Managing exam stress and revision

Study skills and self-care routines

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Make a  Study Plan or Timetable
Plan your time so you can break down your studying into manageable chunks. The first thing to do when creating your study plan is to put in the self-care activities such as sleep, meals, exercise and any hobbies or activities that you do regularly and want to maintain. It is important that you look after your health and wellbeing as this will help you feel better and you will feel more ready to learn and revise. After that, then see what free time you have left and divide this into chunks with regular short breaks.

There are helpful apps for organising your school work such as My Study Life.

Take breaks
Regular, short breaks can help us stay motivated and focused without getting too tired or distracted. Try to only check your phone etc. during these short breaks, and consider putting your phone on ‘flight mode’ so you do not get interrupted by notifications. During your breaks you may want to move around, stretch, have a drink, have a small snack, look out of the window, or maybe walk away from where you are studying for a few minutes. The short break should refresh you and let you do the things that may distract you while studying, so you can focus better.

Take time to relax
Including relaxing activities and hobbies into your routine and study plan can help things feel more manageable and keep us in a better state for learning and revising. Use this link to download some suggested relaxation techniques that you can try. Use this link to download some relaxation techniques that you can try. Relaxation exercise is like any other form of exercise – it gets easier and more beneficial with regular practise.

Practise HOW to answer in the exam, not just WHAT to answer
When you are studying, practise putting the information you have revised in your own words by talking about it or writing about it from memory. Teaching someone else is an excellent way to make sure you really know the information. In the exam, you want to show that you understand the information as well as know it.

For essay questions, think about how you will structure your written answers and what would be relevant. The key words in the exam question will give you an idea of how to answer. Talk to your subjects teachers and, if possible, look at past papers to become familiar with the language in the questions.

Revise in a way that suits you
There are various ways to revise, the list below contains some examples. Just make sure that the way you choose to revise is not distracting you from revising the subject content. You can also use more than one technique or different ones for each subject. Most people focus better in a quiet environment but if you prefer to work with some background noise then try instrumental music or ambient noise at a low volume.

  • Take notes from your reading and summarise the information
  • Reading your notes aloud, or recording them and listening back to them
  • Use highlighters or underline key passages and words to find them quickly when you look back over your notes
  • Make your notes interesting and colourful with coloured pens, drawings, diagrams and flow charts.
  • Make a mind map or concept map
  • Make flash cards to test yourself
  • Watch relevant videos or listen to relevant podcasts
  • Wider reading to help your understanding
  • Repetition
  • Teaching or telling someone else
  • Making up your own questions based on the information

A recent research article in Applied Cognitive Psychology highlighted two strategies that might work better than re-reading or trying to memorise your notes. The team who wrote the article found that university students whose revision involved testing themselves or making up questions about the course information performed better in a later exam than those who simply studied their notes. The British Psychological Society wrote a Research Digest about this study.