It's natural to feel stressed out by the thought of remembering everything you've learnt in the last few years. Being tested on your knowledge with a clock ticking can often make you feel like a guinea pig in a lab, but the funny thing is - behaving like a guinea pig when revising can make exam preparation easier than you think!
Guinea pigs are creatures of habit; they are curious and sociable by nature, so any changes in routine can cause distress. (Follow Georgie the Guinea Pig tips #georgietips)
Don't let exam preparation distress you - become a creature of habit when it comes to revision, create a routine using a timetable, with breaks so you can still be sociable, and even though not every subject will interest you, being inquisitive in your studies can help you remember facts more easily.
How can being a creature of habit improve your revision techniques?
Time is precious and it’s never too late to start revising. Begin with planning your time; this will create study habits which will ensure you are using your time effectively!
Think about how you study, and find a time of day that works best for you. Some people study better early in the day, others later. There are many helpful apps to help you schedule your revision around your exams - click here to see a selection. Plan your week around revision, making sure you give yourself a day or two off.
Use your timetable as a guideline to help you manage your time, but expect to revisit and change it as you gain a better understanding about what can be achieved within your revision slots. Otherwise you can risk falling behind and find yourself having prepared better for the first exams than the last few.
Scheduled breaks are important - Even the sharpest human brain can only concentrate on absorbing information for a certain amount of time. The 40 minutes on / 10 minutes off rule stops your mind wandering and trains it to concentrate only on what is most needed. It's also important to remember when you live in a city such as London, taking a break outside in a field or park can also improve concentration much more than if you go for a walk in a busy urban environment. This is because natural environments replenish your brain, whereas urban ones require your brain to stay alert, further draining your mental resources
Eat, Drink and Sleep regularly
Many students are tempted to forfeit sleep for revision; this is rarely a good strategy as sleep deprivation affects concentration. It can work well to have set working hours and set sleeping hours (and set downtime hours). This removes the guilt sometimes associated with not working and will help to ensure that you look after your body and brain. We often eat a lot less well in the run up to exams, and often feel tempted to forfeit mealtimes for revision, but sitting down and eating a healthy meal is often a good chance for our brain to relax a little.
Drink water regularly – Drinking water has been shown to help improve both memory and concentration. If students wait until they feel thirsty, their concentration levels have already dropped.
Why being inquisitive can help you remember
Revision allows you to focus on the most important bits of what you have learned during the year. As well as being a way of capturing what you remember about your learning, this is also an opportunity to practice for your exam.
Use your notes, don't just read through them, be inquisitive - find fun facts and use them to create useful revision material such as revision cards with bullet points to summarise interesting points. These can also filter out unimportant information and let you concentrate on the most vital points in a clear and handy way. You can look at these at home, at college and even on the bus!
Also don’t be afraid to tackle the tough stuff - It can be tempting to work on subjects you’re already good at but this is often a less useful than working on a subject you’re weaker in
Practice under exam conditions using past papers - Exam questions themselves change every year, but what they are asking you to do does not change very much. Therefore, being familiar with past papers reduces the chances of any nasty surprises in the exams themselves. Use our links to past papers to help.
- Why being sociable is important when preparing for exams
Revision shouldn't mean you are hiding in your room; remaining sociable and active can make a big difference when you feel you are stagnating at your desk. Setting small targets with rewards, like going for a short walk or meeting up with a friend can help you feel better overall.
Remain sociable during your breaks but put your phone and devices away and log out of social media accounts during study sessions as these can be distracting when you are revising. However, if you get stuck or are having trouble, use the internet, just by searching for the topic as accurately as possible you will find lots of support and guidance options.
Get a study buddy or plan group study sessions most people learn more when they study together as they can get help when stuck, or cover subjects they may have forgotten. A study buddy can be someone who is doing the same course as you, or someone who can help you go through material when your stuck. Watching yourself progress and walking into your exams knowing that you’ve tried hard can be really satisfying. You may have done twice as much or half as much work as a friend and you may be expecting better or worse grades, but the key thing is that you’ve done what works for you.
Get active and listen to music during your breaks. Physical exercise is another thing that tends to fall by the wayside as we enter exam season, with team sports and gym sessions making way for revision. Doing a little sport and exercise is a great break from your revision, and helps to keep both your mind and body sharp. It can also be a great way to deal with the difficult emotions and frustrations you can feel at this time, which is far healthier than letting them stew whilst you continue revising.
Good luck with those GCSE exams and never forget that you’re not in this alone. Seek help and support from your teachers, your friends and your family. Any time it all feels a bit too hard, just pause and picture the moment when you walk out of your final exam. It will feel GOOD!
Take a look at our student revision video and revision page for more study tips on how to prepare for exams.