Building a good toolkit of study skills along with good habits is the key to success in your GCSE’s. The difference between students who feel overwhelmed and those who enjoy revision is mainly that those who enjoy the process are more prepared. After reading this article, you should be able to plan your revision steps and be on the way to getting the good grades you are capable of.
One: Give Yourself Time.
It is important to allow yourself and each of your subject’s sufficient time. Wherever possible begin your revision weeks if not several months before your exams begin. Leaving everything until the last minute or just a couple of weeks before your exams is going to build in stress, and it will feel overwhelming. Giving yourself a good stretch of time to go through every subject to find out what you know and what you still need to learn is the single best thing you can do to aid your revision. A good stretch of time also enables you to build up your revision habits and know what is helping you to learn and what isn’t helping as much. Giving yourself time is giving yourself the best chance to do well and you will feel confident you have done all you can.
Two: Make Yourself a Study Space
Create a revision sanctuary for yourself with everything in it that you need (for example, a desk, your revision guides, highlighters, flashcards…). Put up a picture in your space that is something to look forward to. Perhaps something that will remind you of the summer adventures you will have with your friends once your exams are over. Everything else from this space should be removed and be free from distractions or clutter, this will give you a space to focus solely on your revision. Having a designated workspace will also train your brain to be in a ‘study and revision mode’ when you are in that space, facilitating a context dependent habit. Having a space just for revision will also mean you can leave it behind when you go to have a break and can separate revision from the rest of your day. You should aim to take a 10 minute break every 30 minutes if you want to revise for longer periods.
Three: Find Revision Methods which Work for You
Everyone learns differently. You need to find the ways to revise that work best for you. Mind maps and making posters are good tools to help link your revision material to something visual and to have a visual prompt there for you throughout your revision. Flashcards are useful for rehearsing and memorising facts. Testing yourself with flash cards in the morning and before you go to sleep at night are an excellent way of remembering information. You can make use of online videos which might explain a topic you are stuck on, and you will also be able to access past papers where teachers and tutors have gone through how to answer the questions. Revision guides are useful for separating topics and breaking things down into steps. Find the revision methods that help you the most and use them to succeed.
Four: Keep Yourself Organised
Know when your exams are and keep them written somewhere clearly and in view, for example on a calendar. Make a revision timetable and allocate enough time for each subject. By planning in advance, you will be able to make the best use of your stretch of time, try and stick to it as much as you can (including breaks). Plan which subjects you will start with first and have your resources ready to for each day. If you are working through a past paper, have it printed out on your revision desk. If you are making flashcards, have the cards, pens, and highlighters to hand. The more organised you are, the more will avoid unnecessary stress and make the best use of your time.
Five: Talk to Your Teacher
If you are struggling or there is an area you do not understand, communicate with your teacher or tutor as soon as you are able to. Do not leave it to the last minute as there may not be sufficient time to help you to fully understand what you are finding tricky. This will give them time to get back to you and to help you. Your teachers are there to help you to succeed, but you need to make sure that you are keeping them updated about your concerns, so they know how best to do so for you. You can also ask them for advice, for example if they know of any subject-specific websites or revision guides that might be particularly helpful.
Six: Use Resources
There are many different resources available to you that can help you to revise. You only need to find the ones that are the most beneficial to you. The following examples are not an exhaustive list and there will certainly be more options available to you. You can use your notes that you made in class to help you to begin, though do not rely solely on these as they are unlikely to be enough to help you prepare alone. Websites such as BBC Bitesize can break topics down into manageable chunks for quick and easy revision. There are teachers and former teachers on YouTube that provide free and quick videos which outline their subjects and topics clearly. You can purchase, or potentially take out from your local library, subject-specific revision guides to assist you in your revision. You can make flash cards for yourself for easy and quick revision on the move or to end one of your revision times. You can make visual aids to put up in your space, such as mind maps and posters. Your teacher is a resource you can use, just make sure you go to them in plenty of time for them to be able to help you. Set things up and start using them as soon as you can before your exam.
Mock exams at school can be daunting, but they are only there to help you to practice taking an exam; to give you a feel and an idea of what it will be like, so you do not go into the real thing feeling unprepared and unsure. It is a good idea to get some examples of past papers off the internet to sit down and complete. Time yourself, have silence without distractions, and go through the paper as if it was the real thing in your study space. This will help you to prepare for the feeling of the exam (for example, the time constraint), as well as the type of questions you might be asked and the language that might be used. Download the mark scheme and read it through so that you know what each question is really asking you and so, if you are unsure, you can then ask your teacher to clarify things for you. By the time you go into the real exam, you will feel more familiar with what will be expected of you.
Eight: Peer Group Study
It might be helpful to engage with your peers. You can share ideas and resources and offer each other moral support prior to the exam; though it might be a good idea to avoid meeting up directly after the exam to discuss it if this is likely to make you feel anxious. Revising together can help you to feel like you are not going through things alone. You can test each other and make revision aids together amongst other things. Revising as a team can cover a lot of ground. You need to make sure your peer support is matched according to motivation. If a member of your team is not as motivated, then working together might cause distraction, Judge the success as you go along and talk to your friends about how it is working for them too. Follow your timetable and stick to your resolve. The exam period will not last forever.
Nine: Take Breaks
Do not overload yourself! Give yourself time to breathe away from your revision so that you do not end up feeling overwhelmed and unable to take things in and retain them. A 10-minute break every half hour will enable you to revise for longer. Timetable these breaks in, go and get some air, walk around, and do something you enjoy for a while. Build in two bigger breaks in the day, giving yourself time to relax and unwind, especially if you are about to move from revising one subject into revising something new. This bigger break will help your brain to process information and enable you to be ready for new information as the old subject will have had time to embed itself. Keep a water bottle on your desk. It is important to stay hydrated, so you can revise comfortably. Do not forget to eat so you are not revising on an empty stomach.
Ten: Try Not to Worry!
The exam period is a stressful time. However, as mentioned earlier in this article, it is a time with an end point. Work towards that end point as your goal and use it to motivate you to keep going. Tick off your exams on the calendar as you complete them and allow yourself to feel that accomplishment. If you need to, give yourself motivators to keep working hard and trying your best (for example, needing a particular grade to get into the A Level class that you want). However, do not allow this time to impact on your mental health, and, if you feel that it is, make sure that you speak to a trusted adult as soon as you can so that they can help you.
Breathe, do your best and be proud of yourself!