Give My Top Tips For Guaranteed Exam Success!
This is quite apt at the moment, as a lot of us are facing GCSEs, A levels and University exams. The reason I feel that these tips are pretty fool-proof, is because I am no Einstein. It took me a LOT of revision and good techniques to do very well in my exams (GCSE/A-level)- but eventually I got there! So if I can do it, anyone can do it.
[Disclaimer: obviously everyone’s brains work differently so these may not work for you and you may have bizarre exam boards that just don’t work with these methods, however, I think that would be quite exceptional. In England, fingers crossed, some – if not all – of these techniques can help, I’m sure.]
No. 1 – PLAN!
Before you do anything else, get yourself a journal or even a free month-by-month calendar from the internet. That way you can see exactly how long you have until the exams start, and you can divide up your time accordingly. I found the month-by-month cheapy internet calendar was great, as it makes devising a revision timetable much easier. Once you have your calendar in front of you, figure out what exams/essays you have first and prioritize focusing your time on them now. Split the remaining weeks up for the other exams – if you have GCSEs maybe revise one or two subjects a day and work through them all until you get back to the start. For A Levels maybe revise a couple of topics from each subject a day
Another part of organisation is to get all the books you need from the library/journals from the internet at the ready. For my university essays and exams I have downloaded the journals I need and have put them in a particular file. Find out what resources you need first whether they are books or online, and get them at your disposal before you begin. It saves a lot of time trying to search for them in the middle of a crucial idea which is less than ideal
No. 3 – USE PAST EXAM PAPERS!
This may be the most important point. Even though this probably isn’t the best way of teaching/learning, GCSEs and A levels are very formulaic. It’s very much a process of ticking boxes and writing what the examiners want to hear, so for that very reason you would be MAD not to get your hands on as many past exam papers as you possibly can. This was vital in getting me my good grades: I got to grips with the ‘model answers’ in each topic and that meant I knew what information to leave out and what to include. I found that each year similar questions are asked and if you find an exam paper from three years ago with a question that hasn’t appeared since, it’s very likely it will appear in your exam. If nothing else, looking at lots of past papers helps to get you familiar with the layout of the exam so it’s not quite so scary on the day
No. 4 – ASK FOR HELP VIA TEACHERS OR ONLINE FORUMS
Don’t go it alone. Ask your teachers for their advice and if they have any additional revision paraphernalia you can use. During my A levels, in the January we did ‘mocks’ (if you did really well you didn’t have to redo the exams in June) and one year a boy in my English class got virtually 100%. As it was in January and we had lots of time to prepare for the June exam, I asked my English teacher if he wouldn’t mind asking the pupil if we could request to get his exam paper back. He did and we went through the paper as a class, seeing what the genius pupil wrote and why the examiner liked it. It was a great help. Online, look at The Student Room – a great place for finding tips/past papers from people doing the same exam board/module as you
No. 5 – FIGURE OUT YOUR OPTIMUM REVISING TIME
You know when you work best and if that happens to be only during daylight hours, like myself, then unfortunately that may mean dedicating yourself to a few weeks of going to bed early-ish and waking up early. It’s a pain in the butt, but when I was revising I knew that if I wasted the day chilling out in front of the TV, I just wasn’t going to get anything done past 7pm. I would revise in my room or head to the library as early as I feasibly could, and would then revise until 6 or 7. I told myself the earlier I started the earlier I could leave and then I could really enjoy my evenings. If you work best in the evenings, make the most of that. See your friends in the daytime, catch up on sleep, and then come 7 or 8pm, start working
No. 6 – DRUM THOSE NOTES INTO YOUR VERY SOUL
The best way I actually learnt the reams of seemingly useless information for my GCSEs and A levels was, sadly, reading, writing, reading, writing. I am NOT one of those people who can just read a chapter and remember it, ohh no. I had to read, then hand write out the key points and then repeat this really as often as I could. For me, writing out the most important information meant that it just stuck in my mind better. I’m not suggesting you write each chapter of your biology textbook out word-for-word, but if there is a scientific process or a really fantastic chunk of info you’ve found about a poem that may pop up in your exam, writing it out a couple of times will help you no end. Of course, underlining and using different colours according to your own personal system of revising helps too
No. 7 – TYPE UP YOUR NOTES ONTO COMPUTER/LAPTOP
Further to the above, when you are nearing the endless weeks of revision my advice, if you think it will help, is to type up the key notes of your hand-written notes AGAIN onto a computer or laptop. I know this may sound insane/time consuming and that is why I’m saying this is when you have whittled down the information even more. You can use bright colours, make text bold and underline on the computer too and it gives your hand a break from gripping a pen. It is also a speedier way of making notes
No. 8 – USE DIFFERENT FILES/SHEET PROTECTOR
Once you have your typed-up notes, I suggest putting them into sheet protectors and then separating these into different files according to subject/module/topic. As you get closer to your exams, this tip helps because you should have the most important information filtered through all of your reading and note-taking and hopefully the best is what remains. By putting them in the plastic sheets and files, you can quickly flick through the notes to refresh your memory
No. 9 – GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK
I would say ‘take a break every 20 minutes’ but I didn’t do that and sometimes it just isn’t practical. I know your brain is meant to stop being productive after 20 minutes, but I could never break then because I only get into my work after about that long! However, you must definitely break at least every two hours. Even if that is just heading downstairs to make some tea or whizz your dog around the block, getting up from your bum will stop you feeling down/depressed as sitting in a room for hours looking at a load of old nonsense (it feels like) is enough to turn anyone into The Hulk.
I do hope that helps! If you have any questions, please ask.