If exams are coming down the line towards you at the moment you might be worried, or you might be confident. But however you feel, you can always improve your results – and overall exam experience – by revising properly, so we got some advice from the School of Law at the University of Hertfordshire and put together these tips on successful revision.
Create a revision timetable
First of all, take control of your revision schedule by creating a timetable. Having a plan will help you revise in a structured way, instead of grabbing books at random, juggling flashcards for multiple subjects and scribbling notes with your feet (or something). If you suffer from exam nerves (and lots of us do), knowing that you were organised and revised well can help you feel calm on the day.
How you construct your timetable is up to you – you can check our forums for advice – but take into account the times of day you work well, and be sure to build in some time to rest, get exercise and see your friends. You'll be much more effective if you do.
A final caution! It's easy to get distracted by creating a revision timetable and spending more time on it than you need to. Don't fall into the trap: allow yourself a fixed amount of time – an evening, say – to put it together.
Know your learning style
Tailoring your revision to the way you like to work can help you get the most from it. Learning styles might include:
• reading and writing out information
• visual (using images and graphics to help learn and remember information)
• auditory (based on listening, so repeating things aloud, discussing, playing back lectures, working with music on quietly in the background)
• kinaesthetic (relying on movement and physical actions)
You might want to use a blend of them all, of course – talk to your teachers and get their advice on the kind of learning that might work best for you.
Revision doesn't have to mean hiding in the attic alone. Revising with your friends can give you a fresh perspective and help you grasp tricky concepts; plus, the simple act of discussing or explaining something will help you remember it and ensure that you really understand the topic.
You can also borrow a technique used at unis like Hertfordshire. The Hertfordshire Way is a learning style that uses a lot of feedback from tutors - you can find out more about it from their Law School. When you're starting revision, seek out that feedback - talk to your teachers and ask if there are areas they think you should focus on.
Get the right tools for the job
Carving a sculpture? Much easier with a chisel than a carrot. Revision is the same: using the right learning tools can help carve those facts into your memory, as well as honing your exam craft.
Handy revision tools include detailed notes; flashcards with bite-sized bits of info; mind maps to help you chart the relationship between different parts of a topic; videos, podcasts and online talks...they're all out there waiting to be used. Our learning resources section has lots of examples - click here to access them. (In this case carrots may help, too. Healthy body, healthy mind and so on.)
Exam success isn't just about knowing your subject. It's also about knowing the exam itself: what's expected of you? What knowledge is it designed to test, and what style of questions will it use?
The Hertfordshire team recommend using past exam papers to find out what the format of the exam will be and then using them to test yourself. Try completing them under exam conditions – time yourself, no looking anything up – to get the hang of things.
Again, this is something your teachers should be able to help with. Get hold of some papers and get practising and suddenly the exam will seem much less scary because you'll know what to expect, and how to handle it.
In short, it's all about preparation. Review our tips, plan your revision and you'll be on the right track. Courage!