Cramming for your GCSE and A-level exams: three steps to success

How to actually be productive with your last-minute revision

Let's get this out of the way right at the very start. Cramming should absolutely not be your main method of revising.

We would always (always!) recommend starting your revision as early as possible. And if you've got time to do that, try our articles on setting up a decent revision timetable and getting started with your revision to make sure you get off on the right foot.

But...eventually those exams aren't going to be months or even weeks away. They're going to be next week...or tomorrow...

At that point, whether you've done great revision or not, you're going to be thinking about cramming in some last-minute knowledge. To find out how best to do this, we spoke to members of The Student Room for their advice. In this article, you'll find three top tips for getting the very best from those last days before any GCSE or A-level exam.

More like this: seven things to do the night before and morning of an exam

1. Stay calm

When an exam is imminent, it's natural to feel the pressure. But now is not the time for meltdowns. You'll do your best revision, and get your best exam results, when you're feeling at ease.

"Make the most of the time you have left and don't spend a second worrying that you don't have enough time."

Kevin De Bruyne

A positive mental attitude is everything at this point. Work smartly, be kind to yourself and believe you can do it. 

"Use your time wisely, don't procrastinate. Try producing flash cards or some revision notes on the important parts of your course.

"Reading your textbooks or notes when you have a spare ten minutes can help.

"Don't put yourself down and think you will do badly because if you try now in two weeks time you can look back and think, 'Thank goodness I did all that revision the week before my exams'."


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2. Allocate your time well

Just because you are pushed for time, it doesn't mean you don't need to be organised. In fact, it's even more of a reason to make a plan and stick to it.

"Revise for a certain amount of time each day leading up. It doesn’t have to be consecutive hours, but find time each day.

"Make note cards that you can keep on your desk at home, by your bed or in the car to get small notes or equations in your head.

"Make yourself a timetable of revision to help plan your day and it makes it somewhat easier to 'get on with it'."


Work out how much time you can spare, without completely overdoing it to the point where you don't take anything in. You can then divide that time into different subject areas and techniques, such as testing your knowledge with past papers and making flashcards.

"The worst thing you could do at the moment is cram everything at once. You need to look through some past papers and really focus on the areas your not as confident on.

"You're not going to get everything into the weekend so a timetable is really going to be your best friend over the next few days."


3. Cram sensibly

However you decide to cram, make sure you do it in a way that works for you. Tried and tested methods are using past papers to structure your revision, reading mark schemes to see what examiners are looking for and making flashcards. 

"I think the best way to revise last minute is get a past paper, and revise the content while doing the paper. It doesn't have to be in properly timed conditions, I didn't even write anything down. I just had an answer in my head, but writing down stuff does help some people remember better.

"If you get to a question and find you dont particularly know that topic, revise the whole topic and do practice questions on it before moving on.

"Practice your weaker areas of exam questions too. For example, if you know you struggle on six markers or practical-based questions, make sure you practice them.

"Use flashcards for stuff like formulas and for facts you have to know, if flashcards help you."


In the days leading up to an exam, it's a good idea to use the time test yourself on any areas you are weak on. If you have time in the morning, do whatever helps you memorise all you need to know, whether that's reading over your notes or writing things down.

"Cramming works for me only if I cram the same day as the exam. Cramming the night before never usually works because I forget it after I've slept.

"So, I'd say do normal revision on the night time, a few hours with breaks. And testing yourself is so important.

"Then on the morning of the exam(s) wake up an hour or so earlier and cram a bunch of revision in.

"When I cram I usually type out the revision guide in my own words or type out an online revision source in my own words. This way I'm not missing out ANY content (as notes you've taken may have knowledge gaps)."


To read more revision advice from students, visit the revision and study tips forum. Find more revision articles in our study help hub.

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