With exam season upon us, here are some tips on how to be as effective as you can in the final few days and even hours, including some tips from a local motivational coach. Read more …

Why you might be cramming

It is easy to assume that you are packing it all in to the last week or so because you have a great social life, feel disengaged from school/college/home or would rather be doing something else.

If you don’t think that exams are important, why bother? However, that might have been your state of mind back then, but it is not now: the fact that you are even trying to cram suggests that you have had some change of heart. Ignore everyone that has had a structured revision plan since Christmas and focus on yourself: it is not too late to pass.

Others will be cramming because they missed topics, perhaps through ill-health or lack of interest during the year. Alternatively, like me – they may struggle to absorb vast quantities of text and so take a long time to learn it without revision strategies. Do not give up – I have experience of both failing monumentally and of passing with top grades: it is all possible to achieve still.

Unfortunately, there will also be a few who think they are not good enough to pass – and THAT IS ALL WRONG! Whoever led you to believe this is not sitting your exam: you are. You are revising, you are learning, and you are going to pass. It is not too late to pass.

And in all these scenarios, there is enough help out there to support you in a way that suits you best without needing to involve anyone else. This is just between you and yourself. Believe you can do it and read on …

Step (1): Check your timetable

It may sound obvious, but please read through your exam timetable carefully as soon as you get it. Initially this is to check that your name, date of birth, exam subjects …etc are correct, but ultimately it is so that you know exactly what you have to do, when you have to do it and where you need to be. That way you won’t miss an exam – it does happen! – and misreading the timetable is not an excuse for being late or for not turning up at all.

If you look at your timetable early enough, you could also use it to help influence your revision priorities, scheduling preparation for your earliest exams ahead of the one at the end which has four free days beforehand.

And your timetable will show if you have a clash of exams, which means that you’ll need to be vigilant and find out exactly where you need to be during the period between the first and second paper. You’ll be kept away from those who took the second paper whilst you were sitting the first and it will be up to you to find out well in advance exactly what this will mean for you on the day.

Step (2): Structure your final revision

If you have a wall planner or large sheet of paper that can be drawn up as a calendar, add in your exam times and try breaking down your final revision into manageable chunks for each of the remaining days, leaving yourself clear breaks to do other things. Chunking any big piece of work and ticking it off is a well-tried technique in sports training and in the world of work. With your revision, those chunks might be simply based on modules or key topics that you know you need to revise.

Step (3): Make time for a break

A break can be anything from an hour to get a proper meal and watch TV, to an afternoon getting out in the fresh air, playing sport and meeting up with friends. Your brain is a muscle and needs a rest to work at its best.

These breaks are mini-rewards marking the end of allocated chunks in your revision time. If, like me, you work best to deadlines, you’ll get the revision done in order to feel able to then fully relax and take a bit of time off. Whatever works best for you, it is essential that you factor in time-off even at this late stage.

Step (4): Watch videos and Apps

Aside from watching films in your break time, there are actually some great revision tips – both general and subject-specific – on YouTube and social media! And if you are cramming because you don’t absorb vast quantities of text easily, these videos condense content into manageable chunks in a format that might just suit you! There are also some great revision Apps available, so worth a look.

Step (5): Make it simple and memorable

It’s not about making your notes look pretty – after all, the examiner is never going to see them so they won’t get any marks and it will be valuable time wasted on appearance when you could be concentrating on memorising the content instead.

However, in these final days, it can help to re-write vast chunks of notes into simple sentences or drawings, mind-maps – or even just a list of keywords. And if using colour works best for you, perhaps bring these to life by highlighting them with different pens or using coloured sticky notelets instead!

Step (6): Don’t give up!

Don’t despair: if you’ve been working through your subjects methodically since the start of the year, you’ll have read past papers and revised continuously so that your brain has had time to absorb it all. However, in these remaining days – even hours – there is no time left for this idyllic approach and so please do not fool yourself that you can do it all – or, worse – sink into a blind panic when you realise that you can’t. I’ve been there, believe me!

Instead, try and concentrate on the most urgent revision and imminent exams, getting to grips with the key points. I got through a reputedly very tough English Literature GCSE by memorising several quotes from key characters and learning how to compare two poems on a similar theme by different poets. In the exam, I interwove the quotes into relevant answers wherever I could. And when I had to unexpectedly contrast two poems of choice on the day, I was able to recall sufficient content to answer the question and use actual excerpts from memory! I’m not suggesting this technique will get you through your exams, but the point is that It is still possible to succeed if you can just focus your efforts. Whatever happens, DON’T GIVE UP!

And finally …

We asked local motivational coach, Sarah Clark of Mariposa Coaching, for some words of advice.

Sarah recommends that you remind yourself just how awesome you are and how appreciated you will be – by your friends and by those who care for you – as well as by the teachers who have been working with you for so long to get to this point!

It is also short-term pain for (very) long term gain and worth remembering what you’ve got to look forward to when they’re over!

Sarah also reminds us that, whatever happens, it is really important not to aim so high that you stress yourself out. There’s absolutely no point: you are doing this for yourself and not for anyone else. You know what you are capable of and how important it is to pass your exams (otherwise why bother). Just GO FOR IT …!

Thank you Mariposa Coaching. Great tips!

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