By: Darren Bilton – Academic Deputy Head, Framlingham College Prep School
After months – possibly years – of attending lessons, submitting homework, going through past papers, preparing revision notes, the exam season is finally upon us. Dealing with hours of revision can be a difficult thing to master. One benefit of sitting formal CE examinations is that it provides students with a fantastic opportunity to practice and develop skills invaluable for future examinations and life. Below is a selection of exam tips to help students and parents get through this tricky time!
Work out what type of learner you are
Everyone learns in different ways. Some like colour-coded spider diagrams, others benefit from reading and copying out their notes. Some people like to learn thorough listening to others. Revision can be a highly personal process and it’s worth testing out a few different methods to find out the approach that will work best for you. Year 8 will have benefited from relevant PSHE lessons, a forthcoming Educational Seminar at Framlingham College on memory and mnemonics and numerous subject specific tips to help begin this process.
Avoid procrastination, get started as early as possible on revision. This will allow students time to really learn and understand material and provide time to cope with any factors that may unexpectedly disrupt revision. Cramming is just not effective for everyone and will usually create more stress. As soon as you start revision and begin completing units of work you will instantly feel better!
This will vary on how you learn best and again it is worth experimenting to find what best works for you. Personally, studying in a silent room on my own, never worked for me, I liked a little bit of music, often referred to as simply ‘noise’ by my mum! But noise is a heavily debated topic. Most revision guides will tell you that music or the TV is too distracting. Whatever environment works for you, make sure you wear some comfortable clothes and have plenty of water and healthy snacks to hand.
No matter how you dress it up, revision isn’t the most enjoyable of pastimes and I’m sure you can think of millions of things you would rather be doing. But you have to be honest and strict with yourself. Disable wif-fi on your laptop and switch off your phone. Make sure you have everything you need before you start. Avoid things that you know will distract you and use your time as effectively as possible. I now look back fondly on my own preparation for A Levels, spending nearly two hours constructing a multi-coloured revision timetable on a BBC B Micro Computer, which I would then count as actual revision and reward myself with a 30 minute biscuit break to help recover from the experience!
Practice, practice, practice
Past papers/questions are a revising student’s best friend and pupils will be provided with lots of these. The more you do, the more aware you will be of where you need to focus your revision. There is no point spending hours revising things you already know!
My own children love creating revision postcards and post-it notes. For one, simply the act of writing and summarising their work is enough to help the ‘remembering’ process. For the other, these colourful bits of paper and card act as invaluable source material for parents, friends and ‘Hector’ the cat to test, re-test this knowledge or delicately rearrange with his black and white paw. Simply being surrounded by revision material, ideally plastering all around the house, will mean that chunks will start to sink in. However, I did draw the line at my own History teacher’s suggestion that I should take my revision cards and read them whilst on the toilet!
We appreciate how stressful preparing for examinations can be. Most of us have been through the same process. But these tips will help to minimise the anxiety and over time develop coping and then success strategies to ensure students tackle examinations in the best possible frame of mind.