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Revision. The word alone can send a chill through the keenest of students. But if you've kept good notes throughout your course and completed all your assignments, you've done well in preparing yourself. Revision is, if you like, the final hurdle before the exam. Here are some of the golden rules to make the process as productive and stress free as possible.

Allocate sufficient time
Don't leave revision until the last moment. Putting off the inevitable will only increase your stress levels.  It will be more effective if you spread your revision out rather than cramming at the end. And it will stop you getting into a panic.

Find your ideal study space

Perfect quiet doesn't suit everyone - it's fine to have music in the background as long as it doesn't distract you. Make yourself comfortable: you need to be relaxed, but also remain focused. You may find find locking yourself away in your room works for you or if there is too much to distract you at home how about using your local library?  Organise your materials - you don't want to start revising and then realise that you haven't got everything you need. Look out for fresh sources of information such as online revision sites S-cool and BBC Bitesize.

Create a revision plan
Take time to prepare a plan for your revision, this is the key to your success.  Be realistic about how much time you need to revise for each subject, this will help to combat your stress. Mark on your calendar or diary when and what you're going to revise and keep a copy pinned up where it’s easy to see.  Or use an online tool such as Get Revising's Study Planner to add current commitments and schedule studying around them.  Don’t forget to make an exam timetable too, this will ensure you know when and where your exams take place.  

Take care of yourself
You'll find you work better if you eat well, drink lots of water and get enough sleep.  It's important not to push yourself too hard - it won't do you a lot of good if you get too stressed, as your brain won't take in very much.

Have regular breaks
When you exercise, your body gets tired and you need to stop and rest. It’s the same with your brain. Some people recommend you stop for ten minutes every half hour, as this is about as long as the brain can concentrate. Have a stretch, get up, grab a drink, take a nap - whatever you need to do to recuperate. Allow a longer break during meal times to give yourself time to relax and make sure you get the balance right: schedule time out with your friends to give you a break from the study.

Do 'active' revision
There are many different ways of revising; try to find out what works for you. Just reading your notes won't help you learn them. Try preparing flash cards with the main topics, key words, dates and diagrams to use as a prompt.  Familiarise yourself with the exam format and how much time you need to allow to answer each question fully.  Doing past paper questions, reading examiners’ reports (these are full of pointers as to what they are looking for) testing yourself or asking someone else to test you are also good 'active' techniques. If you are struggling with a topic don’t just skip over it, ask for help from your teachers – they are there to help you. Check out this University of Reading study guide for more revision and memory strategies.

And finally - exam day

On the day of your exams minimise your anxiety by avoiding panicking friends and allow plenty of time to get to the exam.  Pack your exam essentials the night before and finally, never under-estimate the benefit of a healthy breakfast to maintain your energy levels during the exam period.


This is based on the ‘Study Skills’ leaflet in eCLIPS. Find this and other leaflets on study, education and career options.

(Photo: Collegedegrees360 via flickr CC BY-SA 2.0)

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