20 ways A* students are cramming their way to exam success

Young woman writing at her desk with a hot drink

When it all comes down to it, you've just got to remember stuff. But how?

How do the high achievers get all that information to stick?

We asked the best students in our Grow your Grades blogging competition to share with us how they do it.

Here's what they told us:

1. Repeat, repeat, repeat

Repetition makes it easier to remember anything, whether it's how to use a formula or a set of advantages and disadvantages.

I give it about six or seven goes, then it's usually in my head.

According to chelseadagg3r: "Repeating things is the best way for me. I go over the same things over and over, but not all in one go. You repeat a bunch of things at the same time in flashcard format. I give it about six or seven goes, then it's usually in my head."

And 1secondsofvamps seconds the repetition method: "For French I find writing the same sentences over and over again works. For other subjects I prefer repeating the same information in various forms like mindmaps and flashcards."

2. Use flashcards

Make them as basic or beautiful as you like, either online or by hand.

I make them really colourful.

Sternumator says: "For the sciences, I'll use all my notes and the specification and turn all that information into flashcards. I remember them better if I do that by hand."

And Steamboat Mickey says: "Flashcards mean my revision is portable, and a little more exciting as I make them really colourful."

Use TSR's ready-made flashcards for your subject
 

3. Test yourself

This helps cement the information while checking what you know and what you need to spend more time on.

I test myself on what I can remember, either by doing a past paper or essay plan.

auburnstar says: "I re-read the information and condense it into note format if I haven't done so already. Then I test myself on what I can remember, either by doing a past paper or essay plan. After that I look back at my original notes, see what I've missed and add it."

4. Learn together

Revise with friends and get them to test you, it'll keep you on your toes.

We can help each other on our weak areas.

mollyjoy1998 says: "I find testing each other really effective. Asking each other questions can allow us to see what we know and don't know so we can help each other on our weak areas."

5. Cover and write

A variation on testing yourself, this method allows you to test a lot of information at once.

It’s a simple way of finding of how much you know.

Sternumator says: "When it comes to pure memory, I like to ‘cover and write’. I cover up my notes and write down what’s there. It’s a simple way of finding of how much you know."

6. Make it visual

If you find colour and diagrams help, you may be a visual learner.

I try to make all the information eye-catching with detailed, colourful diagrams.

Sternumator says: "I'm a very visual learner, so I try to make all the information eye-catching with detailed, colourful diagrams."

Make mindmaps with TSR's easy tool

 

7. Mnemonics

For lists or sets of facts, use the first letter of the keywords you need to remember and make a memorable mnemonic. An example of this would be Richard of York gave battle in vain for the colour spectrum.

The more stupid, the better.

Scitty says: "For specific lists I like to use mnemonics. The more stupid, the better. I say them to myself every day, and at the start of every exam the first thing I do is write the initials down somewhere."

8. Dream palaces

Also called a mind palace, memory theatre or memory journey, this one involves creating a set of rooms or location in your head and placing memories in various places inside it.

I imagine the objects in outrageous situations as I go through my house.

Scitty says: "For remembering a list of things, such as conditions, ingredients, elements in a group using this method, I imagine the objects in outrageous situations as I go through my house or another familiar place. Then I simply have to walk through the place in my mind, and the objects will come to me."

9. Past papers

These are an essential part of any revision plan, because they familiarise you with exam formats and, when combined with mark schemes, teach you how to pick up marks.

[Past papers] ensure I nail the exam technique and know what sort of questions I will get asked.

Sternumator says: "Maths involves understanding topics in detail and knowing how to apply that in the exam. It’s mostly practising questions often enough to make sure the method stays in my head."

And emduck agrees, saying: "I focus on doing plenty of past papers to ensure I nail the exam technique and know what sort of questions I will get asked."

Find past papers for your subject

 

colour can help

10. Be colourful

Who says revision can't be fun? Go wild with colour and make your notes look pretty if it floats your boat.

I go through A LOT of pens and paper.

MapleMaypole says: "I write out information and make it as colourful as I can. The only downfall of this method is that I go through A LOT of pens and paper and it’s quite time consuming."

11. Draw pictures

Another one for the visual and creative learners: doodles that represent things you need to know.

When it comes to recalling information I can think of the pictures I drew.

MapleMaypole says: "To remember case studies I often use pictures by drawing out events e.g. If I want to memorise the number 84, I’d draw an octopus with 8 legs and a sheep with 4 legs. Then, when it comes to recalling information I can think of the pictures I drew."

12. Rewrite your notes

The act of writing something out over and over can help you remember it.

Rewriting things out again and again is a good way of getting information to stick.

NiamhM1801 says: "I find that rewriting things out again and again is a good way of getting information to stick, and recently I've started making small revision cards so that I can divide my content into smaller chunks which will be easier to commit to memory."

13. Bullet points

Breaking things down into bullet-sized chunks can help by making information more manageable.

One of my chief methods of memorising is bullet pointing everything, and I mean everything.

Steamboat Mickey says: "One of my chief methods of memorising is bullet pointing everything, and I mean everything. I have bullet pointed my history textbook and even the background research I had to do for my Extended Project."

14. Talk to yourself

If you're an auditory learner, it helps to speak out loud while revising. Also try explaining concepts to someone else, telling them everything you know.

Saying things helps me remember more.

NiamH1801 says: "I say a lot of stuff out loud when I'm revising – saying things helps me remember more and I'm quite an auditory learner so hearing myself say things also helps."

15. Novelty

Making humorous connections between things is surprisingly effective at helping you recall information, and the more personal to you the better.

I find funny ways of remembering things.

sfaraj says: "I find funny ways of remembering things, so if I needed to remember what the charge is for exothermic (delta H negative), I would say that exo is negative because exo is a kpop band which I view negatively."

16. Use your environment

Displaying posters around your room, type notes on your phone or use lined paper can help you break up different topics if you're a visual learner.

I can learn one topic using the notes on my phone, or a colourful piece of card, and another on a white board or piece of lined paper.

MableMaypole says: "I make sure information is written in different places. For example, I can learn one topic using the notes on my phone, or a colourful piece of card, and another on a whiteboard or piece of lined paper. This also helps to recall a topic or case study so they don’t merge together in my brain."

17. Stick it up

Put information in a place you'll see it regularly, whether it's above your desk, next to your bed or on your fridge. You won't be able to avoid reading it!

Every time I sit down to do some work and glance up it's just there.

NiamH1801 says: "If there is a fact, or equation that I just haven't got a choice but to memorise, I tend to make a card and stick it on the wall above my desk. Every time I sit down to do some work and glance up it's just there."

Revision

18. Move around and learn

For kinaesthetic or tactile learners, hands-on methods and even just taking a walk while you study can be game-changers.

Walking helps keep me more focused.

angelike says: "I have my notes in one hand and just take a walk around my house. Walking helps keep me more focused." 

19. Use all your senses!

The chewing gum method combines taste and movement, and helps by putting you back into the same state of mind you were in while studying.

If I chew the same flavour in the exam as I did during revision it can help my brain get into gear for that particular subject.

Scitty says: "Chewing different flavours of gum for different subjects doesn't necessarily help me remember specific things, but if I chew the same flavour in the exam as I did during revision it can help my brain get into gear for that particular subject, and keep me focused. Anything that uses as many of your senses as possible really helps!"

20. Combine lots of these

Using lots of these methods together, from notes to flashcards to past papers, is probably the way to go if you want to maximise your memory recall.

I need to practise using it in a practical way.

Cactus Starbright says: "To help me memorise information, I'll make colourful notes in lessons and then to revise I'll create flashcards and mindmaps and use these to answer past paper questions. Basically, to best remember the information, I need to practise using it in a practical way."

Need more study help?

Here are 12 things you can learn from the best students18 procrastination-busting ways to stop stalling your revision and revision methods that actually work.


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