5 Lessons Students Can Learn From Exam Season
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’ve been dreaming about the end of exams and the time is finally here! Summer Exam Season 2019 is over! Whether you just took your GCSEs, IGCSEs or A Levels, now is definitely the time to celebrate and chill out. Having said that, it’s also the perfect time to look back on how you think exams and revision went this summer, whilst your experiences are fresh in your mind.
Although you’re done for the time being, you may have more exams ahead of you should you be moving on to A Levels or University (sorry for the reminder). So now is the perfect time to reflect on how things went this year, and think about what went well (and what didn’t) in order to improve your exam tactics next time around.
Ask yourself the following questions, then fill out our downloadable answer sheet to note down your responses, so you know exactly what to do next time!
1. What kind of learner am I?
As you’ll already know by now, in order to excel in your exams, it’s crucial that you find a revision method that works for you; and eliminate any ineffective techniques.
The VARK model is a widely recognised and popular model used to determine what kind of learner you are. The letters stand for: Visual, Auditory, Reading/Writing, and Kinesthetic. In practice this means: do you prefer to see information, hear information, interact through reading and writing, or learn by doing? Once you have deciphered the way you learn best, studying will become far easier.
Some of you may already have an idea of what works for you, but others may still be trying to figure it out. If you’re not sure, look back on this past exam season and think about how you revised, and the techniques that proved most effective when it came to committing facts, formulae and concepts to memory. Equally, what revision techniques just didn’t work for you at all? Note all of this down by downloading and filling in our answer sheet, as it will help you hone your revision strategy next time, and ensure you’re playing to your strengths.
2. What sort of schedule suits me best?
In an ideal world, you would wake up early and have a balanced and nutritious breakfast, get in a full day of revision, and then have the evening to wind down before getting a good night’s sleep. We totally encourage this sort of revision routine; but is this realistic for you?
Everyone is different and works best at different times of the day. Therefore, it’s important for you to identify exactly when you’re most productive. Are you an early bird or a night owl?
Once you have your optimum working hours figured out, you can plan your revision schedule accordingly and minimise the time you spend procrastinating. You can also plan to cover the most challenging parts of your workload when you know you’re at your best, in order to get the most out of every day. Finally, know when to call it a day and put down the pen!
For those of you who may have left the revision schedule a little bit lax this time around, or perhaps started revising too late in the game to cover everything thoroughly: learn from your mistakes and bring everything forward a couple of weeks next year.
3. Did I set myself realistic targets?
We can all be guilty of being ambitious with our daily targets. It can be tempting to try and cram in more work than is sustainable (or possible) so that it’s over quicker; but sometimes this just means you’re setting yourself up for failure before you’ve even begun. In reality, if you try to cover too much material in a short time period, you’re not going to retain the information, and you will have to go back over it later on; so you’re actually adding to your workload! Were you guilty of this this year?
The same goes for the amount of time you can realistically work for, before you need a break. Do you work better in small doses, or do you prefer to immerse yourself in a particular task for an extended period of time? How long do you need to take breaks for before you can get back to it and be productive? Some people need short breaks in regular bursts in order to regenerate energy reserves; some need longer breaks in order to digest information (but avoid leaving it too long, as you could get distracted and totally lose steam).
Did you set yourself realistic goals for each day? Or did you find that you never quite completed the task lists you set yourself? What have you learnt about how much you can realistically cover in one day? Did you take too many breaks, or not enough? Note down your findings in our handy downloadable document for next time, as this will help you set achievable goals that will keep you motivated and on track.
4. Did I relax effectively?
It’s just as important to think about how effectively you relaxed over study leave, as how effectively you revised. Being able to switch off properly in the midst of exams means you’ll return to your revision newly invigorated after a chilled evening or productive revision break, and will feel calm and confident walking into exams.
Whether you relaxed by having a bath, listening to a podcast, exercising, reading, meditating, or doing something else, think about the times you were able to truly decompress after a long day of studying, and write these techniques down for next year so you can have a calm and stress-free exam season.
5. What positive things have I proven to myself?
Revising and sitting exams is no mean feat! You have all achieved something truly remarkable this year, and you should use the commitment and hard work you put in this exam season as an example of what you can do when you set your mind to it.
Have you shown yourself that you’re more capable of dealing with the pressures of exam season better than you’d imagined? Was there a topic you were panicking about at the start of study leave, that you managed to crack before the exam?
Think about all the positive things you have proven to yourself over exam season, and the challenges you have overcome. You have shown that you have a number of skills; including the ability to sustain focus, learn new things, retain information, and deliver under pressure. Instead of worrying about Results Day (more advice on how to avoid that, here), think about what you’ve achieved and what you’ve learnt.