Welcome to How to Thrive Through Your Exams Part 2 – my guide to help you flourish and thrive through the examination process.
Effective Revision is the recipe for success. There is little point ‘revising’ if you haven’t learnt how to make it effective for you. Here is my explanation of what actions you can take. Match them with determination and lots of hard work to ensure superb satisfaction and success!
Create a realistic revision schedule.
- Prepare a schedule well before your first exam (ideally 6 weeks).
- Check and double check all the dates and times of each examination paper and add these to your schedule first.
- Discuss with family and/or friends any unavoidable commitments you have during this period (e.g. weddings, etc.) and blank these days out of your schedule – you are not realistically going to be able to do any effective revision on those days. If there are any commitments that you can postpone, do so (including any regular chores that someone else could do for you instead).
- It’s important to live a balanced life during revision time. Add any normal extra-curricular activities to your schedule, especially if it involves physical activity.
- Decide which subjects / units are the most important to your life goals (check out your vision board!) and / or overall success in your exams. Prioritize these subjects in your schedule.
Break revision into manageable chunks.
- Decide when you work best – morning lark or night owl? Schedule your priority or most difficult subjects / units for these periods. Plan to work significant, but reasonable , lengths of time each morning, afternoon and evening.
- At the start of each week, set yourself some targets. Break these targets down at the start of each day (or the night before), but don’t choose more than five. Prioritize these targets. Decide how many 25 minute units of time you will commit to each one. Mentally commit to doing nothing but working on a chosen target for the full 25 minutes. At the end of 25 minutes, get up and doing something completely different for five minutes, then return and continue. (I will be running ‘Flourish and Thrive Café’ sessions on this method – named after a tomato! – soon. It’s a great way of organising life in general , getting things done, and protecting your free time! Don’t miss out – sign up for the Café sessions on my website www.carolinejacobs.co.uk )
- Summarise your notes for each unit and memorise them. Don’t kid yourself that just re-reading your notes or textbooks will help. This is passive revision and within an hour you will have forgotten most of it. You MUST engage in active revision. Your brain has to recognise that these notes are important. To keep it in your memory we have to make sure you link the information to other things you know. The best way to do this is to ensure you understand each topic by summarising your notes into your own key words. The summaries can be put into lists or mind maps, preferably on an index card that you can carry around with you and refer to at regular intervals (I always put copies of my cards up in the bathroom!). Commit time to memorise each card by either copying them out or reciting them from memory. The more you do this, the more myelination will occur in your brain and the easier it will become to remember – see my earlier blog on ‘Thriving Through Adolescence’. (Again, I will be running sessions on ‘Effective Revision’ in future ‘Flourish and Thrive Café’ sessions. Look out for them!).
Ace the Exam
- Prepare yourself the night before the exam. Make sure you have any resources required packed in your bag; stationery needs to be put into a clear plastic pencil case. Check the time of the exam and the place where it is to be held. Look at a past paper to remind yourself of the exam format and the skills and knowledge that are to be tested.
- Don’t get into the habit of using lucky charms. If you lose one of these it can destroy your morale. You don’t need luck – you are all you need. You’ve got this!
- On the day of the exam, get there early. Don’t drink lots of liquid. Go to the toilet before you go in. Your brain will go into flight or fight mood when it is nervous and it will give you the urge to go to the toilet anyway. There is nothing worse than being late as it throws your brain into an emotional state. Avoid anyone who is likely to be negative. Turn your mobile phone off and put in your bag – you could be excluded from this and other exams if you are found with these in your possession.
- As soon as the exam begins, ask for supplementary paper. Use this to scribble down your memorised mind maps and prepare quick plans for your answers. Spending 5 minutes doing this makes a huge difference to the quality of your answers!
- Read the exam paper with care. Check instructions, especially on which questions you are to answer. Make sure there are no questions hidden on the back page. Identify the questions you are best equipped to answer. Work out how much time you have to complete each question, based on their mark allocation.
- Start with those questions that get you the highest mark. You will get more marks for starting your answer for these questions than you will for ending the shorter, lower marked ones. These often need more extended answers, so quickly plan out an answer on your spare paper before you start to write.
Celebrate … and Start Again!
At the end of the exam, don’t hang around with anyone who is negative. Find a quiet place, reflect on what went well and write it down. Don’t be modest – if you totally smashed the 6 mark question by remembering to explain differing ideas AND supported this with evidence, then say so! Did you manage to include all of the key points from your hastily scribbled spider diagram at the start of the exam? FANTASTIC!! Did you have time (and remember) to check through the question sheet again to see if there was anything you may have missed? GO YOU!! Share this with family and / or friends then place it in your study area to improve your confidence and self-belief. This will create a positive affirmation effect ahead of your next exam. Ignore anything that went wrong; you can’t do anything about it and it only wastes time when you need to move forward. Give yourself a reward and take a short break. Then back to work – what’s next on your schedule?
See the third and final part of my guide – ‘How Can Parents / Adult Friends Help?’ in the next blog. Make sure you ask your relatives to read it (forward a link to their email or social media account). I really hope it helps you feel that your needs are understood and that your family are pleased they can support you in the ways which will make a difference.
Don’t be afraid to reach out if you need someone to listen or support you in another way – just ask, help is always available.