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Are you frustrated about not knowing how to prepare for your upcoming exam? Are you unsure about where and when to start? We've got you!

Here on this blog, we aim to expose and explore better ways to predict better, to manage better and to overcome the majority of the exam anxieties and stresses that come with exam periods through providing and recommending tried and proven exam tips by smart students.


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January 18th, 2019

“Exam success is all about having a comprehensive, well-organised and revision study plan and implementing them in a systematic, practical and strategical way.”

Samson Yung-Abu

Exam period is, arguably, one of the most critical and dreadful aspects of a student’s life. For most students, It brings about an overwhelming feeling of anxiety, pressure, burnout, nerves, stress, sleepless night and an endless list of other variety of worries. However, with the right strategy and follow-ups, the above occurrence can be minimised, managed or avoided. As Benjamin Franklin puts it, when we fail to prepare, we are inevitably preparing to fail. 

In no hierarchical order, to begin our preparation, we should start by asking a few questions such as: when should we start studying? What should our revision schedule look like? What will come up in the exam papers, when are the deadlines, what are the probability of success or failure? What are we good at and what do we struggle with (Strengths and Weakness)? How many subjects or topics are likely to come up, and in what format? How much time do we need to spend in our preparation to achieve a successful and effective grade?

To this end the big questions remains, “When should we actually start studying or revising?”

There isn’t a set time to start your revision. However, revision is a systematic process of events, and while there isn’t a specific date or time to start revising, students should be advised that revision should commence at the very beginning of each semester. 

To this end, students should know that students who plan ahead before an exam ultimately do well in the exam. This is because studying usually involves the process of gathering information, analysing them, understanding them, separating the relevant ones from the irrelevant ones, then condensing them in a way that you do not lose track of critical data, all of which indicates the suggestion of implementing planning and better time management.

What strategies can we adapt and enforce to combat exam anxieties, stress and breakdown?

The simple truth is, there are no holy secrets to a successful exam revision. Students who adhere to specific study and revision routine are more likely to succeed in their exam in comparison to students who don’t.

Some students however constantly feel apprehensive before the exam: they feel nervous, fatigue, panic or frustrated, etc. Such students are more likely to benefit from this subject. Some of the tips we recommend adhering to includes:

  • Advance Planning
  • Assessing Yourself
  • Revision Checklist
  • Revision Starter Kit
  • Practicing Past Paper
  • Memory Exercise
  • Study In A Disciplined Fashion
  • Taking A Break

Advance Planning

A critical point: revision takes planning, resources, accumulating relevant information, digesting those pieces of knowledge and understanding them before testing for recollection: for this reason planning is essential. Planning is therefore usually the first tip to exam success. Students who can manage their time well perform better during the exam and achieve an exceptional result in the process in comparison to student who don't.

Students who are not used to advance preparation are strongly advised to draw up a revision time table and an exam timetable. This is because the exam timetable indicates when the actual exam is due. The revision time table then shows how to arrive at the due date on the exam time table, prepared.

Some students forget the scheduled day of their exam and end up rushing under time pressure to cram whatever information they can get their hands on regardless of its relevance. A student who follows this scenario usually end up failing to achieve a higher grade and in extreme situation, fail to reach even the pass mark ( A common error). 

Students who can draw up the exam time table have an advantage in comparison to other students. This is because by drawing an exam time table a student would have achieved their first objective: they now have a goal to work towards. The revision time table then allows them the flexibility to measure how long it will take them to arrive at that objective, the deadline, the exam day.

Revision Checklist

  • Have you set yourself a SMART study goal for each subject?
  • Have you got a study schedule along with time frames and sufficient breaks in-between?
  • Are your notes, written, relevant and organised? Are your study sessions prioritised ( always start with the hardest subjects first)?
  • Have you got some past papers ready to test your self later on?
  • Is your environment conducive and free of distraction like noise, siblings, friends, and parent?
  • Are you actually ready to start your revision (actively revising) ?

Have A Revision Starter Kit

  • Exam year planner.
  • Notebook specifically for taking exam notes
  • Sufficient pens such as: a fluorescent marker pens, or a fountain pens.
  • Ruler, calculator, depending on the exam subject
  • Post-it notes.
  • 3X5 index card
  • Audio recorder for recoding lectures (depending on your learning style)
  • Ring binders with different sections divided by coloured cards.
  • A4/A6 plastic file that could be reinserted.
  • A dictionary for difficult or challenging words.

Assessing Yourself

What do I struggle with the most? What is my learning style? Do I have the relevant resources to acquire the relevant information I need? Is my study environment conducive? Each student has a learning style that they can adapt to heighten their understanding experience. So what kind of learning are you? A:

  • Visual: You feel more comfortable and remember more using pictures, images, and spatial mind maps during learning.
  • Aural: You feel more comfortable using sound and music for learning.
  • Verbal: You feel more comfortable and remember more using words, both in speech and writing during learning.
  • Kinesthetic: You feel more comfortable and remember more using your body, hands, and sense of touch during learning?

Students who know and utilise one of the above learning style usually confess that revision becomes easier when a student learns in a suitable learning style. Furthermore, It is essential that a student has the right learning material available before revision. Being intelligent or knowing what learning style is suitable for your learning is not enough to get you the high grade you wish to attain at the end of your study and exam period. Each finished product (Exam) requires a form of appropriate tool( Notebook, textbook, study desk, stationery, online access to resources, tutor, motivational materials, etc.). Students are therefore advised to ensure that they have the right learning materials to study with.

Students should be advised that they should always start with a subject that appears early on in the exam time. However, students should also be advised that time spent on each subject should typically depend on how strong their understanding is on the collective subjects. Students who are stronger in maths rather than let say history, should spend more time revising history (A few more hours will usually suffice) and vice versa.

Time Management

Time management is a critical aspect for any exam, and particularly for some academic stages that requires taking more exams within a period of time such as GCSE and A levels. For instance, certain exams such as A levels, consist of between ten and twelve subject areas. In these situations, students often struggle with their time. They usually get confused about what to do before what. They are not certain if they have enough time to go through each subject/module thoroughly. They start to panic and end up frustrated with the whole ordeal.

A major first step is to prioritise your priorities. While we might have unimportant activities we could put off easily during the exam, at times we might have other important activities that can not be put off easily such as a part-time job, other academic project, health problems, looking after a sibling etc. 

 At this point, students should carefully reconsider their priorities and see how they can better manage all their important activities at no detriment to the other. furthermore, while we recommend that students should apply a balanced amount of time on each topic or subject, students who’ll also be advised that some subjects might require more of your time than others. Factors such as strength in understanding play a key role in the allocation of time on each subject.

To achieve all of the above, it is recommended that each student draw up a to-do list and make a plan on how to accomplish them without compromising their studies and exam preparation. This ensures that sufficient time is created and allocated to each subject revision to ensure that your final objective is met at the end of the day or week, whatever that might be. 

Your to-do-list/plan has to have a clear time frame and objective attached to it: one that is not ambiguous in any way and that is reasonable and achievable. It should, in essence, be tied to the SMART principles.

Past Papers

Past papers are usually an effective strategy when preparing for an exam. Students should know that regardless of the nature of the exam, all exams are performance-based. This is because, students are required to provide to a certain degree their knowledge, skills, competence, and understanding of a specific area/subject. This is where past papers come into play. A recent past paper is a beneficial way to prepare for an upcoming exam. Past paper in some ways indicates and direct a student to what might come up in their next exam and how it might likely come up. For instance, as in how questions are asked/directed.

The act of practicing past paper therefore significantly increases the quality of performance and confidence in the exam. Students who utilise past papers as a means of prior preparation are better equipped with answering an exam question regardless of how the question is set. Students are therefore advised to go through past papers on the subject area likely to come up during the exam. Most exams are usually essay-based. For instance, subjects such as Law, History, Business, Politics are usually constructed in a way that requires students to: describe, evaluate, explain, etc. 

It is further recommended that students should practice each exam question in an essay style format, and under a timely manner to ensure that a question can be answered adequately, exceptionally and in due time.However, not all exams are essay based. For instance, subject or modules such as Maths requires understanding formulas and remembering when and how to apply them to solve specific problem question. Students are nevertheless encouraged to utilise past papers are a way of improving performance and confident before the exam because the practicing of past papers on subjects such as Maths also enables a student to familiarise themselves with certain specific problem question and to know what formulas are necessary to tackle them.

Memory Exercise

Some or most exams are factual. They contain concepts, theories, names, formulas, dates, etc. During the exam, some student finds themselves unable to remember specific facts or concepts that they might have previously thought they would remember. They assume they won’t forget it, so they instantly move on to something else. Rather than reviewing a piece of information again. It is recommended that each student cover all areas of studies multiple times. For instance, if an exam is due in two weeks, week one should be spent on going through the key facts and week two should be utilised in the same way.

Students are therefore advised to work on understanding key concepts and attempt to recollect them through repetition. Once we have made the relevant notes, planned the relevant schedule, created the relevant study space, done the relevant revision, gone through the relevant past papers and questions, and answered them timely and efficiently, it is essential that we go over them again and again as often as practical as permitted, until the exam day comes. This is because going through your revision notes, your past papers, you past answers, your past mistakes ensure recollection to a higher degree. Students who revisit their study notes are sharper and remember facts and concept quicker than students who do not revisit their past studied work.

Study In A Disciplined Fashion

While it is always nice to have some flexibility when it comes to daily activities, students should be advised that during their study or revision period they should stick to whatever schedule they have set themselves. If you, for example, plan to study on Tuesday for 3/4 hours with breaks in-between, you should stick to it. Unless something more crucial has happened, that overrides the priority to study at that specific time.

Taking A Break

There has to be a healthy balance between study and leisure. Students who burn out, feel fed up or feel overwhelmed are the ones who focus too much on studying hard at the expense of their health. They don't sleep well, they don't eat well, and they certainly don't rest well. They just don’t turn off their engine. Everything begins to feel harder than it looks, and more challenging than it is because they have reached a breaking point between exhaustion and frustration. Nothing else seems to sink in, and they are suddenly spending energy that they don’t have left in them. Their marks never reach above average, despite the hard work, and they get even more frustrated with the whole ordeal after result day. 

It is, therefore, recommended that students should take a break away from studying, a day or two and do something non-academic. For instance, engaging in something fun such as: watching TV, playing games, playing an outdoor sport, meeting up with friends and going somewhere where leisure can be achieved. This ensures that when they come back to their studies and revision, they are refreshed, energised and ready to tackle any learning barriers before the exam day arrives. 

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Have you got any academic advice or videos? Do you want to be heard?

If yes answered yes to both questions, you have come to the right place. Please get in touch with us so we can help you expose and expand your message across to our range of students who access our website on a daily basis.

Or want to know more? Please emails us using the contact form

A special thanks to all our readers and sponsors.