Male student revisingThere is no escaping exams.  They have been part of your life - probably since before you were 10 years old - and they are the climax of every university year.

There is no quick and easy way of dealing with them - but the better prepared you are, the better they tend to go.  This usually means: -

  • start your revision in plenty of time
  • create an exam timetable that gives you enough time to revise everything you need
  • research and practice using past questions

Depending on the time of year, and whether or not you are preparing for the main exam diet or the resits, the suggestions below could help.

10 top tips
  1. Summarise your notes
    Try to get the final-points-I-must-remember down to one A4 sheet (or its equivalent in small cards). After all, by now, you know the rest of the material; you don’t need it written down in your summary sheets.
  2. Work with your study-buddy
    Consider revising a different topic each. Once you’ve completed your revision of your topic, teach it to your study-buddy. Ask them to do the same for you.
  3. Use past papers
    Use past exam papers and the more challenging questions from your tutorial sheets to drive your revision. Text books can often offer worked examples that you might use too.
  4. Rephrase questions
    Once you’ve answered a descriptive question (e.g. essay question), ask yourself
    How else might my lecturer have worded a question on this topic?
    In what other ways (in an exam setting) might my lecturer test my knowledge of this topic?
    Write an exam-style question from that perspective. Work with your study-buddy to answer that question.
  5. Numerical questions
    Once you’ve answered a numerical question that uses a formula, ask yourself
    If the equation were rearranged, what might the subject of the equation be and what information might I be given? 
    How might such a question be worded?
    In what other ways (in an exam setting) might my lecturer test my knowledge of this topic?
    Write an exam-style question from that perspective. Work with your study-buddy to answer that question.
  6. Plan your exam days
    Make sure you know where and when your exams are.  Work out how you are going to get to get to your exam, how long it will take you to get there - and leave in plenty of time, so that you don't end up in a last minute panic because you think you will be late.
  7. Make an Exam Time Management Plan for each course:
    1  how long is the exam;
    2  at the start of the exam, how long do you want to read over the paper (10 minutes, say);
    3  towards the end of the exam time, how long do you want to review your work (10 – 15 minutes, say);
    4  how many questions do you need to answer;
    5  are all questions equally weighted;
    6  so how much time is available to answer each question
    Hint: in your final revision, try answering exam-type questions in that time
  8. Work, rest and play
    Keep a balance and build some time out into your revision time table.
  9. Feed the body as well as the brain
    Eat healthily – see Brain Food: What to Eat When Revising and 10 Tips for Healthy Eating During Exams
  10. Get a good night's sleep
    Aim for 8 or 9 hours each night – see Good sleep hygiene on the NHS website for some useful suggestions.
Studying for Resits

When students fail, it's usually because

  • they don’t cope well under exam conditions*
  • they haven’t revised thoroughly enough

If you’ve had a chance to speak with your lecturer and get feedback on your exam performance, please follow his/her advice.  If not, then the following suggestions could help make your revision more effective.

In these final few weeks one of the best ways to study for your resits is to work through your exam paper again.  Answer as much as you can without looking at your notes, textbook or online material.  Be honest with yourself, how much do you know, how much have you still to learn?

If a particular question (or sub-question) seems too difficult, try to find a worked example of a similar question in your notes, tutorial sheets plus answers, or in a textbook.  Keep a record of which questions/ parts of questions that you've managed to answer, those that you don't know how to tackle and those you haven't yet got around to - and if there is time you could seek help from your lecturer/mentor/friend.  Use your remaining study time to answer past exam papers, following that same approach.

Descriptive Subjects

In you are studying a descriptive subject that requires essay writing, be sure that you are familiar with the action words likely to be used in exam questions in your discipline.

Create an essay plan for each answer and then complete the detail as far as you can in the time available, even if you haven't time to write out a full answer to each question.

So when revising and also in the exam

  1. Read the question carefully
  2. Identify the action words that will influence your answer
  3. Create an essay plan
  4. Add examples and references as appropriate for your discipline area and level of study
  5. Write your answer
University Counselling Service

The university Counselling Service can help if you are becoming over anxious and worried about your exams.  Or you could take a look at the advice on the following web pages.

Keep calm and beat exam stress on the NUS web pages
Exams. We all have to do them - but avoid exam stress - see Exam stress at Student Minds.

Even more advice and tips...

Edinburgh University Effective Exams

Leicester University exam study guide

OU Skills for Study: Revision

Revision: Why sleep and repetition will boost your brain power

Top 10 Revision Tips for your final (or first year) exams