The 5 perils of last minute revision and how to fix it today
Last minute revision activities are usually one or more of the following:
- Working out what is most likely to come up from previous papers;
- Testing yourself on key words;
- Doing as many past papers as you physically have time for;
- Checking in with friends to see how much revision they have done;
- Writing out exam cards to take with you on the day;
- Panicking or giving up!
Recognise yourself? Don't worry, you're definitely not alone! 64% of people say they pick up most of their exam knowledge in the week leading up to the exam. That is a huge percentage of students perceiving the benefit of last minute revision given you study all year (or sometimes two years!) for these papers! Lets see why this might not actually be the case in reality.
Ignoring the obvious that you don't give yourself much time, here are the 5 perils of revising last minute...
1. You only focus on what you get right
You congratulate yourself when you get questions right but don't spend time on the things you don't understand. Take the example of a past paper - we all focus on the 58% we got correct and compare it to other marks in previous papers - you wouldn't label that paper as having got 42% wrong which is what you should be doing.
2. You don't allow yourself to pick up new information
Last minute mentality means you think you don't have time to learn new things. You see a new topic and shy away from it, thinking it is too much to learn now. You fall in the trap of just consolidating what you already know which leads to very little mark improvements on the day.
3. You are overwhelmed by choices
You don't have the time to plan the revision that is best for you and how you think. Instead, you go round asking friends and worrying about how on earth you will get all those activities in in the time left. There is no need to - everyone thinks differently and there will be an activity which allows you to ingest more information which suits your way of thinking. if you plan earlier, you can be safe in the knowledge that you are doing what is best for you and helps you learn.
4. You give less time to exams that are close together
If you have 2 exams in your first exam week compared with 5 exams in your second week, you will naturally give much more revision time to those exams that are more spread out. Even worse, when you have exams on the same day, you will inevitably have a rushed and frenzied lunchtime between exams, in which you will try and learn a year's worth of content! You don't want to find yourself in the exam thinking 'now what was that equation I learnt whilst I was walking out of the lunch hall?'
5. Your brain won't be rested!
Lastly but most importantly!...If we think of someone training for a marathon, they wouldn't get up on the day of the race and run 10 miles. Why would they? They know they would tire out so the best thing they can do is get a good night's sleep, have a decent breakfast and make sure they are hydrated. Doing exams should follow the same pattern. You should not wake up to a load of revision exercises if you need your brain to work hard for you that day. Revision should be done in advance, just as training should be so that you can wake up relaxed, prepared and excited to get to the satisfaction of finishing.
This is all very well saying last minute revision isn't the best - but in reality, I know you all know this deep down! So how do you make sure you do enough in advance so you avoid these pitfalls?
It's all about planning.
However far off your exams are now, don't wait until next week or even tomorrow to draw up a plan. Here's some advice about how to plan your way to victory.
Work out how long you have left - it will be a bit painful but once you have ripped the plaster off, at least you will know where you're at!
Break down the time left into the number of subjects and topics to get a feel for how many days you have for each.
Plan the best type of revision for each subject you take. For Science and Maths subjects, really the best revision at this time of year is practice papers or questions.
Gather the materials. Have you got enough paper, revision notes and resources to last you until the exams? If so, great. Gather it on the computer into one folder or print it off ready so you don't procrastinate later. If you don't have enough materials go on a hunt online, ask your teachers or peers who are studying for the same exams what they are using. As always, MarkIt!! is great for Maths and Physics A Levels and will provide you with all the materials you need to ace your exams!
Make a timetable! This activity comes after all the ones above although it it normally the first thing students do. Make sure you do the pre-planning and then you can run away with drawing up a timetable :)
Tell other people what you plan to do so you have wider accountability. It might be that you tell a parent or a friend that you need to do a paper per subject each week. By them knowing, they can help facilitate and stop you from procrastinating!
Create a quiet space to work that is all yours! This space should be easy to keep tidy (only you use it), you must be able to shut the world out if you need to (you can shut the door) and somewhere different from where you normally spend your time (so you can be on form when you are there)
- Start ticking stuff off! It is the most satisfying part of revision. If you follow the advice above, you can be sure you will ace your exams by preparing properly for your exams...
Good luck and as always, do get in touch if you need any personal exam advice - we're here to help this exam season!