During your studies, you will probably have to take at least one exam. These tests of your knowledge can be stressful, and students often dread the moment they have to sit down and show what they have learnt.

However, this doesn’t have to be the case. Preparing properly and using a good technique during the exam can help to calm nerves and make you feel more in control. With this in mind, we have put together some useful tips for getting you through your assessments stress-free.


Create a study space
There is a saying in the UK: ‘Tidy desk, tidy mind.’ It means that when your space is organised, it’s often easier to concentrate. When you start revising for an exam, make sure you have a study area where you have space to spread out textbooks and notes, as well as a comfortable chair and enough light to see properly.

Try to put anything distracting out of sight. These days, distractions can be websites and apps on your phone, so if you need a little extra self-control, try switching your phone on Airplane Mode or using an internet restriction service like Freedom. Not everybody works the same way; you may prefer a little bit of clutter or a totally clear surface, complete silence or background noise – the important thing is to find what works for you and stick with it.

Make a schedule
All though it may feel like a waste of time, creating a detailed study schedule can make revising for an exam much less overwhelming. Once you have split your time, including breaks and gaps for seeing friends and relaxing (which are very important for productivity), put your timetable up where you can see it. Make it colourful and engaging and satisfying to cross things off. If you would like a few more tips for smart studying, you can find one of our previous blog posts here.

Form study groups
Studying in groups can be an incredibly effective way to revise. Ask some friends or fellow students on your course to meet up in a quiet area where you won’t be interrupted and use the time to quiz each other. There will be areas that they are more confident in and some that you understand better; using your various strengths, you can help each other. One thing to be careful of is getting off topic, which can often happen in groups. Set goals and give yourselves regular breaks to make sure you stay focused and use your time as effectively as possible.

Practice and use visual aids
Sometimes the trickiest thing about revision is knowing where to start. It is a really good idea to challenge yourself to write down everything you remember about the topic to see where the gaps in your knowledge are. You can then create diagrams, filling them in with the main points needed for the exam. These are easy to remember and can help you to recall more detailed points during the actual exam.

Another excellent way to prepare is by using past papers. These may be available online or you can ask your tutor if they can give you some to practice with. Past papers can help you get used to the format of the questions and the length of the exam. If you time yourself, you can see how long you should spend on each section and get used to finishing within the time limit.

Stay healthy
You may be tempted to lock yourself away and indulge in unhealthy snacks during your revision period. However, this is the time that you need to be looking after yourself! Take breaks, exercise even if only a little bit, eat well and drink plenty of water.

On the day

Plan your day
A lot of stress can be avoided by planning the day of your exam out:

  • Make sure you know exactly when and where the test is taking place, as well as how long it will take you to get there
  • Factor in possible delays when working out your journey so nothing catches you off-guard
  • Eat a nutritious meal full of foods that have slow-release energy like apples and bananas or oatmeal
  • Make sure you have the correct writing materials (including a spare) and your notes if your exam allows them
  • Wear comfortable clothing that you don’t mind sitting in for long periods of time
  • Bring a water bottle to keep you hydrated
  • Make a quick visit to the toilets before the exam begins
  • Turn your phone off before handing it in

Read the questions carefully
As soon as your examiner tells you to open your paper, it can be tempting to rush and start writing as quickly as possible. Instead, take a deep breath and read the paper thoroughly all the way through twice. Make sure you take into account the different sections and how much time each one might take. Look at the questions carefully and make sure you fully understand them before you start writing.

Manage your time
Once you have read the whole exam through twice, consider how much time you have and assign that time to each different section of the paper. You have to then be strict with yourself. Check the clock to make sure you don’t run over – if you give too much time to the first question then you won’t have enough time to finish the rest or will find yourself rushing.

Make a plan
This particularly applies to essay subjects: don’t start writing your answer immediately. Consider what you want your conclusion to be, then plan the structure of your answer. Applying the basic structure of an introduction followed by the main body and ending with a conclusion will make sure your essay is organised and clear. You may feel like you don’t have the time for this but it is essential and will mean more concise writing.

Review your answers
Finishing an exam feels like a great relief and the last thing you may want to do is read over your answers. However, reviewing them is the perfect opportunity to spot silly mistakes that may cost you valuable marks. You should factor in time to check your answers to your overall plan when you begin your exams – you won’t regret it when you get your results back.

If you want more information about studying at University of Roehampton Pathway, visit our website.

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