SATs, GCSEs, A-Levels, midterms and I have no idea where to start!

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So within the blink of an eye, the exam season will be upon us and the question for students is, WHAT DO I DO AND WHERE DO I START? Most of you should have reached the stage where you have finished the actual content you needed to cover for your exams and you’re at the stage of limbo whereby the exams haven’t started yet.

So how do you start revising for those scary exams, which are now the focal point of your life? Here are a few pieces of advice that you can consider working with. Remember, these don’t work for everyone and just how everyone learns in different ways, people also revise in different ways, so you really need to find what works best for YOU.

First things first…

First and foremost, you need to be starting early. As much as we like to think we have mastered what we’ve learnt, cramming in last minute revision is the worst thing you can be doing as you would be putting yourself at a serious disadvantage. A good amount of time would be to start a good 2-3 months before your exam. And you’re probably thinking, ha! You’re crazy! But let me explain why this would be a good thing to consider doing…

With over a month for revision, you could easily split up your time to ensure that you have covered all the content you need to before the exam comes along. Within that time, you can not only familiarize yourself with the content but, you can also recognize what kinds of things you need to spend longer on for revision, and what you can afford to only touch upon. When you have done so, you can spend the final month or last few weeks focusing solely on responding to past papers and working through how you can master the questions in the past papers.

The best papers are past papers…

And this brings us quite nicely onto the subject of past papers themselves. There’s a secret I have to share with you, as a teacher all the question from the years of past papers will be repeated again in the new exam paper you will be sitting in the summer. For example, if you are studying history and you have a source-based paper, every single one of those sources have been used before. The only difference this year will be how the question is phrased. Similarly, with subjects such as Maths and Sciences, the formulas and topics will remain the same; they will only be asking you new ways to answer the same thing year in, year out. Even for a subject like English where there’s supposedly no right or wrong answer; familiarize yourself with the style of questions and ensure your technique has been mastered by the end of your revision cycle. It’s simply a matter of using those same answers and same set of skills on a new question that will address something you’ve learnt inside out.

After you have finished with your past papers, get someone other than yourself to mark it if this is possible. That way they can mark it subjectively without giving yourself what I like to call “pity marks.” If they can do so, they can ensure that they tell you what to work on. And this brings me onto your peers and friends. They will be studying the same things as you, so set up a study session where you can go through problems or gaps in knowledge and not only would you be helping one another, but you would be refreshing your own knowledge. If you do so, however, make sure that you don’t spend the time chatting and chilling. Put some rules in place or go somewhere like a library where it would be harder for you to talk or be distracted by one another fully.

Maybe try the library?

And libraries – my favourite place to be when it comes to revising and getting solid work done. Don’t be afraid of going to your school, college, university or local library to work. I know when we were younger this place had a stigma attached as being the place for nerds but if you want those grades, work for it and it is often in such an environment that you will find equally driven people that will motivate you to work. I remember when I was studying at university, I would sometimes venture to the British Library and when you’re in the reading rooms, there’s no way you can escape getting work done and distractions are virtually nonexistent, so if you get the chance to create a membership card, you should really make use of such a great place to get your work done.

Now you’re probably thinking, all work, no play? You, of course, have better knowledge of your attention span. If you know that you can study for a full hour, great! Two hours, even better! If you think you can only do about 30 minutes, that’s fine! You need to work at your own pace and not burden yourself because more likely than not, you will end up boring yourself or finding any kind of distraction to prevent you from working. So for example, study for a full two hours, and then take a 45-minute break, or maybe do a full hour and take a 15-minute break. See what works for you and then slot hours for your revision so you know that Monday morning, from 9-11, you’ll be studying a set subject or topic, take a break, and then move on to the next one.

Put your phone away!

That being said, self-control is really important here. You need to avoid distractions such as your phone while studying. So maybe switch your phone to airplane mode, or switch it off completely if you know you’ll jump to it at the first notification sound you get. If you struggle, give it to someone else or put it somewhere that you will really be too lazy to get up and check it. This is also where friends and peers can make or break it for you; if your friends are of the motivated type, they can tell you off for grabbing your phone or if they’re the one who is usually texting you, then there will be no reason to even use your phone!

Above all, revision shouldn’t feel like a punishment and you will definitely be needing some time off while studying, else it will be boring, stressful and very little will actually make it into your brain. Treat yourself with a binge session of Netflix at night if you finish a whole topic, or maybe arrange some time out with your friends on the weekend as a reward of sticking to your timetable. Do something that will motivate and encourage you to get things done.

Finally, spend the last few days before your exams focusing on you. Ensure you are eating and sleeping well, especially on the days before your actual exams. Sleep early and wake up early so that you feel refreshed and have enough time to travel to wherever your exam may be. On the day of your exam, rest assured that you have tried your absolute best and leave the rest in the hands of Allah (swt). If you have done your best, I guarantee you that your hard work will not go to waste.

Good luck, and a mountain of duas to all the students out there!