Effective Revision leads onto less stressful exams. Here are some top tips for successful revision in Reading, Oxford, Wallingford and Thame.
Exam stress is so unfair in that it really only seems to affect those who have the least reason to be worried. it affects the kind of student who has worked hard, applied him or herself and invested all the effort necessary to succeed.
Every year I see a clutch of people for whom exam stress has become a real problem. I use hypnotherapy in Reading, Oxford, Wallingford, London and Thame to help people overcome their exam stress and to succeed.
People allow their stress to get the better of them. Bodies respond to stress by helping those bodies to perform. If, however, you simply become stressed about being stressed then you introduce a vicious circle and wreck the coping mechanism.
Stress is a part of exams. It’s largely the point of exams. You need to prove that you can cope under stress. If you respond to stress by becoming even more stressed then you fail the test. My job is to help you to prove that you can cope with it.
The logical parts of our brains simply don’t work as well when we’re stressed. The energy we need for the cerebral cortex goes straight to the amygdala, muscles and heart instead. People will often then become anxious about being anxious and the whole thing descends into an ever-increasing spiral of panic. Hypnotherapy could help you to put an end to this cycle.
One of the best ways to prevent exam-stress is to be well-prepared. Effective revision is key.
I taught in secondary schools for twenty years and one of the sad truths is that revision is generally poorly taught. Students are told to revise but they often have little idea of how to go about it. I’ve seen students who simply read their text books (no good!) or who copy them all out (you haven’t got time). This page will hopefully help you to develop some strategies with which you might revise more effectively.
Tip 1: Make a timetable
The first step is to write out all of your subjects. One per piece of A4. Write the subject’s name in the middle of the page and around it, in the form of a spider diagram, you’ll write out the headings of all the topics you need to revise for that subject.
You’ll end up with dozens of these but don’t worry, most of them are going to be pretty short.
You’ll need to spread them out so that you can cover each topic at least twice. You’ll need to spread them out so that the hardest topics in any one subject can be re-revised the night before that subject’s exam.
You’ll need to spread them out and mix them up. It’s no use revising chemistry six weeks before the exam, all in one week, and never touching it again.
It can always be changed, just make a start. Tick the topics off as you go so that you can be sure you’ve missed nothing out.
Lastly, don’t overburden yourself. Two or three hours per day, at most, is all you’ll realistically manage. If you exhaust yourself then you’ll simply not be absorbing any information.
Lastly, things will happen. You’ll miss a day or two here and there. Don’t panic. Be flexible.
Tip 2: Don’t try to revise for hours at a time
People will sometimes tell me that they have sat down for two or three hours at a time and feel awful that their minds begin to wander. What’s wrong with them? Why can’t they focus?
The truth is that the human concentration span is quite limited. The more stressed you feel the shorter it’s going to be.
Don’t try to revise for more than thirty minutes at a time. Then take a ten minute break in which to go for a quick walk, send your texts, post some rubbish on Snapchat, perform some mindless task such as washing up or sing to a few of your favourite songs. Your mind will then be ready for the next stretch of revision.
Excessive time spent trying to revise is wasted time.
If you try to revise for great stretches of time then you’ll become stressed at your increasing inability to focus.
Well, as I’ve already said, you can focus for as long as you can focus. Try to focus for longer and you’ll fail to focus. Beat yourself up for this and you’ll just make things worse.
Tip 3: Reading is wasted time if reading is all you do
If I read a piece of text and do nothing with it then I have wasted my time. It will be forgotten very quickly. I need to process this information to increase the chances of it sticking.
Processing this information means taking it and turning it into something else – so that my brain has been forced to work on it.
This is why copying stuff out is pointless.
So, you could make notes. If you choose this (and you ought to) then don’t write in full sentences. Use bullet points and develop your own code of symbols and abbreviations for common words.
Use colour coding. Facts in red, quotes in green, opinions in blue, for example.
Keep your notes safe and organised in folders.
Tip 4: say it out loud
Use that dead time which we all have. There’s that time in the shower, that time on the loo, that time walking to school, that time on the bus. This is all dead time and you could use it to revise.
Use this dead time to test what you learned in a recent night’s revision session. Imagine that you’re talking to someone who knows nothing about chemistry, for example, and explain what you know about that particular topic.
If you can’t do it then this means you’ll need another quick peak at those revision notes.
Take a walk in the garden and imagine that you’re explaining what you’ve just revised to a younger sibling.
Take a walk in the park and imagine presenting your knowledge to people who have no idea. Explain it to them as simply as you can.
Explain it out loud! It forces you to process the information you’ve absorbed and it causes you to consider how to explain it to others. One day, very soon, you’ll be explaining it to the guy who marks your exam.
Tip 5: Understand how memory works and use it to your advantage
I am three years old. My mum screams and that scares me. I see that she is looking at a spider. Fear + spider. The two become linked.
I now associate fear with spiders and scream when I see one. Get it?
Effective revision works best when we make connections between bits of learning and other sensory stimuli.
So, can you make your work into a rhyme? Can you sing it to a tune? This is how kids learn the alphabet – through the song.
Could you reduce every topic to eight or ten key points or facts? If so, write them out and draw a little picture next to each one – something which symbolises it. Shade the writing in.
Then just get a sense of the look of the page. Look at the whole page as if it were a photograph and take it all in. The idea is that if you remember the images, colours AND the contents then the existence of one of them in your memory will remind you of the content of the other.
How about scent? Smell is a really powerful sense. Get some rosemary, lavender or mint essential oil and soak some into a hanky. Have that hanky every time you revise, sniffing it now and then. Take it into your exams and the familiar smell will help you recall those things you learned whilst revising.
Tip 6: Change the ‘wheres’ of revision
We call it an ‘anchor’ in hypnotherapy. If a terrible thing happened to you in a certain place then you’d feel sad or scared every time you passed it. The emotion became anchored to that place.
If this is true of your study environment then change it. Change everything about it or at least as much as you can.
Move the furniture around. Make the room smell different. Use different sounds.
Do everything to render the experience of revision feel different.
Whilst we’re on the topic of environment, make sure you’re not attempting to revise in the middle of chaos but don’t think it needs to be as quiet as death either.
A little music in the background (something you know very well) can screen out the sound of distractions from outside.
Tip 6: Don’t revise on your bed
Firstly, you may fall asleep. Secondly, bed is for sleep. If you begin to build associations in your brain between bed and work then bed will stop being so restful a place and you increase the chances of insomnia.
Tip 7: Take care of the basics.
Have snacks and drinks with you when you start revising. This reduces the chance of you finding yet another excuse to leave your desk.
The ‘basics’ also include sleep, exercise and diet. I know you teenagers think you know it all and that you’re invincible but your brain is a part of your body and if you treat your body badly you’re going to pay in terms of reduced brain performance.
So, eat properly and sleep properly. If you neglect these things in favour of more revision then you’re just wasting your time.
The same goes for exercise. Get some.
Take breaks, have fun, take care.
Tip 8: cramming will not help you
Go back to the start of this page and you’ll recall my saying that a stressed brain will not learn. It just won’t. All cramming will achieve is making you stressed the night before the exam. You’ll then wake up stressed and it’ll spiral into mind-blanking fear as you turn over that first page. Don’t go there. You won’t need to if you’ve revised as described above.
Tip 9: Post-it notes
Stick them everywhere: on the back of the toilet door, next to the bath, where you sit to eat breakfast, EVERYWHERE. Use these for those chemical formulae, verb tables, quotes from Shakespeare etc.
Tip 10: Exam practice
Find out what exam board you’re following, get some past papers, get some mark-schemes and practise. Divide the number of minutes by the number of marks in each paper so that you know how long you can safely spend on each question. E.g. A one hour paper worth 60 marks means a mark a minute. Answer a four mark question in four minutes etc etc.
Knowing stuff is half the battle. Knowing how to use that knowledge is the other half. Exam practice is as important to revision as is re-learning stuff.
Practise answering these questions, mark them, get to know the markschemes and you’ll know how to respond when you turn over that paper. There’ll be no shocks or surprises.
Bear in mind that every exam has thinking time built in. So, if you have a four mark answer and that it has four minutes then spend a minute thinking before you put pen to paper.
Every year I use hypnotherapy in Reading, Oxford, Wallingford, London and Thame to help people overcome study anxiety, exam stress and procrastination. I hope that these tips prove useful but if you need more help then call me or have your parents call on your behalf. I’ll be glad to talk to you/ them.
I can be contacted on 07786 123736/ 01183 280284 / 01865 600970, emailed at email@example.com or contacted via the form below. I hope you don’t need to call me and that everything goes well. If you do need to call then don’t worry, it’ll be fine.