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Preparing for exams

General guidance, approaches and techniques to help you prepare effectively for exams.

Student sitting at a desk in Founders Hall taking an in-person exam.
Prepare effectively for exams so you can perform your best on the day

Please refer to the Academic Registry's exams and assessments webpages for all information relating to exams.

You will be able to access your personal exam timetable approximately seven weeks before the assessment period begins. Check this carefully and regularly in case any changes are made.

Manage your time

Planning your time effectively can really help to reduce stress during revision and exam periods.

The Time Management self-access resource will help you to create a study schedule, manage your workload, prioritise your tasks and avoid procrastination.

Make a plan

Make sure you look at your exam dates well in advance, and plan out your study days.

You can use your Outlook Calendar to help with this, or you could create your own weekly planner.

It may be helpful to list all of your exam subjects first and decide how much time to allocate to each one. Allow more time for the topics you find more difficult.

Make sure your revision plan is realistic so that you can stick to it.

Preparing for exams

Find a good study space

Having a good study environment will help you to get the most out of your revision time.

Make sure your study space is quiet, free from distractions and comfortable, with a good-sized and well-lit desk.

You can find study and revision spaces to prepare for your exams with your course mates or independently on campus or in the city centre.

Take regular breaks

When revising, it's important to take 5- or 10-minute rest breaks every hour. You could have a snack, exercise, or get some fresh air.

Minimise stress

Plan your revision at a manageable pace, giving yourself enough time to eat, drink and sleep properly. Light exercise every day will also help to reduce stress.

Find time to relax too. Many people find it difficult to go to sleep immediately after revising, so an optimal time to relax would be right before bed; this could just be reading a book for half an hour.

Student Support's Be Well app allows you to build healthy, positive habits into your life. The app includes podcasts and short mindfulness and breathing exercises, which are ideal for short study breaks.

If you're feeling stressed and anxious, help and support is always available from Student Support.

Revision strategies

Set up everything you need (stationery, laptop, snacks, drinks, etc) before you start revising.

Common methods

Each person will have their own preferred approaches to revision, but make sure you find techniques that help you to grasp, consolidate, and retain the knowledge required for your programme. These could include:

  • Flashcards: Summarise key concepts on small cards or using a flashcard app and use these as memory prompts. This can be a productive way to spend ‘dead’ time when you can’t do much else, for example, when travelling on a bus.

  • Memory aids: Using diagrams, mnemonics and memory hooks can help to remember specific facts. You could put them on post-it notes and stick them somewhere visible, such as around your room or house.

  • Past papers: Timed practice with past papers (available from the Library for some subjects) can help you understand what is expected of you in the exam and develop your exam technique. It's very useful to know the format of the exam and the weightings of the questions, but always check with your unit teacher for up-to-date information about your upcoming exam.

  • Group studying: Some students find it helpful to meet with friends to discuss work and test each other. If you're having difficulty understanding a concept, talking it through with a course mate may help.

  • Recording: Try recording yourself talking through your notes, and then listen back to it a few times to help you remember it.

In addition you can:

  • Talk to the teaching staff on your course: Your unit teacher(s) may run revision classes, offer individual guidance, or recommend helpful reading material.

  • Make use of the Skills Centre's exam support: We offer skills enrichment sessions, 1:1 appointments and drop-ins to help you prepare for exams. You can also work through short, interactive resources and read blogs on exam topics.

Final preparations

Using your time wisely the night before or on the day of the exam can still make a difference to your performance.

Concentrate on strengthening your existing knowledge instead of trying to learn new things. Use your revision notes and flashcards to trigger your memory and remind yourself of key information.

Don’t stay awake all night revising; being exhausted won’t help your performance.

Maximise your ability to concentrate by drinking plenty of water and having a healthy meal. Avoid too much caffeine from tea, coffee, fizzy drinks and energy tablets.

Make sure that you re-read the information in the Student Guide to Exams and double-check the format, duration and location of each of your exams. Also check that you have the correct equipment.

On the day of the exam

Combating nerves

It's completely normal to feel nervous and anxious before an exam. Student Support's Be Well app includes a podcast on exam stress to help calm you before you sit the exam.

Try to remember:

  • keep things in perspective: the exam might seem like the most important thing in your life at the time, but in the broader scheme of things, it's only a very small part.

  • don't compare yourself to others: aspiring to someone else’s goals may be unrealistic and lead to disappointment. Simply aim to do your best.

After the exam

After the exam is over, relax!

Try not to dwell on how the exam went. If you have another exam coming up, take some time to unwind and recover your energy before you focus on studying again.

Good luck with your exams!

Enquiries

If you have any questions about exam preparation, please contact the Digital & Academic Skills team in the Skills Centre.