Hey all! We have hit that time of year again – exam season. I am taking my A2 exams this year in History and Philosophy, and the stress can be overwhelming. Here’s my guide to the best revision techniques and beating the dreaded exam stress.
Check the syllabus
This is one of the most important steps when revising for an exam. Having a copy of the specification can ensure you keep on track, as well as making sure you do not learn topics that you will not get marked on in the exam. In the end, it will just mean all time and effort has gone to waste. Use the spec as a checklist, and cross off what has been revised as and when it is completed.
Plan Answers / Go Through Examiners Reports
Although this is super long winded and boring, examiners reports and candidate responses can help you truly determine what the examiner wants from your answer. For each past question they break down what went well, and what students forgot to mention. Should a similar question come up, which is a possibility, you will know what the perfect answer needs to include. This is where planning answers comes in – this helps to perfect time management and to acknowledge where your strengths / weaknesses are. Practising this will only make it less daunting in the real exam.
Find your learning style
This is the hardest part for sure. As it differs for everyone, there is not one uniform way to revise for exams. Sorry guys. The best advice is to try everything – discard the methods that don’t work and keep those that do. If you’re a visual learner, make your notes bright and noticeable, with plenty of pictures. I use this method when mentioning countries, using their flags or national colours to make notes. If you are a listener, find videos or documentaries that are relevant from the topic you are learning, then recite what is being said. In this case, it is okay to talk to yourself ! For those, (like myself) that do not like the sound of their own voice, find others that are taking the same course to record podcasts for you. This way, all cringe is avoided. Finally, if you are a kinesthetic learner (learns from practical activities), then I suggest making diagrams, charts, mnemonics, models – you name it. The practical aspect, and the memory of it, can help some to remember valuable information.
Making notes is one of the most obvious way of revising, especially when there is a lot of information to remember. Therefore, it is vital to make your notes as concise as possible, as it increases your chances of learning the content. Believe me, I have tried to learn a whole textbook and it has not worked, so make cue cards your best friend.
Tiny Cards App
This is my holy grail flashcards app. Here you can make your own flashcards, which can be viewed on phones and laptops, saving a load of paper. Also, there is a volume and picture option, so questions and answers can be asked through pictures, or read out if you prefer. This is great for all types of learners, or great if you are unsure what your learning style is.
Have a countdown app
Yes, you could say that this might increase stress, bit can actually help to give you a direct idea of when the exam dates are, instead of panicking days before the exam because of lost time. Making weekly plans is advised, with daily / weekly goals. to break down the revising process and not make it so terrifying. This is also more productive, as cramming, which I did last year led to my downfall. Just a small list of things every day leading to the exam is the best method to stay relaxed before the exam.
Allocate some free time
Time off is okay! If anything, clearing your mind off exams just for a few hours can rejuvenate yourself to make revising more productive afterwards. Cheat days are allowed – do not feel like you have to work every day for months on end, it would lead to craziness. Ignore revision guilt, and have a few days off. Also remember that there are others in the same position as yourself, so feel free to meet up with others doing the same course as you – they can relate with the stress you’re having!
Studying can cause headaches and stress related breakouts, so make sure you stay hydrated. A good diet will also help to keep the brain stimulated and nasty breakouts away.
Ask for help!
If you are struggling, either with your revision, or the stress, you can always go and speak to your teachers. They have gone through this with many students and can give the best advice. Alternatively, just speaking to peers can help. At the end of the day, everyone wants the best for you!
What are your best exam techniques?