Summer is a wonderful time to relax, hang out with friends and soak up the sun. But unfortunately, before this time can arrive, so many young people have to take dreaded exams- myself included! As someone who has been through too many exams and deadlines to count, I’ve picked up some tips and tricks along the way that may help you if you are also heading into exam season.
1. Figure out what techniques work out for you. Some people like mind maps. Some like lists. You can rephrase lesson notes, summarise paragraphs in revision guides, or even watch YouTube videos online about what you’re studying. It may be helpful to get some sticky notes or note cards and write down key words and definitions. Just writing them out will help you remember, or you can bring them with you in your bag in case you have a spare 5 minutes to go over them! A virtual alternative to this is Quizlet (https://quizlet.com/en-gb), where you can make flash cards, quizzes and even games that can help you study.
2. How much time do you need? Some people like to start revision months before the exams, and others the night before. I personally don’t recommend leaving things to the last minute, but for some people it works. If you find that the added pressure of a time limit helps you work more effectively, then do whatever works for you! Likewise, if you need to take more time off around exam time to mentally prepare yourself, that’s okay too.
3. Study with friends. You can learn from each other- why not get together and have study sessions? It’s a good excuse to bring some snacks, sit down with some friends and learn something too. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses- perhaps your friend understands something you don’t, and you can help them with something they’re struggling with, helping you to understand it better too. Revision should never be isolating- so many other people are in the same boat, so support each other!
4. How are you going to structure your revision? A subject a day? 3 subjects for a few hours a day? You can create a timetable that works for you, either on paper or online, for example on Get Revising (https://getrevising.co.uk/planner) Perhaps you want to schedule tasks by hours, or by making yourself a to-do list and telling yourself you have to have that list completed by the end of the day. Most importantly, don’t compare yourself to everyone around you. Not everyone studies the same way, and there isn’t really a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ way to study- there’s only what does work for you and what doesn’t. If you’re someone who is easily distracted, you can try the ‘Forest’ app that grows virtual trees as you study (https://www.forestapp.cc) - if you stop studying to check social media, the trees stop growing.
5. Where do you like to study? You don’t have to be the stereotypical student that hunches over a desk for hours on end. Some people find it helps to be in complete silence, undistracted and in somewhere like a library or bedroom, but others prefer to be out and about. If the weather’s nice, why not go for a walk and sit in a park? A coffee shop? Or even a different room in your house. Figuring out how you study best is just as important to learn as your actual content material, so give yourself time and space to trial different methods and techniques.
6. Look after yourself. This is the most important reminder of all. You are not your grades, and they shouldn’t define who you are. Yes, they are important, but failing is never the end of the world. Everyone’s best is different, and trying your best does not mean pushing yourself to breaking point. It is so important to get enough sleep, eat well, exercise and take time out to relax. If you find yourself getting overwhelmed, doing something you enjoy can really help put things into perspective. When you’ve got your head down studying, it can be hard to remember that there’s a whole world out there for you to enjoy and explore. Try your absolute best, but it’s okay if things don’t go according to plan.
Finally, good luck! If you do find yourself struggling, remember that Off the Record is here to help, as are your teachers and student support services. You’re never alone, and never be afraid to ask for help. Your mental health is not worth sacrificing for your grades, and whatever happens, you will be okay.
Blog written by Jayme Sims