How to revise for exams: Top tips
Revising for exams can be difficult and it can be easy to develop bad revision habits. Read our helpful revision tips to ensure you are fully prepared.
Effective revision is not something that can be rushed. The earlier you start and the more organised you are, the greater your chance of success. You’ll be less likely to encounter stress or have to do last-minute cramming and pulling all-nighters in the library.
It’s a good idea to have a routine with your revision where you aim to start and finish at roughly the same time each day. Try and revise in the morning as this is when your brain is fresher. Not starting until the afternoon means you’re likely to wake up later and try to revise while tired.
Decide what you’re going to revise
Look over your syllabus and decide how you’re going to approach your revision. Find out the format for your exam as this will determine how much of the syllabus you need to revise.
For essay-based exams, you don’t need to cover the entire syllabus and it will be more effective to learn some of the content in greater detail. Short, answer-based exams will require a broader, yet less detailed, understanding of the syllabus.
Make a plan
Construct a detailed revision timetable, including any relevant papers or notes you need to look over. Block out time for socialising, exercising and any other breaks or plans you might have. Stick to this as best you can and avoid the temptation to jump straight into your revision without one.
Find a method that works for you
There are various revision techniques including flashcards, past papers, mind maps, group work and recording yourself talking and playing it back.
There's an element of trial and error to finding what works for you, and bear in mind what works well for one exam may not be the best method for another. All the more reason to start early, as you need to take time to find out how you revise best.
Eating a healthy, balanced diet will leave you feeling more energetic and focused. While revising, it can be easy to end up surviving off excessive amounts of coffee and junk food. This may be less time consuming but junk food leads to dips and spikes in blood sugar and too much caffeine can make you anxious – both of these will affect your concentration and energy levels. It’s best to drink plenty of water and eat balanced foods to get the best from your revision time.
Exercise gets the blood flowing and makes for a nice respite from studying. Popping to the gym, playing team sports with friends or even going for a nice walk means more oxygen will reach the brain and help it function better. This should also help you sleep better at night, meaning you'll be able to concentrate better and retain information more effectively.
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Effective revision does not mean constant revision. Taking breaks during revision gives the brain a higher chance of remembering what you’ve crammed into it.
If you start to lose focus, take a break and do something completely different. It's better to do five one-hour stints with breaks than to revise solidly for seven or eight hours.
Get a good night’s sleep
This is especially important the night before an exam, but applies to the entire revision period. Getting to sleep at a reasonable time means you'll wake up earlier and be able to fit in more revision during the day time. Sometimes revising later is unavoidable, but try to keep late nights to a minimum.
Stay calm and positive
Perhaps the most important thing to remember throughout the whole revision process is to stay calm and positive. Bear in mind that performing well in exams is not the be-all and end-all of your university experience.
If you have a bad day, try to not let it affect how you revise the next day.
There's no perfect formula for exam success and you may not find all of our tips to be right for you. The key is to work out how you revise most effectively and stick to that as best you can. Ultimately, when it comes to revision, you get out of it what you put in.