How to revise for exams

16 November 2021

A young couple revising together.

If you’re studying for a professional qualification, you will probably have to sit an exam in order to pass the course. For example, Financial Services courses such as CeMAP, CeRER and DipFA require you to pass one or more exams which may have a multiple choice format or have questions based on case studies.

Few people enjoy exams but effective revision is the best way to ensure that you are well prepared, giving you the greatest chance of passing your exams.

So here are some exam revision tips to help you learn how to revise effectively and different exam revision methods to try.

How to study for exams

Everybody studies in their own personal way, but here are a few things you can do to be well prepared for your exams.

Don’t leave it too late

The earlier you start your exam revision and the better organised you are, the more likely you are to achieve exam success. You’ll feel more relaxed and in control and won’t need to do last minute cramming.

Set a revision routine

It’s also a good idea to set a regular schedule for exam preparation, starting and finishing at roughly the same time. Many people find that revising earlier in the day works better, as you will take in the information better when you are mentally fresh.

Make a revision plan

First decide which parts of the syllabus you need to revise, and then make a detailed revision plan that sets out exactly what you will revise on each day. Remember to include practice exams and block out some time for exercise and relaxation.

Use the right study methods

You may already know which exam revision techniques work well for you. If not, you could try out different techniques like mind mapping, flashcards or recording the material and playing back the recording.

Prepare for the exam

Make sure that you know how long the exam will be and what format the questions will be in. The more you know about what will happen on the day, the more familiar it will feel and that will help you to feel less nervous.

Stick to a healthy lifestyle

It’s easy to get so caught up in your revision that you end up surviving on caffeine and junk food. But try to eat a healthy diet, drink enough water, get some exercise and plenty of sleep so that you can get the best results from your exam revision.

How many hours should I study for an exam?

There’s no set rule on how many hours of revision you need to do, but there are some general guidelines on how many hours you should do at one time.

Studying for three to five hours per day seems to be the upper limit for effective exam revision. Beyond this, you are more likely to lose concentration and not retain the information that you are revising.

Taking regular breaks throughout your study sessions will give you more chance of retaining the information that you’re studying. And if you find that you’re losing focus totally, it’s better to call it a day. Doing something completely different will refresh you ready for the next study session.

How to remember things for exams

There are many techniques for revising and it’s important to find the best revision techniques for you. Some popular revision methods include:

Mnemonics

Creating a phrase or acronym can help you to remember details more easily. For example, the mnemonic Richard of York Gave Battle In Vain is used to remember the colours of the rainbow: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo and Violet

Test and repeat

Try covering a section of your notes and writing down as much as you can remember. When you check back, you’ll be able to see any areas that need further revision.

Revision cards

Flashcards can be a useful revision tool for facts such as names, dates and definitions. Using highlighters, coloured pens and diagrams will make them more memorable and A5-sized cards are a good size to carry around with you for extra revision. You can also use Q&A cards for testing yourself or get a friend or family member to test you.

Study buddies

Revising with a fellow student can be great for motivation and encouragement. You’ll probably have different strengths and weaknesses so you can help each other to understand the topics that you find more difficult. And working through past papers with another student can help you to find new ways to approach questions.

How to revise for essay based exams

Whereas short questions require you to have a broad knowledge of the whole syllabus, studying for an essay based exam is more effective if you focus on specific topics in greater detail.

Once you’ve decided which areas you are going to focus on, one of the best ways to prepare is to practice writing the sort of essays that you will need to write in the exam. Past papers are very useful as you can see what questions are likely to come up and prepare for them.

When you’ve completed your revision and exam day arrives, try to go to sleep at a reasonable time the night before. Last minute cramming is rarely effective and you will remember more if you’re feeling fresh on the day.

There’s no guarantee for exam success but preparing a revision plan and sticking it to it as much as possible will give you the best chance of passing your exams.

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