It would be hard to argue with the idea that every student is unique in their learning styles and study habits; even learning needs differ from one student to the next. Still, among the thousands of students who have sat school-leaving and university-qualifying exams, we can discern common threads. From study skills to memorization techniques like mnemonics and mind maps – even those who practise procrastination and then, in a panic, resort to cramming the week before their exams are scheduled… It takes all types to make a student body; that is perhaps why there is so much talk over what works best to score the highest marks on the most important exams of your life. Whether you believe you fit any particular student profile or you find yourself selecting traits from standard student portraits – from the hard worker bound to ace their exams to the lollygagger feeling the pinch of time. Superprof puts together an overview of the most effective exam revision techniques and materials for you to draw from.

The Best Revision Websites and Resources

Grade 9 students make full use of their teachers’ knowledge.

You have teachers, advisers and school counsellors; you may even study with tutors – especially in the more thorny subjects like GCSE science and maths. Surely, somebody has clued you in to the best places to get study materials for your exams! Probably everyone you know has an opinion of what’s best as far as exam review is concerned; it can be exhausting taking every well-meaning direction in. Maybe that is why, every year around this time, GCSE, A-Level and International Baccalaureate candidates turn to student portals to discuss among themselves which resources are the best. There is also the small matter of adult opinions mattering far less than those of their peers that comes into play…

Your revision guide should include past papers
Going over past exam papers, even if they consist of multiple choice questions, is one of the best ways to review for your exams Image by tjevans from Pixabay
The fact remains that nearly every voice holds firm on the idea that reviewing Exam Board past papers is a sure-fire way to get the inside track on what to expect from your exams. Where can you find such papers and their marking schemes? Here’s a word of warning: if you simply type ‘GCSE past papers’ in your favourite web browser, you will find a flood of sites, each trying to outdo the other in providing not only those valuable documents but also study materials meant to complement them. While the supporting utilities – flashcards, notes and videos, if any can be helpful, overall, the vast aggregation of information is more like poking around a disorganised mound of possibly relevant information. And you really don’t have a lot of time to poke around; you need well-organised, well-presented information that is easy to find and easy to use. Among the deficiencies these external sites suffer is a failure to show which awarding body their materials address. What if you spend months unwittingly studying AQA materials only to sit an Edexcel exam? For past papers, marking schemes and specimen papers – samples of newly-formulated exams, it is always best to go to the source: your exam board’s website. You can then supplement those pages with further exam preparation resources, the full extent of which are listed in our companion article.

How to Create an Effective Timetable for Review

Grade 9 students are organised.

Make a plan for studying that includes everything for GCSE revision
The best study techniques entail following a revision guide Image by Pexels from Pixabay
A most effective way to combat test anxiety – the crushing stress of sitting exams that inevitably leads to low grades, is to set your self on a study schedule and stick to it, no matter what. Well, that last part is not exactly true; if you’ve drawn up a review timetable and find yourself constantly breaking it, you should draw up a more suitable schedule. If you are preparing to sit GCSEs, you most likely picked your subjects by the end of Key Stage 3. Maybe, if your circumstances called for it, you selected them at the beginning of KS 4. Either way, you’ve had roughly two years to prepare if you’re scheduled to sit exams this May/June. Establishing your revision timetable as soon as you select your subjects is far too early but if you don’t have one established now, a few months before your exams, you could be in real trouble! Here’s what you need to do to get started:

  • Choose your method: a wall calendar, a computer spreadsheet or an app on your phone.
  • Consider everything you must study: certainly you will have English, Science and Maths, as well as the subjects you’ve chosen for yourself.
  • Rank them by need: which subjects come easily and which ones are more difficult?
  • Examine the rest of your academic and social obligations: just because you are in study mode, doesn’t mean you should disregard other aspects of your life.
  • Once you have everything in perspective, start blocking your timetable.
  • Fill in your sleep time, school time and enough time to interact with your family and friends, and to tend to other obligations in your life.

You may be dismayed to find that you only have about two hours left per day for a study session but, really, that is more than enough time to go over past exam papers and review your notes. You may, for example, spend one hour revising one of your more difficult subjects and the next one going through flash cards you made for a subject you like and are interested in. That’s a great way to keep your confidence up! Another fantastic way to stay confident it to draw a mind map – a visual way of organising your information. If one aspect of the material you have just reviewed doesn’t sit quite right, you might spend your evening’s second study hour mind-mapping. A final word of advice: don’t beat yourself up if, on any given day, you simply don’t feel like studying. It happens to the best students; it doesn’t mean you’re headed for certain exam failure. However, if the problem becomes persistent, you might want to find out how to arrange your review timetable in such a way that you will have at least one day off from studying per week…

The Importance of Sleep on Your Revision

For good study, you need at least 8 hours of sleep.
Embrace good sleeping habits now so you won't feel wiped out before the exam! Image by Hebi B. from Pixabay

Grade 9 Students have a work-life balance.

You will hear the phrase ‘work-life balance’ often once you’ve entered the productive phase of your life; when you start earning your living. And, just like the adults in your life who might work long hours and have precious little free time suffer physically and emotionally, you too might find it hard to maintain a positive and healthy outlook in the run-up to your exam period. It’s not that you need easier subjects, fewer exams or even no exams; you only need to make sure you eat a healthy balance of foods without skipping any meals and get enough sleep. Even before the life-determining exams season rolled around, UK health specialists expressed concern over how little sleep students were getting. Technology is an easy scapegoat. Between watching videos and the general ‘fear of missing out’ or FOMO, the teens of today are sacrificing sleep to the latest ‘thing’. Exaggeration? Maybe, but a recent independent survey that concluded teens feel significant anxiety if separated from their phones for more than a few hours seems to bear that assessment out. Whatever your reasons for getting less than eight hours of sleep, even if it’s going over exam questions and visualising academic success, is not serving you well. Quite the contrary! After a few nights of inadequate sleep, you might find it difficult to remember salient points of lecture notes; you may even find yourself re-reading your class notes without really memorizing them. If you maintain a condition of sleep deficit, not even the most foolproof exam technique will bring exam success. A critical aspect of time management in high-stress periods like the run-up to your exams is to take optimal care of yourself; sleeping well and long enough is a key ingredient of mental endurance and health. Listing all of the reasons quality and quantity of sleep matter to the various aspects of your health is a topic for another time. What you need to know right now is that sleep is so important to your revision because, among other things, it helps commit to long-term memory what you’ve studied today. In fact, managing to get enough quality sleep is considered to be a part of effective study skills. Why not include getting eight hours of sleep among your study strategies? When you do, don’t forget to turn your phone, tablet and/or computer off and, preferably, leave it in another room so it doesn’t tempt you to take one last look at your social media feed. Who knows? You might be just the one to figure out how to break FOMO's insane grip! Throughout this article, we’ve sprinkled top-rated, most-effective revision tips. As a parting shot, we give you the entire list of what Grade 9 students do to ace their exams. Good luck! Won’t you let us know how you got on?

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Daniel

A student by trade, Daniel spends most of his time working on that essay that's due in a couple of days' time. When he's not working, he can be found working on his salsa steps, or in bed.