It’s crazy to think I’m now actually on study leave to prepare for my Highers - probably the most significant exams to set me up for the rest of my life (even if this does sound a little over-dramatic to say!). It doesn’t matter what my grades have been like throughout the year - the qualification I come out with in each of my five subjects (Maths, English, Biology, Chemistry and Physics) is all dependent on the final exam.
Stressed. Nervous. Exhausted.
We all sit exams at some point in our life and I’m pretty sure almost all of us can relate to those three feelings (and probably many more just like them). I’ve survived exams before and so I’m sure I can make it through these ones too - I’ve just got to keep on pushing through to the finish line (again I apologise for the complete over-dramatisation!).
Anyway, to help focus through studying and exams I thought I’d share my top 10 tips for making it through these stressful times. Here it goes…
*Please note, I am by no means an expert in the field of studying and exams but I just thought I’d share things that work for me in an effort to try and help others. These tips may not all work for everyone but I hope they’re of help to some extent, even if it purely is just letting you know that you’re not alone in suffering from exam stress.
1. Be organised.
This one seems pretty self-explanatory, but what a lot of people forgot is that being “organised” looks very different for each individual. I personally use my Urban Outfitters planner to make mini to-do lists for each day and to keep track of other plans I have, and to record what studying I do it each day. Study plans don’t really work for me (although I know they can be a brilliant tool for others) so instead I set myself a rough target for how much work I want to get done each day and then follow my gut instinct when choosing what to revise. The main thing is just finding out what method works for you and to set yourself realistic targets for your studying.
2. Use a variety of different revision techniques.
I love mixing and matching multiple techniques to revise for each subject as for me, it makes studying less repetitive and it helps me to reinforce the course material in multiple different ways. Handwritten notes are usually my first method, followed by lots of past papers, Quizlet flashcards (if you’ve not tried Quizlet before I’d 100% recommend - here's a link to my profile so you can see some of the study sets I’ve made), mind maps, BBC Bitesize, post-it notes around a room etc.. I find it quite helpful to look at a few different sources of information (class notes, BBC Bitesize and BrightRed textbooks being my favourites) to see facts presented in different formats too.
3. Take breaks from revision.
I can’t even begin to emphasise how important this is. You have to take a break - in fact, lots of breaks! Not only is non-stop studying studying studying mind-numbingly boring, it actually becomes less effective as your brain struggles to process the overload of information, you become really tired and then you can’t concentrate at all! It’s so much better to alternate revising and having breaks (such as grabbing a snack, going on a walk or seeing friends) to give your brain some much-needed time to rest, plus it gives you time to have a little fun away from all of the work as well.
4. Switch off your phone.
Of all of the tips on the list I’d say this is probably one of the most important. About a month ago, I downloaded a little app called Mute that tracks how much time I spend on my phone and ever since then my phone usage has reduced hugely. Switching off your phone whilst revising helps you to stay focused on the subject you’re studying, plus it also gives you something to look forward to catching up on during your breaks from revision (although I’d recommend trying to do something more other than just scrolling through social media when taking a break - having a little walk in fresh air will leave you feeling way more refreshed and ready to revise again!).
5. Ask questions.
Your teachers are there to help you succeed so why not use them? Asking questions helps you to ensure you understand the material and helps to erase any uncertainties you have about the course content so is a huge step in preparation for sitting the final exam. And if you’re doubtful about asking teachers, try talking to friends doing the same subject to see if they can offer any help - explaining the answer to you will help them to revise too so it’s a win-win!
6. Keep calm (also see tip 2).
All of the stress, pressure and work associated with exams can become really overwhelming so it’s important to do your best to keep a clear head and try to relax. It can be so much harder to do than it sounds (it’s taken me a long time to figure out how to keep myself calm) but going on a little walk, doing some yoga or simply taking a minute to focus on my breathing has helped me loads, so I guess it’s just about finding a method that works for you.
7. Stay positive.
Having a positive attitude has a huge effect on how you approach your exams and revision. Although this can be tricky to maintain if you feel as if you’ve underperformed in an exam, it’s important to let it go and focus on achieving your full potential in future exams. Have faith in yourself - you’ve spent a long long time preparing to sit these exams and if you apply yourself fully you can do it!
8. Remember to eat and drink.
Staying well nourished and hydrated is so important to ensure your mind and body are in optimum condition for exams. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day also has huge benefits and should help prevent you suffering from headaches having been focusing so much. Trying to eat relatively healthy will leave you overall feeling more refreshed, but at the same time remember to enjoy indulging in snacks and sweets - it’s not every day you’re stuck sitting exams so you deserve to treat yourself for all of your hard work!
I cannot even begin to emphasise how important it is to fall into a regular sleep pattern to avoid complete exhaustion. It keeps you refreshed, gives you energy to focus and makes sure you perform to the best of your ability on the day of the exam, so I’d definitely recommend getting plenty of sleep!
10. Find a way to motivate yourself (also see tip 7).
This one can be a little tricky at times but once again it’s all about finding something that motivates you to get the grades you want. Whether it’s a future university course, personal satisfaction or the prospect of some sort of reward once all of the exams are over, finding a source of motivation to push you through your revision is a brilliant way to ensure you perform to your full potential in exams.
Hopefully at least a couple of those tips will help you face future exams and leave you feeling a little more confident, calm and determined than before. There’s clearly a lot of crossover between different tips so I hope you manage to find a combination that works for you. If you have any questions just ask in the comments or email me through my contact page - I’ll do my best to reply as soon as possible. And if you have any tips for surviving exams feel free to leave them in the comments below too.
Most of all I’d just like to finish with a huge GOOD LUCK to everyone sitting exams this coming month - believe in yourself and just remember that it’s not long until it’s all over and we’re free from studying!