Top Ten Exam Survival Tips!

by Hayley Cook

A recent article on NewStatesman ( has criticised exams, stating that they are a 'pointless waste of time' and that the key to passing them is how well you 'play the system'. The article claims that a good exam technique can count as much as years of focused study! So what are the steps to beating the system and getting a good result? Inspired by this article, we've written up a 10 step guide:

1 - Prepare your weapons (NewStatesman Tip)

Basically be prepared for your exam! Have a good night sleep, eat a stable breakfast, pack your bag in advance. And don't be afraid to take in anything you believe brings you luck. This is a way of tricking your brain into understanding it's going to have to do something that requires a LOT of focus! Arrive early, bring spare pens, and have a last minute read through your notes. Short term memory is a powerful tool.

2 - Timing, timing, timing

Revise for 10 minutes, break for 10 minutes. Revise for 20 minutes, break for 10 minutes, and so on. If your concentration holds then work for longer before taking your break. You have to be strict with yourself! Twittering and texting for 3 hours isn't going to help!Sticking to 10 minutes per break will keep you fresh and improve your concentration when you go back to your revision!

3 - Know your enemy (NewStatesman Tip)

Know how your paper will be structured, and plan how long you'll have to answer each section. The number of marks awarded for each section will determine how much time you should spend on that part. Allow some time to read through the whole paper and to plan your answers roughly. Also allow 5 minutes at the end of the paper to read through your answers. Practicing past papers is the number one way to prepare for an exam you're worried about. ''You can't run a marathon without practice''. It's also important to practice writing with a pen, rather than typing your answers!

4 - When you work, work!

And when you play, play! The two simply don't mix! Don't log on to your computer with the intention of revising and get lost in a social time warp for 3 hours. When you are revising, close down all other windows and focus entirely on your work. Don't be tempted by anything else. You can implement tip number 2 here.You can't have a revision page open at the same time as your chosen social network and expect to revise successfully.

5 - Beat them at their own game (NewStatesman Tip)

The NewStatesman article states that this is the most important of all. This step is simply realising that your education continues outside of the exam hall. Education is about asking questions, thinking for yourself, reading widely - not just giving right answers. Once you realise that exams aren't the key to happiness and education, you have beaten the system.

6 - Reward yourself!

Lay out your textbook and choose where you would like to be able to revise up to. The next paragraph? A whole chapter? Half a book? Mark these increments with small treats! A jelly baby at the end of this paragraph. A gummy bear at the end of the chapter. Your phone at the end of the book! You'll be surprised how well you can revise (and how quickly!) when you know you will be rewarded for your efforts.

7 - Organise your space

Make sure you have enough space to spread your material out. Is there enough light? Is your chair comfortable? Are your distractions out of sight? Make yourself as comfortable and able to focus as you can. For some this can mean complete silence, whilst others will find it helpful to have some background music. Think about what works for you, and take the time to get it right!

8 - Visual aids

Write down everything you need to know about your subject on cards, and highlight the important parts. Stick these in places you know you'll see them often in the run up to your exam. For example on the fridge, your bedroom wall, inside your locker, the bathroom mirror - anywhere and everywhere you know you will see them. The more often you see your notes, the more revision you are tricking yourself into having!

9 - Eat brain food!

Stay away from junk food! You may feel like you deserve a treat, but what you eat can really impact your energy levels and focus! Instead of reaching for the ice cream choose nutritious foods that have been proven to aid concentration and memory. These include fish, nuts, seeds, yogurts and berries. The same applies on exam day! Eat a good meal that will release its energy slowly. Sugar may be appealing, but it won't help when your energy levels crash an hour or so later.

10 - Revise actively

Just reading through your notes isn't making the most of that wonderful brain of yours. Make up poems, set them to music, write a limerick or make up a quiz. Be creative! The more of your brain you can engage in revision the more you will remember. Use the different parts of your memory to your advantage. Verbal memory, visual memory, audio memory, even muscle memory can help you to remember those all important facts!

So there you have it! A step by step guide on how to beat the exams. What are your top tips for revision and exams? Does your tutor help you to revise? Join in the discussion!

Read the NewStatesman full article here: