10 ways to not completely screw up your exams

Young boy frustrated with studying with screwed up paper around him

If you want to achieve a set of grades you're happy with, what you do (and don't do) between now and your exams matters

This is the time to start focussing on studying and how you're going to bag the results you want.

With this in mind, we asked our highly-motivated Grow your Grades students for their top tips around preparing for exams.

Here are ten things to absolutely avoid like the plague to make sure you don't mess up your exams.

1. Underestimating the power of a clean, calm space

Wherever you study, make sure it's an environment that helps you concentrate and get things done.

Remove distractions and focus, Turn off your phone, disable your internet, discipline yourself and get stuck in. 


Have a quiet designated study area, free from distractions.


The fundamental step is to get yourself organised. Have you got a tidy workspace? If you think you work better in a clean environment organise your room as well! Organise loose sheets by chapter in folders, a to-do-list for things to do today etc.


2. Spending time where you don't need to

The hours you set aside for studying are precious, so use them wisely.

Don't waste time writing essays for every single past paper question in the above subjects, just write a plan and then compare to the mark scheme. Being able to plan and structure an essay is 90% of the difficulty – putting it into sentences is the easy bit.

Just write bullet points of the main arguments, if you want you can put examples next to them, if you know you can explain it then you don't need to write anything else. When you check the mark scheme be honest with whether or not you would have written that. Be extremely strict on yourself.


Make sure you're doing useful and effective revision, not just copying out of a textbook or off a screen.


3. Giving up your extracurriculars

If you're tempted to put a stop on all the fun things you do, think again. 

If you are used to regular exercise, especially if are an athlete or sportsman who trains intensively, do not be tempted to give it all up in order to gain extra time for revision. Your body will miss the hormones and the routine and your mental performance will suffer. By all means cut it back a little in a controlled way, but certainly don't give it all up.

Good bloke

I would say that you shouldn't give up all your hobbies just to get extra revision time for your exams. We all need a break at some point, and if it's something you enjoy (if your experience is anything similar to mine) it will help you be less stressed overall!


Tone your life down if need be to revise but don't throw your life away. Balance is key.


4. Being cocky instead of confident

While there's every reason to believe in yourself, don't get ahead of yourself.

Don't get cocky. I got really cocky and ended up getting a D in my maths exam. I did the revision and everything but I didn't read the questions properly and ended up making really careless mistakes like saying +2 instead of -2.


Be confident in yourself and your ability! If you know you've revised properly then there's no need to worry for the exam, all that's left to do is trying your best!


5. Using revision tools that don't help you

Make sure you use TSR's free revision tools and resources and use what works best for you.

Find methods of revision that work for you. Different techniques work for different people. Your friend might be using flashcards whereas you need something more verbal. Don't worry about what techniques you're using, in many cases the sillier it is the easier it is to remember.


Find what works for YOU. This could be making notes watching videos, mindmaps, flashcards etc, finding something that works personally for you will mean that you are more motivated to revise when it comes to it! Make these resources as early as possible and revisit them little and often – you will thank yourself when it comes to exams!


6. Putting too much importance on what has been

Now's the time for looking ahead, not backward.

Forget about mocks.


If you didn't get the grades you wanted, don't dwell on it; you can't change the past, but the future is still in your hands.

Infinite Series

7. Ignoring the things you find difficult

Be honest with yourself and make sure you nail the trickiest areas and fill the gaps in your knowledge.

Always start with the topics that you struggle the most with, it's all fun and games doing the easy things however exams are not easy unfortunately.


Don’t put off the things you find hard, because you will kick yourself when it comes to exam time, trust me!


8. Prioritising quantity over quality

Less is sometimes more, so work smarter and don't get burnt out.

The quality of your revision will impact your exams better than the amount you do. Revising for 10 hours a day while not really getting any information in is not going to help you in comparison to two hours a day where you thoroughly understand all of the information.


Work smarter, not harder. Don't simply throw more hours at the problem. If you are not seeing results, adjust the method. If spending one hour reading textbooks isn't working for you, spending 10 hours won't help much either


9. Not asking for help when you need it

Talk to teachers, friends, anyone that can aid your understanding.

Don’t be afraid to ask your teachers.


Use your teachers as much as possible. Revision is your chance to get one-on-one help with anything you've been struggling with over the course. It's a lot easier (and less anxiety inducing) to ask what you think are stupid questions during a session where there's only you and a few other people.


10. Stressing out unnecessarily

Both during revision and in your exams, relax and keep a level head.

Don’t stress too much, you’re a student, they don’t expect you to know everything. They just want to see you do your best.


Don't stress, do it in chunks so it doesn't become overwhelming for you.


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