By Lily Orchover, Nutrition Marketing Assistant, MyNutriWeb
The stress of upcoming exams can feel utterly overwhelming and at times, unbearable. Forgotten everything you revised for your mocks? Panicking as the season looms? As a relatively recent graduate myself, I have pulled together my 10 top tips for entering the exam season. They will hopefully help you manage, plan and utilise your time more effectively. Often this time of year is associated with all-night study sessions, endless cups of coffee, and a severe lack of social life, but it does not always need to be that way!
There is a saying; ‘fail to prepare? prepare to fail’, and in this instance it couldn’t more accurate. Effective planning either through a revision timetable or calendar-based study planner is one of the best ways to ensure success; as it allows you to take control of your time. There is nothing worse than leaving revision to the last minute and feeling totally unprepared.
Start with your exam timetable, and work backwards. By doing so you can split your revision into bite-sized chunks and outline exactly what you need to do each day, putting you in control of the revision process and hopefully keeping anxiety at bay! Having a clear structure allows you to set goals, minimises time wasting, and reinforces discipline.
- The earlier you can start, the better.
- Give yourself more time as everything takes longer than you think!
You can find plenty of downloadable revision sheets and timetables online which saves you having to create one yourself. ‘Get revising study planner’ is a free recommended tool and even sends you reminders to keep you on track!
Now that you’ve successfully made your revision timetable and planned out each module, you have to actually go and do it. Creating a routine that is tailored to your strengths provides a framework for success and helps implement consistency. Exam season is a marathon not a sprint, and sometimes you’ll have a bad day, but if you have cemented a realistic daily routine it will help you to stay calm and organised. When your goals are clear and precise, your routine is what gets you closer to that goal. As James Clear states in his book ‘Atomic Habits’ – habits are the compound interest of self-improvement!
Find a time and a space that works for you – because despite the stress, you can’t spend every waking second revising. Incorporate at least one other fun activity each day so that you can have time off without feeling guilty.
Some questions to ask yourself whilst creating your routine:
- What time of day are you most productive?
- How long can you effectively study for?
- What are the non-negotiables in your day?
- What sort of environment do you work in best? E.g the library, a quiet café, somewhere with lots of natural light, your bedroom?
3. Start with the hard stuff
It is important to identify areas of weakness or topics you find more difficult. Instead of avoiding these, start with them. Although less enjoyable, getting on top of the more difficult subjects will increase your confidence, allow you longer to ask questions, do additional reading and research. Once you’ve got your head stuck into it everything seems much more manageable!
- Avoid procrastinating the hard topics
- Get stuck in!
4. Try multiple revision methods
Revision can get boring and repetitious, but to really understand your subject and be able to apply your knowledge (rather than just recite it from lecture notes) you’ll need to use a range of different methods. How you revise will depend on what kind of assessments you’re undertaking. Try studying with friends, creating mind maps and mnemonics, recording yourself speaking and listening to it back on the bus, to name a few. The University of Portsmouth have created ‘The Oscar Model’ where they’ve explored a number of different revision techniques, including some specifically designed for those of us who are neurodiverse.
5. Utilise technology
There is so much incredible technology available that can help make revision more enjoyable and easier! Everything from mind mapping software, audio dictators and flashcard creators. Save yourself from spending hours making your notes look pretty and use the technology. If you are unsure, google it – there’s likely to be someone out there who has done it for you already.
Some of my favourite apps:
MINDMUP: digital free mind mapping software to help focus your ideas
Office Lens: enables you to take a photograph of a whiteboard and covert it to a PDF, Word or Powerpoint and store all the data via Onenote or OneDrive
Cite this for me: this award winning app makes referencing easy. All you have to do is scan the books barcode or enter the URL of an article and it will generate a citation, which saves and syncs in the cloud allowing you to manage work across multiple devices
Quizlet: if you are a flashcard lover then this app is for you! It allows you to create your own flashcards and test yourself on the go. Quizlet also has a library of already-made sets across a range of subjects and games to make revising fun.
Notion: a life changing free productivity and note taking app. It enables you to make and create notes, tasks, to-do lists and bookmarks with ease.
6. Minimise distractions
It is far too easy to get sucked into a TikTok or Instagram hole, or generally procrastinate spending time on anything else but revision, which is why creating your revision environment is so important. You need to make revising the path of least resistance. Create conditions which will enable you to focus.
- Tune out distractions – identify what they are and remove them
- Take regular breaks to improve concentration
- Don’t attempt to multitask – it often causes you to lose focus
- Change subject every few hours
- Use music, but only if you know if can help you focus!
7. Past papers are your best friends
Everybody knows this, but you’ll be surprised how many don’t utilise this resource. Do every single past paper you can find. Knowing and understanding the material is only half of the job, decoding the style of questions and the type of answers examiners are looking for is the key to getting the grades you want!
8. Rest & de-stress
Obviously, this time of year is very intense, but the importance of rest cannot be underestimated. Your brain needs time to process the information you’re trying to cram into it! At night, your brain is sorting, priming and processing information and without adequate sleep, concentration and memory becomes fragmented. In Matthew Walker’s book ‘Why we sleep’, he highlights the consistent data around sleep as a memory aid both before learning (to prepare your brain for initially making new memories) and after learning (to cement those memories and prevent forgetting). Evidence suggests that if you don’t sleep the very first night after learning, you lose the chance to consolidate those memories, even if you indulge in catch up sleep thereafter. So, if its between doing an ‘all nighter’ or going to bed early… you know what to do. If you are struggling to sleep at night, take a look at the Sleep Foundations resources on how to sleep better.
The likelihood is, if you are reading this you already know how to eat well, so I don’t need to emphasise the importance of nutrition. Exercise however, is equally something that cannot be overlooked. Not only does exercise increase the body’s production of serotonin and dopamine but it has also been shown to induce structural and functional changes on the brain affecting neuroplasticity, influencing cognition and wellbeing. Regular physical activity will increase your concentration and memory retention, plus it helps to oxygenate the brain and release pressure.
- Get moving!
- Exercise helps consolidate your revision and improves mood!
10. Go outside, be in nature & get fresh air
Revision usually means spending a lot of time sitting down and looking at a screen, but it is important to expose yourself to natural light, go out into different surroundings and widen your periphery; it will help you study better. There is lots of research around the benefits of fresh air and green spaces, suggesting that exposure enhances both mental health and learning capacity, by lowering stress levels and restoring attention. Moreover, fractals which are shapes found in nature have been shown to release serotonin, reduce stress and stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system. So, now that the weather in the UK is becoming a little more welcoming, try and go outside in between study sessions.
If you interested in learning more, check out Mind, the mental health charity’s, information on nature and mental health.
The truth is, there is no perfect formula for exam success and you might find only some of my tips are right for you. The key is to work out how you revise most effectively and stick to that as best you can.
- Planning, preparation, boundaries and breaks!
- Its okay if the plan doesn’t go exactly as it said – tomorrow is a new day, get up and try again
- Trust yourself and don’t worry about what everyone else is doing!
Hopefully these tips will help you remain calm and positive! Best of luck to all the students in our community 😊. If you have any top tips you’d like to share, please do comment below – we would love to hear from you.