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Preparing for exams

Guidance, approaches and techniques on how you can prepare effectively for exams.

Student independently revising for examinations in Virgil Building Learning Commons
Preparing effectively for exams to do the best you can

University guidance on exams

Please refer to the Academic Registry's information on exams and assessments for links to the exam schedule and where to find support and further guidance.

You will get access to your personal exam timetable approximately seven weeks before the assessment period begins. You are advised to check it carefully and regularly in case any changes are made.

Manage your time

The best way to ensure that your revision is successful is to plan your time effectively. Good time management can reduce stress during revision and exam periods.

The following resources 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 how you will structure your days to ensure you get all of your revision done.

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 allocate how much time each one deserves. They won’t necessarily take an equal amount of time each - allow more time for the topics you find more difficult.

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

Preparing for exams

The following resources will also help you prepare for your 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 revisions spaces to prepare for your exams with your course mates or independently in a number of places 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. These are good opportunities to have a snack, exercise, or get some fresh air.

Minimise stress

Plan your revision at a manageable pace, making sure that you take enough time to eat, drink and sleep properly. Light exercise every day will also help to reduce stress.

Make sure to fit in some 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 be as simple as 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. There's also a podcast on exam stress to help calm you immediately before an exam.

If your anxiety levels continue to rise, help and support is available from Student Support.

Revision strategies

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

Common methods

There are lots of different revision techniques and each person will have their preferences about which works best for them.

You'll need to identify the techniques which enable you personally to grasp, consolidate, and retain the knowledge required for your programme.

Here is a list of common revision methods:

  • Flashcards: Turn your notes into portable revision tools. Write the summaries of key concepts on small cards and use these as a prompts for your memory. Looking at flashcards is a productive way to spend ‘dead’ time when you can’t do much else, for example travelling on a bus.

  • Memory aids: Using diagrams, mnemonics and memory hooks can help when trying to remember specific facts. Write things you're trying to remember on post-it notes and place these where they will be frequently visible, such as around your room or house.

  • Past papers: Testing yourself with past papers (available from the Library) under timed conditions will help you understand what is expected of you in the exam and allow you to practise your exam technique. It's very useful to know the format of the exam and the weightings of the questions - you can also ask your unit teacher about this.

  • 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: If you learn well by hearing things, you could record yourself talking through your notes using a microphone, and then listen to it back a number of times to help you remember it.

In addition you can:

  • Talk to your teaching staff: Your unit teacher(s) may be able to offer revision classes, individual guidance, or recommend some helpful reading material.

  • Book an exam skills tutorial: The Skills Centre offers 1:1 appointments where you can ask questions and get guidance and suggestions from a specialist tutor on how best to prepare for and complete your exams. The appointments will help build your confidence in taking different kinds of exams.

Last-minute preparation

On the day of or night before an exam, time is short, but you can still make a difference to your exam performance if you use this time wisely.

It's difficult to learn new things at the last minute as you won't have the chance to consolidate what you’ve understood.

Instead, it can be more productive to concentrate on strengthening your existing knowledge. Use any notes and flashcards that you have made in your previous revision to trigger your memory and remind yourself of key information.

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

Maximise your ability to concentrate by drinking enough water to avoid dehydration and eating enough to give your brain cells the energy they need to function at maximum capacity. Avoid having too much caffeine from tea, coffee, fizzy drinks and energy tablets.

The day of the exam

Preparation the night before will help make sure you take your exam on time and as unstressed as possible, maximising your ability to concentrate.

Make sure that you re-read the information in the Student Guide to Exams, including the format and duration of the exams. Check that you have the correct equipment that you need for the exam.

Combating nerves

It's completely normal to feel nervous and anxious as you enter 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: when the exam takes place, all you can do is aim to do your best. Recognise that following someone else’s personal goals may be unrealistic and lead to disappointment.

After the exam

After the exam is over, relax!

It’s easy to dwell on how the exam went, but if you have another exam coming up, your time may be better spent unwinding for an hour or two. This will allow you to recover your energy and begin focussing on your next exam.

Good luck with your exams!


If you have any questions, please contact us.