Exam revision for winners: ace your finals now!

Posted on Posted in Exam Revision

Whether you are coming up to A-Levels, IB finals or your own high school’s diploma, there is a point in time when exam revision becomes a topic of conversation.

Good news:
Exam revision is just a matter of preparation!

All the worries and obstacles you foresee will all vanish as soon as you take command of your exam revision schedule.

Leaving it to the last minute, or counting on meaningless last-minute revision session at school, is poor academic practice.

Be successful with structured exam revision

This is how you do it.

1. Know when your exams are

You have to know exactly what amount of time you have until you are expected to write your exams. Only then can you do the appropriate planning.
So, first things first: grab a diary or calendar and have a proper look how many days there are left.
Often, this is the moment that you realize that, in fact, you have far fewer days left than you would have thought.
Sometimes, you are lucky, and there are far more days left. But don’t count on that being the case for you…
Take a piece of paper, write the date of your first exam on it, and put it up on your wall. You are on a clock.

2. Be in command of your timeline

Simply knowing how long you have until exams is not the same as being in command of your timeline.
It is vital that you are in command of your own revision. You can’t let it rule you. When your work rules you, you fall into all the traps you know from school: all-nighters, missed deadlines, shoddy work, tired days, no social time, no down time.
As soon as and as long as you are in charge, none of this will happen. Promise.
So, how can you put yourself in charge?
It’s easier than you might think. All it needs is: a detailed study plan, an honest process of prioritisation, and discipline.
Let’s have a look how that works.

Be in command with structured exam revision

3. Make a list of EVERYTHING you will need to know or be able to do for exams.

Use a table which records, for every subject, what exams you have and what you will need to know.
It might look a little like this:

Subject Exam What do I need to know? (content?) What do I need to be able to do? (skills practice)
History Paper 1
Paper 2
Hitler’s Germany; Stalinist Russia; America 1929-1945
Theory of the state; Plato’s Republic; Democracy in principle and practice; essay planning, essay writing
source analysis, short answer, terminology
essay organisation, timed-writing practice, sentences and paragraphs, thesis writing
English Paper 1
Paper 2
Othello; Hamlet; Lear
Theory of the state; Plato’s Republic; Democracy in principle and practice
essay organisation, time-writing practice, sentences and paragraphs, thesis writing
comparative writing, pro and contra arguments, paragraph writing, timed-writing practice

4. Break the content for exam revision into smaller chunks

This step requires concentration and honesty and will take a couple of hours. But it is worth the effort.

Think of a “chunk” as a two-hour period.
Then, split your entire workload into chunks.
Chunks can take the following form:

  • Taking notes on a single large chapter in the Biology textbook
  • Writing a practice essay
  • Doing question on one specific maths topic
  • Reading five chapters in the set English text
  • Practising two pieces for the music recital exam
  • Reading and taking notes on three shorter chapters in the history text book

Get the idea?

You will want to look through all your notes and textbooks of each subject and get a good idea of how much work you can expect to have to do.
Some subjects will take more work than others during exam revision: higher level or AP-courses will have priority, etc.
Remember to chunk time for exam practice as well!
Once again, a table for each subject will help:

Topic Chunks
Hitler’s Germany Chapter 1 & 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4, 5, 6
Do source analysis short answer questions, past paper 2011
French Revolution Source analysis worksheet & Chapter 21
Chapter 22 & 23
Past paper practice essay, Question 4

Structured exam revision will get the work done!

5. Count how many chunks there are per subject

This will give you an immediate idea of how much work you can expect to do in total.
It will also tell you, how much time you might need to take.

Most of all, however, it tells you that this is the maximum you need to spend.
This is all the work you have to do.

Your final count might look like something like this:

Subject Number of chunks
Biology 30
Maths 45
Economics 24
etc etc
TOTAL 180

Now, you are well on your way of being in command of exam revision.

6. Make yourself a study plan template

Construct a diary that sketches out the remaining time until your exams.
You can make a table in MicrosoftWord or GoogleDocs or Pages, or use a grid-sheet programme, like Excel or Sheets.
It might look a little like this:

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4
Exams English 1 Maths / Biology

7. Allocate all your chunks until exams start

This is the final step.
Consider what time you have left each day and on the weekend: you might be playing football on Mondays or meet up with mates on Fridays.
Then, allocate your chunks throughout the remaining exam revision time, taking advantages of the weekend and all the days.
You might need to play around a little bit to make sure it all fits like it is supposed to.
Things to keep in mind:

  • Alternate between subjects every now and then to bring variety
  • Make sure you have a session off somewhere: Friday evenings, or Sunday mornings are good placed to be off
  • Be realistic: if you know that there is football game one evening that you will want to watch, don’t put a chunk there because chances are you won’t do any work
  • Listen to your personality: if you cherish sleeping in on the weekends, make sure you do so at least on one of the two days
  • Push yourself a little: start skipping TV or spending time online – it is finals after all

When you are done, your schedule might look like this:

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Week 1 School – history – maths School – maths – football School – economics – english School – maths – movies School – english – off maths – biology – biology – english off – maths – economics – French
Week 2 School – history – maths School – maths – football School – economics – english School – maths – movies School – english – off Seeing the grandparents – english Seeing the grandparents – english
Exams English 1 Maths / Biology

Now towards the finishing line – exams!

Reach the finishing line with exam revision

8. Stick to it

Resist the temptation to skip work during exam revision.
This is really important.
You can revise your schedule after one week and tweak it a little, but not more than that.

This strategy requires discipline and commitment, but here is why you should consider it:

Whenever you don’t have any scheduled work, you are free.

Let me say this again:

Whenever you don’t have any scheduled work, you are free.

That is the beauty of this exam revision system. If you have planned out all the work you need to do, and allocated time to do it in, and then stick to the times, then all the rest of the time, you have NO WORK.

What are the consequences?

  1. No all-nighters: there is no need, because you will never be behind
  2. No stress or anxiety: you are in total command of the workload and your timeline
  3. No discussions with parents or teachers: you can show them the plan you have made and invite them to check finished work along the way. They will know they can trust you.
  4. You will be prepared for finals because you have revised it all.
  5. No cramping of content or missing of topics when finals come closer and closer because you have made sure in advance that every chunk will get its place.

Good, ey?

And then? What if exams are coming closer and closer…?

Well, they will. Promise.
The time right before and during exams should be spent:

  • Looking over your notes and making key words and ideas stick to your brain.
  • Doing one past paper after the next.
  • Eating and resting well.
  • Going for little walks.
  • Letting all the information set, like a good pudding.

With focused revision and a rested mind, you can approach exams with confidence and courage.

Any question? Leave a comment or contact me directly here.

Good luck and try it out!