Our Most Successful Students Share Their Study Hacks

Have you ever wished there was a magic formula for securing those top grades? 

Well, we can’t promise that reading this blog post will turn you into a straight-A student, but you’ll certainly pick up some brilliant tips

Earlier this month, we reached out to our community of top-scoring students and veteran study bloggers in order to gather the ultimate collection of study strategies WHICH ACTUALLY WORK. 

Amongst the multinational GCSE, IGCSE and A Level students who contributed ideas, we weren’t surprised to notice many similarities in their responses. It seems that there ARE some fail-safe practices that work time and time again!

So whether you’re looking to re-set and re-energise your homeschooling technique, or you want to get ahead for the Autumn term, read on to find out exactly how to do it (according to the pros).

Exercise your self-discipline

Via Instagram, @study.session explained how a healthy dose of self-discipline is invaluable in moments when your motivation and enthusiasm are failing. 

Whether you’re a school student, a university student or a grown-up in the world of work, the ability to control your impulses and act in your own best interests is an incredibly important attribute. Indeed, most people wish that they had an iron streak of self-discipline!

It’s a total myth that self discipline is an inherent character trait – something that you’re born with or not born with. The truth is that you can practice and grow your self-discipline to become a better student. 

These are the best ways to go about developing your self-discipline:

  • Set an alarm and get up early (even if you really don’t want to). If you do this every day it will eventually become easy – we promise! 
  • Give yourself mini-rewards when you complete tasks so that you train your brain to associate academic achievements with physical treats (sweets will do!) 
  • Ask a friend or parent to hold you accountable to achieving your goals (external pressure will help you in the early days of your journey) 
  • Actively remove sources of distraction so you are less likely to lose focus (put your phone in another room, logout of Netflix, turn off the radio etc.)

Get organised

If the pile of papers on your desk is an avalanche hazard, your laptop has 200 tabs open and your school files haven’t been touched since March, it’s hardly a surprise that you’re making slow progress! 

Year 13 student Samiyah started her Sixth Form career as “the most disorganised, chaotic girl on the planet”, but after a few months of A Level work she realised that she was going to have to make some dramatic changes in order to stay on top of her coursework. 

Here’s how she went from chaos queen to organisation guru

  1. Assign ring-binder folders to each of your subjects, then use card dividers to separate each topic. 
  2. Create a space in your room to store all of your study materials.  
  3. As soon as you finish working each day, spend a few minutes putting all of your resources back in their correct places
  4. Instantly throw out any worksheets or rough paper which aren’t going to aid your revision or be used in the future.  
  5. Create digital folders and sub-folders on your computer to keep your online work, pdf downloads and bookmarks to your favourite revision websites. Make sure that you always back up important schoolwork!  
  6. Put up a whiteboard on your wall where you can write to-do lists and notes to yourself.

Use active recall

Active recall has been proven in numerous trials to be an incredibly effective revision technique, as it embeds long-lasting knowledge in your brain. 

Study-grammer @introvert_studies swears by this process when it comes to preparing for major exams. 

In order to stimulate the brain pathways which lay down memory, you need to retrieve data and information at each stage of studying. 

Essentially, this means that you should always feel like your brain is being ‘worked’ – just like how your muscles feel during a strenuous exercise session! 

Reading and rereading your notes is not active recall. Active recall is closing the textbook and forcing yourself to write down the facts and information you remember (mind maps or bullet point lists are good formats). When you’ve recalled as much as you can, check your accuracy, then repeat the process until the facts stick. 

Employ spaced repetition

Another brilliant tip from @introvert_studies is to follow the principles of spaced repetition during your revision process.

This involves leaving planned and measured gaps between your active recall study sessions so that you do not give yourself the opportunity to forget your newly-aquired knowledge.

For example, if trying to learn ion and gas tests for a Chemisty exam, you would initially force yourself to write them out once per day, then when this comes easily you would reduce this frequency to one every three days, then once per week , until eventually the knowledge becomes impossible to forget.

If you have ever learnt card payment details and billing or delivery addresses off-by-heart after many months of online ordering, you’ve already made use of spaced repetition!

Try visual techniques

If written pages of notes just won’t stick in your brain, it’s likely that you are a visual learner

Frankie, an aspiring vet in Year 11, told Save My Exams that he learns more effectively when he turns all of his Biology notes into drawings and colourful mind-maps

This is likely to be because our brains have evolved to remember shapes and patterns rather than words and numbers. That’s exactly why the Save My Exams revision notes feature bespoke commissioned graphics and diagrams! 

If you’d like to find out how you can harness the power of the image in your revision, check out our brilliant guide to getting started with visual learning.

Past papers, past papers, past papers! 

Instagram study-inspo @chineme.studies advises her followers to complete past papers as often as possible when preparing for exams.

It’s a great idea to schedule a few hours each week to work through a recent official exam paper, as this will highlight any areas of weakness you need to work on and ALSO help you to get used to the style of questions which regularly crop up.

If you are doing a past paper, it’s essential that you also check your answers against a mark scheme. This is how you’ll identify the methods and key words needed to score full marks!

To find an extensive collection of full-length past papers and mark schemes for your exam and exam board, just click on the relevant option from the drop-down menu on the Save My Exams website.

Communicate with your teachers

Our final pro-study tip comes from straight-A-student-turned-Maths-teacher Cerys.

She wants to remind you that even when schools are closed, students should still make an extra effort to communicate with their teachers if they are struggling.

“Teachers have trained for years in order to prepare for helping students to succeed in exams. They have also taught hundreds of children before you, as well as being students themselves not too long ago.”

“If you don’t understand a certain topic, or feel that you need clarity on an aspect of the syllabus or homework task, its always better to send an email or make a phone call right away. Waiting until the last minute will only make things worse.”

“The students who make the most progress in my classes are the ones who are always asking questions and actively seeking to learn from their teachers and peers”.

If you don’t feel like there is anyone at school who can support you, or if you are homeschooled, why not consider a session with an online tutor instead?

Which of these tips are you going to try first? Have you got an extra-helpful piece of advice to share? Get in touch via our social media platforms (@SaveMyExams on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) to let us know. 

Looking for more revision advice from Save My Exams? You’ll find it all on our blog