With GCSEs exams already underway and Modern Foreign Languages oral exams kicking off A Level proceedings, there’s no use wishing you’d started revising earlier– the key now is to map out the time you’ve got left and use it to best effect. This advice goes for those waiting to take summer exams in school as well.
Here are a few well-worn techniques for preparing for exams and making the most of the time and resources you have available.
Firstly, clear your mind and your desk. I’m not advocating the age-old procrastination technique of tidying your desk, bedroom, or your wardrobe before you even begin. What I mean is switch off your phone, close your laptop and don’t get caught social media surfing, updating your status, or checking Snapchat every 10 minutes. I know it is tempting, so why not delete the Apps from your phone until after the exams – remove all temptation. It will all be over in a couple of months’ time and you can reinstate them and browse to your heart’s content!
It’s too late to learn by rote
Even if you’d started at Christmas, trying to remember all your notes off by heart is not going to get you an A* or a 9. At any level of exam, GCSE or A Level, the key to success is understanding the topics you’ve been taught. With only a few weeks – and in some cases days – left you won’t be able to learn your notes by rote, so now is the time to ensure that you understand them.
Read through your notes and revision books and make sure you understand the key topics and can apply this knowledge. Test yourself by trying to teach someone else, a willing sibling, or a parent – see if you can get them to understand the trickiest concepts. If you can teach a tough topic, chances are you will understand it and it will help log it into your memory banks.
Tackle the elephant in the room
If there are topics and subjects that you know are your weakest – don’t ignore them or leave them until last – tackle them first, it is usually in these areas where good, focused revision can make all the difference.
Identify your weak spots; what did you struggle with during the year, where did you lose marks in previous homework and tests and focus on these areas first when revising.
Don’t waste time ploughing through topics you really don’t understand, ask for help and do it now. Friends, and teachers will be happy to help, if you ask.
Take regular breaks
You may feel you have no time to take a break – but even 10 minutes after a 50-minute stint is all that’s needed to keep your mind fresh, active and ready to learn. You are less likely to get distracted and be able to concentrate if you know you only have to study for 50-minute blocks. Anything longer and your mind will wander. Be kind to yourself – use your breaks to do something nice, get active, move around but don’t be tempted to check your phone – then ten minutes will stretch into hours.
Find out about the marking scheme and the exam structure
Make sure you know the format your exams will take. Knowing how the exam will be structured, how long it will be and the marking scheme may seem obvious but it is amazing how this can help you prepare for the onslaught. It will help concentrate the mind during revision and certainly when it comes to the actual exam, by helping you focus where it counts and on questions that will deliver the most marks.
Practice, practice, practice
Test your knowledge by answering past papers and exam questions so you know how to structure your answers and can do it in the time allotted.
There is no use knowing everything there is to know if you can’t get it down on paper in the time allowed. Make sure you know how long you have in the exam, that you can summarise the information and that you can write, legibly, under pressure.
When it comes to the exams
Take time to look through the paper and read the instructions, this way you won’t miss out on a big question at the end because you’ve not given yourself enough time to turn to the back page.
Read the questions carefully
Make sure you’re answering the questions asked, don’t fall into the trap of seeing a topic and regurgitating everything you know about it – make sure you answer the question, if you don’t you run the risk of giving A* answers but not to the question asked. Keep an eye on the clock and make sure you don’t run out of time.
If you hit a wall
If you get stuck on a question, don’t agonise too long over it and waste too much time. Make a note of the question then move on to the rest of the paper. When you come back to it at the end, chances are you will have a different perspective on it and will be able to tackle it afresh.
Check your work
Give yourself time at the end of each exam to go back to the questions you have missed and to check through your work looking for obvious mistakes
Put down your pens
When the exam is done and you’ve handed in your paper – relax and put it behind you. Don’t fall into the trap of reviewing your answers with friends, or the brightest girl in the class to try to work out how you’ve done and don’t get bogged down with what people are saying about it on Twitter. It is over, now to focus on the next one!
And one crucial thing to remember is that exams do not define you. Although important they are not the be all and end all – even Albert Einstein failed his University entrance exam!