – and sticking to it – is preparation for your actual exams. Learning how a revision schedule works for you is as important to your preparation as your actual study.
Make sure you schedule in a break for at least 5 minutes every hour. For more intensive subjects, you might want to see if the Pomodoro technique works for you – 25 minutes of concentrated work, followed by a 5 minute break.
Never spend the whole day on a single subject; there’s no quicker way to ensure that your brain will get completely overloaded and not retain a thing!
If you only have one subject to revise, make sure you switch between different aspects frequently to keep your concentration fresh.
4. Do some past papers
Towards the end of your revision schedule, make sure you do at least one paper under exam conditions; that is, timed and with no interruptions. This will help you to recall information quickly and get it down on paper in the time available.
5. Know what they’re looking for
Grading criteria aren’t always available for exams, but where they are it’s worth knowing what’s necessary to get a certain mark.
Keep your answers lean and factual – it’s easy to fall into the trap of writing everything you know down and losing marks for lack of coherence. The highest marks will always go to the candidates that have actually answered the question.
6. On the day
Give yourself 5 or 10 minutes to read through the paper before you begin. This will help you stay calm and get rid of any nerves. It will also ensure that you don’t leap into answering a question without making sure you’ve understood it properly.
Go for your ‘best’ question first, so that you have extra time to spend on your weaker questions afterwards. If you have time left at the end, proofread your work!
Have something planned for after the exam. You can’t change your answers once the invigilator has asked you to put your pen down, so having something to take your mind off studying and exams will help you to put anything you wrote (or wish you wrote!) to one side and refocus your efforts on preparing for the real exam at a later date.
When your mock papers come back, it can be useful to make a revision sheet from what you missed, and anything you didn’t understand.
It’s a useful opportunity to go through the paper with your tutors and ask them for their advice on what you need to work on. You will also have a good idea of what you need to address in terms of your exam technique, and whether there is anything you could do better.
Mock exams are the best tool you have for improving your knowledge, so treat them as a positive and not a negative.
For more information and advice on exams and next steps, please see:
- A level Revision Tips
- Retaking GCSEs
- Revision & Studying Guides
- School Leaver Programmes
- A levels 2022
- Why mock exams are more important than you think
- BTEC vs A Levels
- 8 Alternatives to A levels
- Should I Retake My A Levels?