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How to survive exams: 10 revision hacks for students

21 Feb 2019

Let’s face it, exams aren’t fun for anyone. Even the most committed student feels the panic rise within them at the prospect of a 3 hour exam covering, well, everything. Revising is tough, and it can be especially hard to keep your concentration when there are hundreds of fun things you’d rather be doing!

While we can’t promise your exams will be easy, our top tips should help take the stress out of studying so you can go into your exams with confidence.

Try the Pomodoro technique


Studying burnout is real. To combat fuzzy-brain after a long day of studying, try the Pomodoro technique.

Set a timer for 25 minutes, then study without distraction until the timer goes off, then have a five minute break. Use your break to get a drink, have a walk around then get back on it for another 25 minutes.

Mark down each 25 minute session (known a Pomodoro - which is Spanish for tomato!) you complete, and after four sessions, enjoy a longer break.


Flashcards might be old school, but they work! They’re cheap and easy to make – there are also hundreds of apps you can use if you want to do it digitally. Plus, creating the flashcards in the first place helps you see what you can remember from memory and what might need work!

Self-control apps


If you know you just can’t resist Facebook, Twitter or Instagram when studying, you might need a little bit of help flexing that willpower muscle. Apps such as Self Control and Freedom can block you from being able to access the websites you know you can’t resist while studying. Choose the websites you know you can’t avoid, select how long you want to avoid them for, and the app will do the rest. 

Rewrite your notes


Sure it’s more work than rereading your notes over and over, but rewriting them (by hand!) is a more effective way to absorb information. Even better, each time you rewrite your notes, focus on just the important bits and condense them down each time until you have a cheat sheet of the key things to remember.

Speak out loud

You might feel silly, but speaking your notes aloud really helps your brain process information differently in order to remember it more efficiently.
So, if rewriting your notes isn’t getting those last few bits of information to stick, try speaking them out loud. But maybe not too loudly in the library – shh!

Walking breaks


Did you know that, on average, we spend between 50 and 70% of our day sitting down? Don’t settle for being average – get up and start moving! The benefits of a walk are well documented, from lessening brain fatigue and increasing creative thinking, to improving moods and helping you to live longer.
So when you’re feeling overwhelmed, take it outside.

Practice spaced learning. AKA, don’t cram!

We get it, cramming feels good. You get all that information into your brain quickly and you’re ready for that exam. The problem is, as quickly as the information goes in, it disappears. The way to get information to stick is through spaced learning - giving your brain time to forget the information and relearn it again. Studies have found that we’re much more likely to remember something if we revisit it 10 times over a week than 20 times in one day.

Plan past papers

past papers

Looking at past papers gives you a chance to get a real feel for what’s expected of you in an exam. A section you’ve spent weeks trying to memorise might only be worth 2 marks, but another topic you’ve been avoiding could have been worth 50% in last year’s paper.
Look through past papers and plan your answers and then, if you’re really brave, have a go at completing them – without notes, in test conditions!

Teach to someone else

Want to check if you really ‘get’ a topic? Try teaching it to someone else! It’s a great way of finding the areas you might not know so well and a chance to see if you really understand a concept. Rope your flatmates in for a session on chemistry, or even line up your stuffed animals for a literature lecture!



Sleep can go on the back burner when you’ve got a big exam coming up, but it’s much more important to get sleep than cram ‘til 3am! Sleep gives your brain time to recharge and process your memories, and you’ll be able to learn more when you’re refreshed! So put the books down and get some Zzzs. Your brain will thank you!

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