With exam season fast approaching, students everywhere are getting into a revision routine. Many young people will be new to exams, and this is skill in itself that needs to be learnt. Our expert team of tutors share the best ways to make the most of this revision period.
Revision is a personal journey, often with a process of trial and error to discover what works best for you. With exams only a few months away, we decided to collect ideas, tricks and study methods to help our pupils get the most out of this time. We did this by asking the most academic and exam savvy people we know- our tutors. And the results of this pool ranged from the usual expected to the ingenious and whacky. These tried and tested methods helped our tutors get top grades (some even 100%), and we hope they can do the same for you too.
Know what you don’t know
It’s easy to feel confident about what you know, but if you have missing content you need to be aware of that too. Looking at the exam specifications, you can see all the connect you need to know. Make a red, amber, green system, or arrange your flash cards in order of what your confident, less confident, and worried about. Once you have a visual of what you need to conquer you can start thinking about prioritizing and allocating your time. Watching your topic list turn from traffic light spectrum to all green, or seeing your least favorite pile of flash cards get smaller and smaller, is a great motivator and measure of progress.
Once you have your topics sorted, it is time to get organized. Make yourself a study schedule and try as hard as you can to stick to it… but also factor in that you probably won’t always stick to it. And that’s ok because your plan should already put you 2 weeks ahead of schedule if you have done it right. We also recommend you print out past papers (make sure you check specification changes though) and set yourself a target such as doing 3 past papers a week. If they are already printed and ready to go, it’s much easier to get it done and have the satisfaction of ticking it off on your planner. At Carfax, we always recommended having a dedicated space that you can associate with studying, and knowing when in the day you work best.
Find your motivation
Our tutors loved going to the stationary shop and getting planners and highlighters and new pens in the lead up to a big revision session. Sometimes these small things make all the difference. Get a good study playlist, or think of rewards to motivate yourself. Our History tutor used to place small snacks between the chapters of her text book as a reward for each set of notes she made. Our math tutor plotted his progress on a line graph, and enjoyed watching the curve as his past paper marks improved overtime.
When none of the above is working, and you are feeling overwhelmed, set a timer and tell yourself you will do 10 minutes of revision. Nine times out of ten, you will keep going, but even if you don’t, you have done 10 minutes more than you would have.
Commit it to memory
Our tutors have great memories, and that’s not without practice. Using gamified aps is a great way to train your mind, whether it’s Quizlet, Kahoot, or Anki, get into the habit of opening your study app instead of Instagram. Some of our tutors favorite ways to remember things were making an A4 page of notes and keeping it around the house and in the car. One tutor used board markers to write French grammar rules all over their bathroom walls. Our science tutors are still sharing their own silly mnemonic devises with their pupils to help them memorize lists. ‘Giant bugs prefer large candy’ is one of my favorites when thinking of parts of the kidney - Glomerulus, bowman’s capsule, proximal convoluted tubule, loop of henle, collecting duct. Explain concepts to others around you to secure your own understanding of it. There are plenty of fun ways to practice and commit things to memory.
Holm your technique
It’s great to complete past papers, but the real value is in marking your past papers. This is the most important step in our opinion. Mark schemes will tell you what the examiners are looking for, for example, a 2 mark question may need a definition and the word ’only’. Forget the word ‘only’ and you may lose the point, but this isn’t always obvious. Likewise with longer questions, each mark is allocated to something in the answer, understanding the formulae to these questions saves time and effort in the exam, and gives you a check list to measure yourself against. Once you understand where the marks are awarded, you can also start thinking about marks per minute, and improve your time management. Sometimes it is worth starting with the longer questions and going back to the shorter questions. Moreover, many mark schemes define the key words in the questions, for example, in maths if you see the word solve, you know you need to find X. Understanding the question is halfway to answering it.
Outside of being well prepared and knowing what the examiners are looking for, many pupils can struggle with exam nerves. It is always good to practice past papers under timed and exam like conditions. One tutor also highlighted the importance of breathing exercises, and mindfulness when feeling nervous or overwhelmed.
When it comes to exam day, make sure you have lots of rest before hand, have a good breakfast, and dress to feel confident. Make sure that the lead up to the exam has meant you are able to feel good about having tried your best and giving it your all. We wish everyone the very best success in their exams!