4 Tips for Really Effective Exam Revision

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Amy studied at the University of Bristol and is our revision blog guru. She only graduated recently so understands the pressures of being a student better than most, and is here to share her wisdom so that you revise effectively, smash your exams, succeed at school and write cracking university and job applications.

You may joke with your friends about the myriad ways you procrastinate, and jest about how you’ve done, like, no revision lol – but when it comes down to it, at some point you’ve got to crack on.

And not only should you crack on, but you should work strategically in order to make your life as easy as possible in the long run. Imagine your future self: well-revised, well-practiced, well-rested and confident, with the privilege of easing off the pressure as your exams approach because you’re just SO prepared.

So how do you do it? Whether you’re studying with notes from A Level Chemistry lectures or poring over Edexcel Maths past papers for your GCSEs, the basic principles of good exam revision remain the same. Check them out here:

1. Recognise what you find hard or don’t quite understand – and tackle it head on

Don’t beat about the bush and do the easy stuff first; this is just prolonging the inevitable. If you want to revise effectively, front load your revision by starting with the tricky stuff, when your mind is fresh and you haven’t already had weeks and weeks of study leave.

This will take away the niggling worry you might feel about hitting a horrible topic because, well, you’re just getting on with it! After some hard graft early on you should realise that the topics you dreaded revising aren’t as hard as they first seemed – and if you’re still struggling, you have plenty of time at this stage to seek help from teachers or tutors.

2. Use a traffic light system

Revising for GCSE exams – use the traffic light systemA good way to structure your revision  – so that you’re getting all that nasty stuff out the way first – is to categorise each topic within each subject using a traffic light system.

Use green for the areas you find straightforward, amber for things you’re not one hundred percent on, and red for the topics that need some serious TLC.

When you’re making your A Level or GCSE revision timetable, use this system to organise the order in which you tackle your topics. And make sure all of the red topics come right at the start of the revision period, even if you didn’t learn them in this order. You don’t want to be panicking about trying to get your head around a difficult concept the week before your exam, so make sure you’ve had a proper look at all of your red topics within the first two weeks of your revision time!

3. Familiarise yourself with the grade boundaries

You can also use the grade boundaries published with mark schemes to help you work out where you’re at on each topic.

If you’re answering a topic question paper and aren’t quite hitting the grades you want on that topic, be honest with yourself and do something about it. You won’t improve unless you make a conscious effort to do so!

You also can’t get where you want to be unless you know where you’re going, so it’s important to know the grade you’re aiming for before you start revising. Having a clear aim will help motivate you to take the necessary steps to get there. When you do, the sense of achievement will be huge!


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4. Be self-critical

Being self-critical, especially when you mark your own work after doing a topic question pack or past paper, is super important for effective revision.

Don’t take it so far that you’re doing yourself out of marks and stressing yourself out; but do be fair and honest about how you think you’re doing. What’s the point in giving yourself top marks to make yourself feel good, when the examiner wouldn’t give you the same?

You’ll feel far more confident when you walk into the exam if you can trust your genuine ability to answer those questions in the best way possible. Honesty is the best policy in most areas of life, and revision is definitely one of them!

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