Exam advice: tried, tested and approved!

Exam advice: tried, tested and approved!

As the New Year celebrations are left long in our wake, and winter comes to a close, most of us are returning to the hard-hitting reality of the world which took a back seat over the freezing festive period, and while exam advice might still be far from the front of our minds, it’s never too soon to prepare.

When it comes to exams, the challenges that lie ahead can seem overwhelming, but that doesn’t mean you can, or should, hide from the fact they will soon be upon you. While they may seem like a chore, exams form the foundations of your future, and can also help shape you as a person.

How? Here’s how.

If you revise hard enough and do well in your exams, it opens masses of pathways for your future – whether that be further, higher education, apprenticeships or employment.

Not only that, it additionally manifests traits that you may have failed to recognise before; traits like determination, resilience and motivation that can be applied to any challenge you may face as you encounter more people, experiences and opportunities along the way.

Exam advice – from the experts

One burning question remains – HOW do I achieve exam success? Well, I asked the people who did exactly that, and here is their exam advice for you.

Prioritise and organise
~ Holly Scott – Grade 9 in GCSE English Language and Literature

Exam advice: be organisedWhile it’s important not to neglect your social life, during exam season you may find that you need to prioritise revision over social events.

I’m not saying that you should completely retreat into a hovel of revision notes and books, but you need to make the most of the time you have got; however, organising your time well means you have room for both.

Because an exhausting day of revision rewarded by an hour’s social time doesn’t seem appealing, it’s worth trying to revise in shorter periods with more frequent breaks, rather than a tiring revision-binge – this way, you’ll be more concentrated, efficient and willing to do the work.

Once you put this into practice, it will become a habit and part of a routine which you’ll be able to work with depending on other plans you have got going on. Also, when exams begin, make sure you get there early to avoid any additional last-minute stress

Don’t put yourself under pressure
~ Chloe Allen – Grade 9 in GCSE English Literature, Grade 8 in GCSE Mathematics

Don't put yourself under too much pressure.It’s easier said than done, but trying or continuing to revise when you’re stressed, worried or worked up will do nothing good for you – you won’t remember what you have revised, and in turn, that will exacerbate how you are feeling.

Taking a break and knowing when to step back from revision will make your mind feel much clearer, and once you get going again you’ll be more concentrated and motivated than before.

If there’s something you’re struggling with, don’t be afraid to ask a teacher or friend to help you – that’s ultimately what they are there for, and you’ll regret it if you don’t

Experiment with different revision materials
~ Alyssa Craggs – A* in GCSE Geography, PE and Chemistry

Exam advice: post-it notesSticking post-it notes with questions/facts around your room or house and walking around them daily helps to reinforce the information you need to know in your mind without realising you’re doing so.

Even if you just go to the kitchen for a snack, or in your drawer for some socks, you’ll be revising without actually ‘revising’.

Reading the notes over and over again when completing routine activities can also help you in the exam, because eventually you learn to associate a certain activity with a certain piece of information, which you can refer back to or visualise when sitting the exam

Condense your learning
~ Anna Reeve – Grade 9 in GCSE English Language,
Grade 8 in GCSE English Literature and A* in Geography

Exam advice: condense your readingInstead of poring over pages and pages of notes without really taking any of it in, try to condense them into as simplified terms as you can manage and understand fully.

By condensing five pages of a textbook onto one page, you are continuously reading over the notes to be able to put them into your own terms, which will reinforce the information in your mind.

Then from one page, you can condense into a sentence, and from there maybe even a few key ‘buzz’ words. By reeling off a few sentences from one buzz word, this can majorly help in an exam when you need to remember lots of key points.

As well as this, when the information is on one page rather than five, it will be easier for your brain to process and will not leave you feeling overwhelmed, therefore allowing more room for concentration.

Express yourself
~ Asia Grabowski (Myself!) – Grade 9 in GCSE English Language and Literature

Express yourself and use reading to improve your vocabulary.For subjects which are more ‘wordy’ than formulaic, such as English, there are ways of ‘revising’ without feeling like you are doing so.

These subjects tend to be hard, because the answer can’t technically be right or wrong as it is open for interpretation – it’s about how you express your own ideas. If you enjoy reading as a hobby, then this is the tip for you.

While you may find yourself drowning in subject specific textbooks, reading books which you actually enjoy, whether that be fiction or non-fiction, helps massively with developing your lexicon (the word bank in your brain) and therefore, having an impact on the way you express yourself through writing.

By exposing yourself to words in books that are out of your vocabulary range, you will become more likely to use them, and in the right context. Each time you see an unfamiliar word, fold the page, and once you finish reading, go back and search what they mean.

Afterwards, set yourself a challenge to incorporate them into your vocabulary, whether that be through speech or writing – you won’t realise it, but it will allow you to be more concise and sophisticated in your answers without having to ramble on (and waste time), which is exactly what you don’t want to do!

Also, try and think ‘outside of the box’ – you don’t want to be another common answer which every other candidate has written, show the examiner a unique perspective, that’s what they want!


Remember, while exams are important, the outcome will in no way dictate the rest of your life. If you do well in your exams, that’s great! However, if an exam doesn’t go as planned and the results aren’t as good as you had hoped, don’t dwell on it.

An exam result doesn’t measure your worth: it doesn’t tell you how happy you are, how funny you are, how caring you are, what you enjoy – the things that make you, you.

If it’s a bad exam, put it in the past – once you’ve left the exam hall, there’s nothing you can do or change. Instead, clear your mind and focus your attention on the next exam. If it’s a bad result, it is important to realise that it does not define you.

An exam result doesn’t measure your worth: it doesn’t tell you how happy you are, how funny you are, how caring you are, what you enjoy – the things that make you, you.

Not being brilliant academically does not mean you are talentless. You could be the worst mathematician, but you could be a great dancer, singer, songwriter, author, skateboarder, painter. Sure, you might initially be upset, but being at the bottom means the only way onwards, is upwards.

Use your ‘failure’ to guide yourself to success. No journey is linear – there are always obstacles, unexpected things, and it can be a long and tiring endurance, but the destination will never change: when you reach it, you will realise that the all the struggle, the doubt, the worry, was worth it.

Good luck!


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