5 Steps to Effective Last-Minute Exam Revision

Exam time has started and we feel your pain. Even the most confident students can feel overwhelmed at the prospect of the testing period ahead.

Your schools and colleges will have given you loads of excellent advice about the best techniques and approaches. Here are a few more ideas to help you maintain your focus and energy in the final sprint towards exams.

Stop calling it revision

Revision means looking at something again. (All you Latin scholars will recognise the use of the prefix ‘re’ meaning again, and the word ‘videre’, meaning to see.)

In the context of exam preparation, the word implies looking over familiar material to consolidate or improve your knowledge and understanding.

There are two things to be aware of here.

First, in some cases (not yours we are sure) the material to be absorbed can actually be pretty fresh. There may be a chunk of the syllabus that you barely looked at. There may the odd topic which you missed through absence or distraction, and you always meant to get the notes from someone… So revision of some areas of your syllabus can be more like starting from scratch.

Secondly, the actual word ‘revision’ does not in itself relate to academic exams.

Use the phrase ‘Exam Preparation’

This expression focuses more precisely on what you are doing. It reflects a more wide-ranging approach, and encourages you to think about the whole process.

You’re not just looking over material, you’re learning, consolidating, practising, taking care of yourself — as you know, there’s much more to getting exam-fit than re-reading textbooks and notes.

Decide what you want to get out of each study session

Identify exactly what you want to be able to do at the end of each session. Relate your objective to what the exam questions will require you to do. Describe your aim in concrete terms.

  • I will be able to list…
  • I will be able to identify…
  • I will be able to work three examples of…
  • I will be able to describe…
  • I will know the cause of…
  • I will understand the process of…
  • I will know the definitions of six terms…

Test yourself

The best way to test yourself is to write it down. After all, that’s what you’ll be doing when you sit your papers.

During your course you may have explored different methods of absorbing and remembering material. Maybe you like to recite things out loud, or make diagrams, or draw pictures, or devise quizzes and puzzles. You may have used a variety of techniques. What works for one person doesn’t work for everyone.

But in exams, our knowledge is tested in one way only.

So at the end of each segment of your study session, test yourself by writing it down.

For example, without reference to notes, write down the features of tropical storms. Make two columns showing the strengths and weaknesses of the League of Nations. Write down six examples of business studies terminology and write the meaning beside each one. Work out three physics problems.

Throw away your highlighters, folders, stickers etc

You don’t have to get rid of them, but they have actually served their purpose.

It’s great to have stationery items which are a pleasure to use and which enhance the learning process, but at this stage they can be a distraction and even a hindrance.

For example, highlighting can give undue importance to particular words and phrases. Colour-coding may trap you into focusing too much on the system and too little on the content. You may become stressed if you make a mistake and use the wrong colour or sticker. You could waste valuable time putting it right. All you really need are flashcards and a pen. Clear your desk or table of everything else.

But that funny little item or mascot or personal treasure or souvenir which you like to have in front of you as you work? Keep it there to keep you going — and good luck!

You might also like:

 Exam Stress:
A Short Guide for Parents

How to Make Good Decisions