Seven things to do in the last week before an exam: expert cramming tips

student revising

Last-minute revision advice for the final countdown…

No matter how much prep you’ve already done, finishing your revision in the right way can make all the difference. When it all comes down to it, you've just got to remember stuff. But how do the high achievers get all that information to stick?

To help you get the grades you want, we spoke to former teacher Pete Langley, as well as mining the knowledge of students from The Student Room forums.

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

1. Condense what you need to know into smaller chunks

Give yourself as little to go over as possible by chunking your notes down using mind maps and flashcards. Doing this will make it much easier to commit information to memory.

“Group topics into things you know well and things you don’t know so well and prioritise your weaker areas. Be ruthless with yourself and don’t take shortcuts, because if it’s easy it’s probably not working,” says Pete.

Hayhay888 says: “Make sure you have your notes written up and create mind maps with each topic on and try to summarise it as much as possible.

For last minute revision, I made flashcard sets for each topic eg Biology paper 1 and 2. It was really quick just to flick through them and helped me learn loads of content. (I ended up getting 9s for both).”

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."

More like this: six amazing apps to help you revise

2. Test yourself often

Check that your studying is working on a regular basis. Once you’ve covered a topic, test yourself by turning over a mind map and recreating it on a separate piece of paper, or using Q&A style flashcards.

“The more you can get your brain working the better. Instead of highlighting your notes, you should be testing yourself to see what you remember and what you don’t,” says Pete.

MinaBee says: “I personally find that reading and writing things over and over again until it's stuck in my head is quite an easy way to memorise things.

“A way to check if what you're trying to learn is sticking is to test yourself. You can use questions in your revise guides or past papers. Do them and anything that you can't remember or don't get right, go back and try to learn it again.”

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."

3. Practise with past papers; get to grips with exam technique

As well as understanding the types of questions that will be asked, doing practice papers will help you understand the structure of an exam, how much time you should spend on each question and what you’ll be expected to do.

“An exam is never going to ask you to regurgitate everything you know about a topic. Doing practice questions will help you get into the habit of applying what you know to questions,” says Pete.

peanotto recommends reading mark schemes in depth: “Do as many papers as possible and you must analyse the mark schemes and memorise them.”

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."

More like this: how to use past papers to ace your exams

4. Talk to your teachers

If there is anything you don’t understand at the last minute, go and ask your teachers while there’s still time. If you’ve found a particular question or topic challenging, or want to get clarity on the exam structure, they should be happy to do what they can to assist.

“Teachers are there to help you, and I used to love it when students came to me to ask for guidance,” says Pete.

Materol has some advice for English preparation: “The best way to revise English language is to do practice reading questions and writing questions; hand them in to your teacher to mark and look at what to improve.”

5. Balance study time with a healthy dose of leisure

If you’re into the gym, yoga or any other fun hobby, don’t give it up just because exam season is upon us. Even at this late stage, it will give you a well-earned break from studying. Just remember to stay focused on revision, too.

“You’ll need to make some sacrifices to your personal life in the last week before an exam,” says Pete. “But reduce your social activities rather than completely eliminating them; find the right balance.”

Emanuel111 says: “Keep in touch with friends and make sure to continue with your hobbies. Meet up with friends on a quieter revision day, and play an instrument or draw art when at home, whatever you enjoy.

“Don't feel the need to drop all of your hobbies or exercise because you need to revise constantly. If you overdo it, your efficiency will drop and you won't be making any extra progress anyway.”

More like this: your guide to handling exam and revision stress

6. Don’t forget about your other exams

When you’re preparing for an upcoming exam, make sure that if you have others coming up, you still include them in your revision plan. It will help break up your studying and (hopefully) keep things interesting.

“I recommend spending around five to seven hours a day on revision for the last week before an exam. Remember not to drop the ball on your other exams, but still focus on the closest one,” says Pete.

But remember, as Muttley79 says, that “exams are a marathon – not a sprint. Take frequent breaks, keep hydrated and don't sit up too late.”

7. Take care of your mind and body

If you’re in hardcore revision mode, it’s easy to forget to look after yourself. While this is true all the way through, the last week is when it really counts. Remember to eat healthily, stay hydrated, get plenty of sleep and exercise; it will help with your brain power and concentration levels.

RedCasino recommends prioritising your health over crazy cramming, saying: “It's much better for your health and success in the exams to get a good night (or two)'s rest rather than going to bed past midnight or not sleeping at all, which will greatly impact your grades.

“Furthermore, the stress is bad for your health, and you will most likely forget the content if you've only referred to it for a few days before the exams.”

Bonus tip

Avoid leaving anything except slow-paced, gentle revision for the last night – it’ll be difficult to absorb it properly and you’ll be tired for the big day.

Ask a question in the Studying, revision and exam support forum
Your question will be posted in the Studying, revision and exam support forum
Awesome! Your question has now been posted. View your post here
  1. Please choose where you want to post your question.
    Please choose your study level.
    Please enter what your question is about.
    Please enter your question.
    Your message must have two characters or more.
People are talking about this article Have your say