Revision is what all us poor students have to do at some point in our academic career as exams are pretty much a fact of life. There's no way to get round the fact that the only way to really do well is to put in a bit of elbow grease and some damn hard work, however there are a few ways to maximise your chances and minimise the pain...

Step One to Exam Heaven:

Start Early!!! The exams may be far away, yes; motivation is difficult, yes; coursework still to be done, yes... STILL there is no substitute for information that has become well entrenched in the mind as opposed to that which is crammed in at the last minute. Also, starting your study early has the advantage that the work can be done in smaller chunks rather than a 12 hour marathon each day for a fortnight...

Step Two:

Before beginning revision, it is important to plan: take a good few hours to do this - a general 'I'll do 2 hours daily' isn't good enough: something so vague is hard to stick to. Collect together your entire course notes and preferably a syllabus, and a calender. Compile your own version of the syllabus and divide the topics into small units and subunits. Give them numbers, letters, pretty pictures, whatever. Take the calendar, and mark in exactly which units you'll do when(Not just the day, but the times too). Don't be too optimistic (depending on how close it is to exams - you may still have a semblance of a social life/classes/assignments etc.), but make sure you fit everything in and leave a good week or so before exams begin. If you're starting long enough before the exams, plan only a few hours per day, say, from 1900 to 2100 daily, so revision doesn't take over your life but you keep going steadily. Plan breaks, however you feel you need them: most people in the know advise 15 minutes for every hour - YMMV.

Step Three: actually doing it

This is the hard bit. Turn off the music, clear the desk, shut the door... Wherever you choose to revise, be it a library, study, quiet room, or so on, make sure it is a reasonable place to work. However much you like your music, *honestly*, turning it off will help when you become more accustomed to the silence. Try to be seated at your desk at least five minutes before you planned to begin in order to get into the right mindset and give yourself a head start. Have water nearby so you don't have to fetch it! Once at the desk, stay there... At this point you just have to use your willpower not to procrastinate. Some people find putting the grades they're aiming for on a post-it in front of the motivational. Others just find this intensely annoying.


The exact nature of your revision will naturally depend on the subjects you are taking. Condensing each unit or subunit onto one sheet of paper is often a good way to break things down to the bare essentials. Use colours, visuals and mindmaps to draw links between topics - this may make your notes look like they were done by a demented six year old, but they should help... Make posters of quotes and formulae and stick them up around the desk so you absorb them, or whatever suits you. Just make sure you're not going over and over the easy stuff you know and putting off the difficult or boring stuff. Quickly going over what you've done in the day's session at the end is a quick way to reiterate the stuff you've learnt.


An important aspect of successful revision is to relax, particularly to sleep well. At the end of each session, STOP. Clean the desk, put away notes, and leave the room. Do something completely different to prove revision is not taking over your life. Exercise in your spare time is a good way to reinvigorate. Scheduling the revision sessions so they finish at a reasonable hour helps, as revising right up to bedtime doesn't allow you time to relax. It is also important to eat well as the food you eat has an effect on your general wellbeing, and therefore your concentration and revision efforts.

Close to exams

With any luck, you've scheduled in a free week before exams. Use this to destress, but don't stop working. Re-read the notes you made during revision, and go over anything that's still bothering you. Do past papers and test yourself. Scheduling study of something for the first time close to the exam is not a good idea, as it distracts from the whole subject, and just becomes more stressful. Before the exams themselves, try not to eat a big heavy meal as it can make you sleepy. Make sure that you're not hungry though. If possible, walk to the exam hall to get the blood flowing to the brain! Arrive in good time, and avoid the scaremongers and the gossipers... Then get back to it once the exam is over! :-D

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