Starting to revise? Been doing it for a while? Now school’s back, your teachers will be reminding you about the importance of your exams just as much as your parents/carers were over the Easter break!

Here’s a few ideas to help make that work as effectively as possible for you – especially if you are finding it a struggle …

Understand why it can be such a challenge

When I was in school, my parents offered me cash in return for exam grades. It sounded like a great plan and I would have jumped at it in theory, but in practice I did not need any financial incentive: I just needed someone to miraculously put all my revision into my head at the click of a button. That, to me, was worth a hundred times what I was being offered – and I was being offered a LOT.

The challenge for me was not being able to discipline myself to revise because (a) it wasn’t something that I could focus on: pages and pages of text could all have been in Martian for all I could absorb their content; (b) I was far too busy generally hanging out with my friends – many of whom were either much better at revising or simply not taking exams at the same time as me; (c) I had a part-time job which continued throughout this period and (d) I am naturally distracted – comfortably ‘opportunity-spotting’ throughout the day.

Having realised why I was unable to knuckle down and revise, made it easier to work out the solution. Generous as the financial offer was, it didn’t work for me. Great if that is all you need, but I suspect the majority will be in a similar position: cash is a reward, but not a motivator – rather as it should be when you go out to work.

Find your ideal study-method

Some people prefer a book and a notepad, happily absorbing vast quantities of information from the pages of text. I was at school with two amazing friends who had ‘photographic memories’ and who could memorise pages of text and diagrams at will – incredible!

Perhaps you’re happier with a list of mnemonics: a clever way of remembering topics whether you invent them to suit you or get them from others. And there are those who, like me, prefer images or ‘mind maps’ which are all highly visual: the whole process of finding and creating them in itself helps me to concentrate and learn.

On Careersnearhere, we have designed the layout to suit those who prefer to search through images as well as those who are happy with pages of text. If you’re uncertain about which method suits you best, take a look: if you prefer the Explore tab with all the images to the Fill Your CV tab with all the text, it may give you an idea of which style you prefer. Aim to find out what works best for you.

Find your ideal study-space

Find a study-space where you are comfortable and away from any distractions. This could be your room, a library or the park – anywhere that you feel able to concentrate 100%. Nowadays, my study-space is on a train: ten minutes looking out of the window with a notepad to hand clears my thoughts at supersonic speed and I can start to really focus on the task ahead, effectively trapped in my seat for the next hour or so.

Part of the benefit of your study-space is that you should be away from what might distract you. For me it would be friends, the TV or music! Today, it can so easily be my phone, so put it away or turn it off – whatever it takes to stop you taking a sneak-peek because it won’t just be a few seconds of distraction, it will be the next half an hour – or longer! Imagine you are on a diet: wouldn’t you hide the biscuit tin? It’s the same idea: if you don’t have the will-power to stay away from it, do not have it anywhere near you.

Find your ideal study-time

When I was revising, I worked best early in the morning and in timed-slots so there was an element of pressure on me. The perfect study-space and study-time for me is now is being on an early morning train journey.

As well as being away from distractions, being on a timed journey works for me because I work well to tight deadlines and so it really helps me to focus better: I need this done by the time I reach my destination, so it WILL be done.

And finally, …

There is only one right way to tackle this challenging time and that is in a way that best suits you!

If you know why you are struggling to study, this is a massive step towards working out how to deal with it. If you are easily distracted, remove yourself from those distractions. If you can’t concentrate on pages of text – online or otherwise – try mnemonics or main mapping. To solve the study problem, you need to first work out what the barriers are and sort them.

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