Top 5 revision tips to get you through exam period...

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Calling all students battling exam stress! Do not fear - help is on its way. Luke Leckie reveals his top 5 revision tips to help you soar through the summer exam period...

Exam season is upon us and you are certainly not alone in feeling stressed and overwhelmed by all the missed lectures and the course content you still can’t wrap your head around. But worry not! There are many techniques which you can use (or not use) to optimize your revision strategies to help get that 1st (maybe).

Put your phone away

The odds are that you’re currently reading this article on your phone and in the current age, it is rare that we are without our phones. But it might be a good idea to leave your phone at home before you head to the library. Researchers from the University of Southern Maine have found that the mere presence of a mobile phone results in diminished focus on a task and an associated decrease in performance. This findings relevance for students is galvanized by researchers from Kent State University who reported in 2015 that frequent mobile phone use in students is associated with decreased academic performance.

An iPhone sticking out of a pocket in a person's jeans
Photo by Mikaela Shannon / Unsplash

Don’t use highlighters

The age-old technique of using different coloured highlighters to learn key information, whilst looking flashy, may actually be harming your revision. A study by Sarah Peterson reveals that when tested on a 10,000-word chapter of a history students that highlighted information actually performed worse than students who just read the chapter; the difference in performance was particularly noticeable on questions that required inference. Professor Dunlosky states that the ineffectiveness of highlighting probably results from the technique causing students to focus on particular pieces of information, rather than the text as a whole. He further goes on to say how many students use a poor highlighting technique, often highlighting whole blocks of text.


Photo by Aaron Burden / Unsplash

Get a good night sleep

With more than 60% of Britons getting under 7 hours of sleep a night it is clear that we are a sleep-deprived nation. Sleepless nights certainly can’t be good for our revision, with one study reporting that our cognitive performance after 17-19 hours without sleeping is roughly equivalent to having drank 2 pints of beer. But achieving peak cognitive performance may not even be as simple as getting your full 8 hours sleep; one of the most important factors affecting our memory and cognitive function is REM sleep. REM is the stage in our sleep cycles when we are dreaming and likely plays an important role in processing information. Whilst many students drink or smoke marijuana before bed to help them fall asleep quicker, it has been recently revealed by research at the London Sleep Centre that both substances act to suppress our REM sleep. So, in the case of a good night’s sleep before studying it appears that both quantity and quality matter.


Photo by Matheus Vinicius / Unsplash

Test yourself

An extensive body of research now shows that students who incorporate practice-testing into their revision routine perform better than those that don’t. Recent evidence attributes this to how practice testing enhances how we mentally organize information. It makes sense that practice testing is a good technique, after all, we are revising for tests. Those of you with essay-style exams may now be thinking that it’s too hard to emulate that style of exam for revision purposes, but professor Dunlosky reports that practice tests in a completely different format to the real thing can still greatly improve exam performance.

Two people in elegant shirts brainstorming over a sheet of paper near two laptops
Photo by Helloquence / Unsplash

Don’t Cram

This last one probably goes without saying, no doubt being drilled in by your parents and teachers since GCSE. Nevertheless, the fact remains that a large body of research backs the idea of distributed study: scheduled periods of learning over a long stretch of time. However, there is something to be said for cramming, with Dunlosky’s research asserting that cramming can improve exam performance in the final days before an exam, if used as an aid to the distributed practice method.


Photo by Sharon McCutcheon / Unsplash

Now stop procrastinating and go and revise...

Featured Image: Unspalsh / Davide Cantelli


What are your exam top tips? Let us know!

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