This is the second week of our Easter break at Our Lady’s yet many of our year 11s have been in attendance this week. Why? To revise for their forthcoming GCSE exams.
The new GCSE system works on a grading scale of nine to one; with one being the top grade. The idea is to allow greater differentiation between students – especially among the highest achievers – and to help distinguish the new GCSEs from the old.
With assessment being based predominantly on exams rather than the old mix of exams and coursework, it’s little wonder our young people are feeling under increased pressure. Not only is the focus on the exams at the end of their two-year course, but they are also being given new, more demanding content which has been developed by the government and exam boards. So when it comes to revision, there’s a great deal to go back over and remember. Not all students find exams easy and exam stress can start to build when they feel like they can’t cope with the revision. That’s one of many reasons why our dedicated staff have been in school during the Easter holidays running revision sessions for our year 11 students. But how can our students help themselves?
Before reading these tips remember that we are all different and what works best for one person may not suit another. Students need to develop a personal approach to studying and structure their revision time to work for them. That said, it’s useful to have a framework and some guidelines to ensure you optimise your revision efficiency and don’t burn out...
Reflect on your mock exams
Think back to your mocks. What revision strategies worked well? How did you manage your time? Think about what distracted you and, where possible, create an environment that removes those distractions.
Have a plan and DON’T procrastinate
Work out which subjects you need to prioritise and create a revision timetable. Get all your sporting commitments and any important social events onto a calendar and then base your revision timetable on the blocks of time available to you. It should be clearly laid out, but more importantly it should be realistic. And don’t put off the subjects that actually need the most attention. You will only feel anxious if you don’t tackle them.
Find what works for you
If something isn’t working, identify the problem and adapt your revision accordingly. We’re all different and while some people may work best following a full-day revision plan, others may find a ‘little and often’ approach works best.
10 minute break every hour
Whatever your revision strategy, remember that short, active breaks are essential to help your brain and memory take in the revision. Psychologists say we can only concentrate at the highest level for about 40 minutes so adding five minutes to get started and five to wind down, will enable you to plan by the hour. Use your ten-minute break wisely. Remove yourself from your revision setting to rest your mind. Go for a walk, have something to eat and drink.
Get active with your revision
It can be hard to take in information by simply reading notes. It may work for some, but if it doesn’t work for you then adopt a more active approach to your revision. Keep your brain alert and active by mixing up your revision techniques. Condense your notes onto a revision card then create a mnemonic device (a prompt) to sequence the information. Underline and highlight essential information as you go through your notes. Use mind maps, make up memorable rhymes and put revision bullet points around the house – these are all tactics that can be called to mind at your exam desk. The more you engage with your learning, the better the results will be.
We all have subjects we prefer and those we struggle with but avoid the temptation to focus on your favourites meaning less time devoted to those that actually require more of your attention. When you have to revise the subject you’ve been dreading, don’t allow yourself to become overwhelmed thinking about the ‘what ifs’. Take five deep breaths to slow your heart rate and approach the revision calmly and methodically. Take a break and keep returning to the areas that are a sticking point.
Control exam stress with visual imagery
When you’re in the midst of exam revision it can feel as though it will never end. But it will. And depending on your post-exam plans, you’ll probably have a long summer stretching ahead of you. Create a happy place in your mind – an image of what you will be doing when the exams have finished. If you start to feel stressed, take a ten minute break and visualise your ‘happy image.
Reward your efforts
Saturday night is sacred! Give yourself a night off completely. Just make sure you have factored this in to your revision timetable. Having an incentive will help you keep your focus. Reward yourself each time you tick off a topic, rather than just another hour of revision. Have more appealing rewards for the topics you like least! Whether your reward is watching a film, time with friends or on a games console, having an incentive to aim for will help you use your time more effectively.
Don’t compare yourself to your peers
It can be easy to become anxious if you think others have revised more than you or are further on with their revision. Don’t make comparisons. Not only does everyone work differently, but you don’t know what they’ve been doing. What you can control is what you do. Have your own preparation and revision under control; work with the strategies that suit you and the proof will be in the results!
Eat properly and get plenty of rest
When you are busy revising, it can be easy to stay up late and just grab food where you can. Don’t. Factor your snacks and meals into your revision schedule and have a cut-off point each evening to ensure your mind rests and you properly wind down before you go to bed. Revising late into the evening is counter-productive and you won’t sleep properly which has a knock-on effect. Look after yourself and you will be properly prepared for the big day.
If you need additional support during your revision period or the exams, speak to a member of staff.