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The Best Way to Revise

By: Suzanne Elvidge BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 17 Sep 2012 |
Exams Stress Revision Learning Work

Exams are a difficult time for everyone, especially people who are new to adult learning (see ‘Coping with Exams’), but one of the best ways to take the stress out of the exams is to prepare properly. Here are a few hints and tips to make the whole process as stress-free as possible.

Organise the Time

Make a revision plan, focussing especially on the topics that need more work, but be prepared to be flexible – things don’t always go to plan. Schedule in breaks too.

Organise the Space

Find somewhere quiet and calm to revise. Working in a tidy and organised space will help revision, but don’t spend so much time organising that time for actually revising gets limited.

Break it Down

It’s much easier to revise when things are broken into smaller, more manageable chunks. Write summaries and lists of key points, or try explaining things to a friend – teaching someone else helps things stick and shows up any gaps in knowledge.

Take Plenty of Breaks and Have Rewards

Breaks are very important – no-one can revise all the time. Have brief ten-minute breaks between sessions of half an hour or an hour, and have longer breaks too – take an afternoon or evening off every now and then.

Schedule in rewards – a cup of tea, walking the dog round the block, ten minutes with a new book, half an hour in the garden, an old favourite video or a new and exciting DVD, or a bath and early bed.

Take Some Time to Exercise

Exercise is a great antidote for stress and depression, and a break in the fresh air can make things seem so much clearer.

Keep Motivated

Think about what you have learned so far, and why you are studying – whether it’s to get a better job, or just to learn something new. Use the fifteen-minute rule – if it’s hard to concentrate, try working on something for 15 minutes. At the end of the fifteen minutes, if the focus still isn’t there, at least you have done fifteen more minutes than you had before. And if the focus is there – just carry on. Taking notes and making summaries helps keep things interesting, and helps it go in, too.

Testing, Testing

Tests can help check up how well things are going in – try running through old exam papers, or make up questions to answer.

Get Plenty of Sleep

It’s a good idea to have a break from revision before going to bed – exercise, have a relaxing bath, read a book or phone a friend. Don’t eat too late and don’t drink too much – both will disturb sleep.

Avoid all night revision sessions, and if possible, revise somewhere other than the bedroom – it’s likely to be easier to sleep if work and bed are kept as separate as possible.

Eat Well

When trying to fit revision round jobs and families, it gets hard to find time to eat well. Cook double amounts of dishes and freeze them, so that they can just go in the oven and microwave. Eat plenty of low fat protein and slow-release carbohydrates, and avoid too much sugar, fat and caffeine.


…that it’s not forever – once the exam is over, there will be time to relax.

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