Time seemingly has the strange property of stretching like taffy while simultaneously rushing like a torrent.
Months before exams are scheduled to take place, who would think to start revising for them? Hopefully, you will. Exams season is not that far away; only a few months… And you’d be surprised at how fast time will fly by, leaving you totally unprepared and panicked at the thought of confronting a blank exam paper that expects you to have the knowledge to fill it. Students, it is time for you to do something typical adolescents disdain: it is time to start planning your day in exquisite detail. Not down to what you will wear, eat and who you will talk to – that is going a bit too far. On the other hand, what you will revise, how much time you will spend studying each subject and what materials you will use are precisely what you need to consider in setting up your exam revision timetable. Let your Superprof give some pointers for you to set up an effective review regimen.
Get an Early Start
On the surface, this bit of advice seems like no advice at all because you have been preparing for your exams your entire academic career. From that perspective, you might compare your exam preparation to floating down a river: the course of the water carries you along.
Something changes, though, upon selecting your exam subjects.
From that point on, you have taken control of the craft you’ve been floating down that metaphorical river on. Now it is up to you to pilot it, speeding up here and placing more emphasis there, until you arrive at the end of the course. As you know, that end is the successful completion of exams. How you pilot your craft – how many resources you dedicate to each aspect of your academic venture is key in determining how you will fare and marshalling your resources – especially time, is crucial. As you well know, there are some things about your upcoming exams that are out of your control; when you will take them being a particularly critical aspect. Because you don’t get to choose when to take your exams according to when you will be ready for your exams, you must be ready when exam time rolls around. Obviously, it would be far too early to start your revision timetable as soon as you select your exam subjects but, seeing as exams are typically at the beginning of summer, right after the winter holiday break would be perfect. If that’s what you’ve done, you’re one step ahead of the game. If you haven’t yet started reviewing for your exams, you’d better get started!
Plotting Study Time
You only have 24 hours in each day; use them wisely.
Each of us has things that must be done each day and all of us must at least eat, sleep and tend to a host of other obligations. Sleep, being so important for your revision – indeed for your overall health, must be allotted at least eight hours. School accounts for around seven hours but you must also figure in the time to get ready, get there and get home… so, we’ll say nine hours. Don't forget to eat breakfast before you go! Social and family obligations: you cannot sacrifice these grounding influences on your revision efforts! Two to three hours would be on the skimpy side but would do during revision time. Maintenance: the utilitarian aspects of human life such as food intake, washing clothes, getting exercise… they may be combined with social-family time: taking tea together, going for a walk and so on.
Clearly, student lives are already quite busy but you can still squeeze in a few hours for exam revision. How you use them is key.
Let’s say you will have six subjects to test in and roughly two hours each day to review. Logically, you might decide to review two subjects per study-block, rotating subjects on a daily basis. You might even consider other alignments/rotations or you might consider prioritising the subjects you feel ‘weakest’ in. Hopefully, you have selected at least a few subjects that you genuinely enjoy; subjects that you will competently test in without undue stress or review. Even though they hold a fascination for you, you might consider spending less time reviewing them in favour really bearing down on those subjects you feel less confident about passing exams for. Let us now parlay all of these ideas into an effective timetable for exam review.
Setting Up Your Timetable
First, decide whether you will choose to use a standard calendar-type planner you can buy in virtually any shop, use an online planner or just create a spreadsheet to plan your day. Once you’ve selected your optimal means of recording your plan, block out essential times: family time, school time and sleeping time. Next, take a look at everything you must review: which topics you’ve covered in which subjects and the amount of information you must go over to competently address each subject come exam time. Don’t forget to look at past papers and marking schemes from testing bodies and other websites and resources for revision. Once you are concretely aware of the magnitude of your undertaking, you can start filling in the blank spaces in your daily schedule with dedicated study activity. If you’re solid in maths but worry about science, reduce your maths revision in proportion to your science reviews. If maths and science are among your favourite subjects but you worry English will stymie you, adjust your distribution of study time accordingly. Some students are quite happy simply dividing the number of subjects to be studied by whichever variable suits them the best. They may opt to review one subject per day, every subject each day but only for 15 to 30 minutes each. Some prefer alternating two subjects per day, giving each subject a review twice per week and then taking one day off from studying per week. Whichever way works best for you is the plan you should adopt – by that, we don’t mean leaving off reviewing until the week before exams!
Timetable Best Practices
Time management is not necessarily a skill that comes naturally to anyone, let alone GCSE students but it is absolutely vital to student success when it comes to planning a study session. In fact, you may find that you must constantly battle procrastination, especially when just one more level of your fav game or just one more YouTube video appeals far more. We’ll not argue, sometimes (usually!) fun activities are far more appealing than going over exam papers and lecture notes. Maybe, instead of putting off study time, you could reward yourself with something fun after the test preparation session you had planned for yourself. To help you stick to your study plan, you might:
- Colour-code your timetable: makes it more appealing and easier to determine at a glance what you will do and revise that day.
- Make it visible: timetables are easy to make on a computer but are more effective if they are ‘real-world’ rather than electronic – after all, you can always mute or dismiss any reminders and outright neglect to look at your calendar.
- Ask friends and family to help you stick to your revision guide; it would also help if you asked them to not interrupt you while studying.
- Consider study groups; that way you'll get to spend time with mates while still studying!
- Diversify your study methods: one day you might use flashcards, another you go over exam questions; next study session might find you reading and taking notes…
- Forgive yourself: if you’ve not built a day off in your study planner (as described above), you might feel burnt out of studying long before your exam timetable rolls around!
In fact, if you find you’re constantly cheating your timetable, change it. Trying to stick to a study schedule that simply doesn’t work for you is pointless; doing so is likely to do more harm than good. Besides, you don’t need the added stress over exam success that will invariably lead to cramming before the exam, nor do you need the guilt over thinking you can't study effectively: both of those are common side-effects of exam revision gone wrong! Final revision tips: be realistic and consider your normal study habits. Changing your study strategies expressly for exam review is bound to backfire; old habits are hard to break. Instead, consider adding study techniques to your ways to study; maybe using mnemonics to remember chemical formulas or dedicating a study space instead of curling up in your bed, surrounded by textbooks, as you usually do. For exam revision, good study habits are only half of the equation; the other half is being consistent about studying. Won’t you let us know if you have more tips for exam revision in our comments section? Now pick up on other effective revision techniques…