Sunday, 10 May 2015

How to Revise for Exams

If you, like me, are a student of some sort, it is likely you will have exams at some point or other. Mine start in eight days (hahahahaha), and many other people are due to have exams very soon. I have created a guide to help you perfect your revision technique, and ensure top results on all your exams.[1]

1) Plan your revision - create a revision timetable. You can make one by hand, or there are lots of online tools you can use as well if you prefer. Make sure you give yourself realistic targets for each day (no-one can do 14.7 hours of revision a day, don't pretend you will be the only exception) and don't try to do allocate yourself too many subjects a day. Once you have made this timetable, proceed to ignore its existence and never look at it again.

2) Get organised - make sure you have everything you need with you IN the room you are revising in. This will prevent you from continually getting up to find that folder you need, or your lucky pen, or those notes that you think are behind the sofa. Just gather everything and dump it in your room, then arrange it all by subject so you can easily access the materials you need when you need them. Once you have done this, lament the fact that actually, all these notes are useless because you can't read your own handwriting and so all those lectures you went to (where the lecturer wouldn't allow typing or recording because she's from the 13th century - she also didn't use powerpoints, she literally just talked at you for two hour periods so if you missed a lecture, hahahaha) were a colossal waste of time and now you have to try and understand everything from the textbook which is a CONVOLUTED MESS, so basically, just ignore that module for a while.

3) Remove distractions - your laptop is your biggest enemy. If you need it for research, install those extensions that block your social media, or make a friend or family member change all your passwords until you're done. Do the research as quickly as you can (and print things if possible) so you can take that back with you to your revision area, and leave your laptop alone for the rest of the studying period. If you don't need it to revise, don't have it with you during your studying. Leave it off somewhere, preferably a bit of a distance away from you so that if you feel tempted to use it, it's countered by the fact that you actually have to get up and move towards it. Then remember that you are using your phone as a clock to time your revision (because who actually has clocks in their rooms nowadays?) and that your phone has internet access, games and social media apps that will distract you every time you want to know what time it is, so basically it doesn't matter where you put your laptop because TECHNOLOGY.

4) Revise actively - this means not just sitting down and staring at a textbook blankly. Highlight key phrases as you read through it, or take notes of the most important parts. Some people find colour coding their highlighting or creating spider diagrams and flow charts can really help, whereas others may benefit from recordings, or sticking things on their walls or making flashcards. Once you have completed highlighting every sentence in the damn book because how the hell are you supposed to know which parts are the most important and taking notes by basically just writing out everything again in equally bad, unreadable handwriting because no-one taught you how to summarise efficiently and making spider diagrams that have so many legs it just looks like someone coloured in the page, proceed to panic that nothing you just did actually helped you in the slightest and you remembered nothing, suggesting that taking action is stupid and we should all just live life passively and wait to die because humans are mortal and life is meaningless and WHO INVENTED EXAMS ANYWAY they do nothing but invoke existential crises.

5) Stay hydrated - drink water, it's good for you.

6) Take regular breaks - revising for four hours straight is not actually going to help you. Your brain can only take in so much information at a time, and if you force yourself to study for long stretches, you'll just end up making no progress. Take short, but fairly frequent breaks - maybe get a snack, check your email, pack a bag, put it in the trunk of your car, drive far away to somewhere no-one knows you, fake your degree certificate in a subject you actually like and start a new life under an assumed name where you are a successful businessperson/artist/dancer/cook/scientist/fraud who lied about everything and will probably one day be caught by the police but until then you can enjoy life.

7) Get some sleep - sleep is very important. If you don't sleep properly, your short-term memory can be impaired, you will find it harder to focus, harder to come up with ideas and harder to recall anything you may have learned (which is not beneficial to you in an exam). Make sure you go to bed at a reasonable time the day before the exam and allow yourself at least enough hours sleep for you to feel okay to function. Then get up after half an hour because you couldn't fall asleep because of that twisted knot in your stomach that is making you feel sick because all you've done for the past two weeks is highlight textbooks and cry and you don't know anything so you try to cram in the entire module the night before the exam which is impossible, but you try anyway so of course you stay up all night, reading pages of crap notes whilst you rock back and forth, and as the sunlight hits your tired eyes, you squint from the pain the light brings and you know you have to leave your room and go to the exam but you're so tired you're practically hallucinating and the exam room is suddenly there and whaaat it's the exam paper in front of you but you can't even read it because your brain has gone fuzzy like old TV screens and you are writing stuff but who in Aberforth's herd of goats knows what it actually is and oh it's time to leave now, did you actually answer all the questions, you don't really remember oh but you have another exam tomorrow so time to go home and let the cycle begin again.

8) Remember, it's not the end of the world - as important as your exams may seem now, they are not the most important thing in life. If you don't do as well as you'd hoped, it's not the worst thing that can happen. Life is full of many opportunities that may very well present themselves to you when you least expect it. The world is beautiful and has much to share. And while you hide under your duvet, weeping uncontrollably, just remember, the world will go on. With or without you. You are a tiny speck in the universe. Your life and troubles are insignificant. The universe does not give a damn that you failed your stupid exam. Wait, is this comforting or not?

And there you have it. My tips on how to revise. I'm not trying to reassure myself, or anything. I am an adult. I am good at life. I know how to mop up spillages. See my great transferable skills. Ha. Hahaha...

[1] This is a lie, don't take my advice, I am woefully unprepared for my exams and am procrastinating, don't listen to me unless you want to fail, in which case there are far better and more spectacular ways to plan your failure.


  1. You're hilarious, Liz. Hang in there. It'll all work out and if not, you can always pack the car and get that fake degree.

  2. This is so funny Liz! Your procrastination has led to a brilliant post :D Good luck on those exams---you can do it!!!


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