So sadly, exam season is about to start and if you haven’t started already then you’re probably thinking about beginning some revision. I’ve been there, done that and got that stressful t-shirt, so I’m going to spill the beans with my ten top tips to survive revision and get the most out of it.
I got pretty average grades in my GCSEs because quite frankly, I didn’t start really revising until about 48 hours before my first exam – which in hindsight, was stupid. Luckily, I still did okay. But by the time I got to A-Levels, which are about a billion times harder than GCSEs, I knew I needed to get my act together. So, these are the things that I learned worked really well for me and helped me get my A-Level grades. Something I did must’ve worked because by some miracle I managed an A* in A-Level English Lit (which i still can’t believe – I think my examiner must’ve been drunk.)
- The first thing I’d suggest is about three months before your first exam, you should make a revision timetable. I totally underestimated the importance of a good revision timetable in my first year of A-Levels, which is probably why I didn’t do very well in my first year. However, I did great in my second year, and I put a lot of that down to a revision timetable. I found that it just made my life feel a bit more organised in a time of absolute chaos and stress. It sounds silly, but because it was written down and set out for me it made me stick to it and I did a lot less procrastinating because of it. Also, because I incorporated breaks into my timetable it meant I was looking forward to my scheduled break as I revised. Basically, it does you a lot of psychological favours. Plus, you can make it look all pretty and colourful, which is always fun.
- Carrying on from what I said about breaks; breaks are very important, make sure you allow yourself them. Breaks can be really motivating, if you’re struggling to get through an hour of maths, knowing you can have twenty minutes at the end to watch some Youtube might just pull you through it. Not only that, but your brain needs a break, you’ll over do it and just frazzle your brain if you don’t allow yourself breaks, and then the whole day will have been pointless. I know Sophie from school said she did nine hours straight without a single break and she always gets A*s but Sophie is a weirdo, you don’t have to try and do what Sophie does. Download yourself a pomodoro timer, which times your revision periods and breaks and allows you to set the length of time for each. It is a really useful app, I found it really motivating.
- Use your breaks as opportunities to drink lots and lots of water. It’s a well known fact that lack of water leads to dehydration, which affects concentration and absorption of information, so down that water. I always aimed to drink a good 1.5-2L of water a day when I was revising, and I always found it kept those nasty revision headaches at away and it made me feel a lot less tired too. Don’t underestimate the importance of something as simple as water, drink it, and lots of it.
- This one might be a myth, a lot of people at the time laughed at me for this one but in all honesty I think it might have made a difference. There is a theory that listening to videos about whatever it is you’re learning/revising and falling asleep with them playing allows your brain to absorb the information more while you’re sleeping. It sounds ridiculous, I know. But, I was beyond desperate by my second year of A-Levels and willing to try anything. So, every night I’d make a Youtube playlist and set it going before I fell asleep and then leave it going all night. I have no idea whether it worked, in all honesty, but if you’re desperate like I was.. might be worth a shot?
- About those Youtube videos, if you’re a kinaesthetic learner like me then videos can be really really helpful. For example, John Green does a bunch of videos summarising and analysing books, which was SO helpful. A lot of videos use cool cartoons to show you what goes on, and that really helped me remember things. So if you like seeing things, or would rather be told things rather than reading them, then try Youtube – you’d be really surprised what’s out there, no matter how weird your revision topic, there’s probably a few videos on it.
- Sleep. Just like water, sleep is so so so important. If you don’t get enough sleep, your brain isn’t going to be working to it’s full potential, and when you’re revising, you need every last bit of that potential, trust me. Get yourself into a really good routine, as painful as it is, I used to go to sleep at 10pm every night and wake up around 7/7:30 every morning at the weekends. It meat that I got a good nine hours, and I quickly adjusted to the time and I’d be sat working by eight in the morning and would stop at about eight in the evening. The routine just helped me keep my shit together that little bit. Like keeping a timetable, it just gives you a bit of order and control over all the chaos. Plus it gives you more day time to revise – if you’re like me and your brain just stops working around 5pm, then this is perfect. I’m definitely someone who’s brain works better in the morning, so this was what i needed. However, I know a lot of people who used to sleep all day and revise all night because their brain worked better at night, so just do what works for you – just as long as you’re getting a good nine hours.
- Fill your bedroom walls with key words and short quotes or equations etc that you need to remember. In January (my exams were in May and June) I put all my English, History and Sociology quotes up around my room. I shortened them first, and then put different subjects on different colour pieces of paper, and different themes or topics were highlighted in different colours and placed in different areas of my room. Therefore, I’d get up in the morning and see Professor John Smith talking about Charles I and how he was responsible for the civil war over by my book shelf in pink, and slowly all these different quotes became associated with different parts of my room. By the time my exams came around I could think of an area of my room and visualise the majority of the quotes and knew what topic they were from the colour. It really worked. In fact, a lot more came back to me than I thought it would during the exams. I’d definitely swear by this one, especially if you’re someone who can’t just learn things over night, like me, and need a good few months.
- Turn your revision into games. I don’t know about anyone else but just sitting and writing things out over and over just doesn’t do it for me. So, I used to turn my revision into games. Google it, there are lots of ideas out there so find what works for you – there’s bound to be something. I remember for my Sociology revision, I’d put different questions on posters around the house and I’d have all my revision cards with loads of quotes on and I’d give myself three minutes to run around the house matching the quotes to the questions. It really helped those quotes stick in my mind and at the same time made revising fun and made me exercise – something else which is good for revision.
- Say things out loud. I always found that saying things out loud as opposed to just reading them made a big difference. It’s easy to just read something but not really read it, if you know what I mean? But saying it out loud makes sure that you really have read it. I was forever stood in my room just having a conversation with myself. My history teacher knew this, he used to get out class to do little radio interviews to get us saying the things out loud. I used to then come home and do this for myself. Sure, I looked crazy talking to myself but if it works, who cares?
- Lastly, remember, summer is coming and these exams will be over soon and then you can spend weeks doing nothing and relaxing. Spend a couple of months getting up super early and working hard and then in July you can sleep until the middle of the day and lie in bed all afternoon if you like. I always found that when I was struggling and lacking motivation, I’d remind myself that summer was coming and treated summer like my reward for working hard. It’s great self-motivation. Also remember that exams aren’t everything and it won’t be the end of the world if you don’t do well – so don’t get too stressed or overwhelmed by it all, because that’s not going to help either.
If you have GCSEs or A-Levels coming up, or whatever the equivalents are in other countries, then good luck and I really hope that some of these tips help you. Let me know if you try any of these and if they do help – I’d love to know. Also, if you’re doing any of the subjects I did then feel free to get in touch with me, I’d be more than happy to help! You can tweet me or message me on Instagram, or even snapchat me – my username is emmachxrlotte. If you have any great tips for revision then leave them in the comments, they might help someone out who’s reading this post!
Thank you for reading and make sure you give my blog a follow to catch my DIY post coming tomorrow – it’s a good’un!