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  • Writer's pictureStudent Wellbeing Service

Revision Tips: How to avoid a meltdown in the exam hall.

Experts offer their advice on exam preparation – from different studying methods to dealing with mid-paper panic


Article take from The Guardian


Exams are looming. For first-year students in particular, they can feel especially foreboding. Here we’ve brought together experts including psychologists, lecturers and wellbeing counsellors to give their top advice on how to sail through your exams, from preparation tips to dealing with mid-exam panic. Go for breaks “Get a revision schedule organised early. Break up your time into chunks, with short breaks in between, to maximise the chance you’ll remember the information. Structure your learning in a way that can help you identify relationships, such as using coloured Post-it notes to break up concepts and information. Pictures or diagrams help in triggering memory processes during your exams. We all learn in different ways and the key to successful revising is finding a way that suits you best. So don’t worry if your way of learning is bizarre – everything from putting Post-it notes on doors to revising to loud music is completely valid.” Sarita Robinson, principal lecturer in psychology at the University of Central Lancashire

Train yourself to be positive

“If you’re feeling like you can’t do it – whether during a tough revision session or an exam itself – try using the self-talk technique to remind yourself what you have achieved and to build self-belief. Try to adopt a go-to, personalised, positive phrase or mantra, such as ‘I am, I can, I will’ or ‘I believe I can do my best’. Repeating this phrase over a series of days, weeks and months, especially at moments of triumph like completing a mock exam, will drown out the negative thoughts – and it can be easily recalled if you hit a mental wall during an exam.” Alban Ferrieu, wellbeing counsellor at ACS Hillingdon international school

Study to soothing scents

“A recent study found that smelling something distinctive like rosemary essential oil when studying and then again before the exam can help you remember facts. In general, remember that confidence is key: although aiming low to avoid disappointment might seem helpful, studies show that thinking pessimistically can actually stop you from doing your best. So practice saying positive affirmations such as ‘I am prepared!’, and use positive imagery and visualisation to see yourself being successful in the exam to boost your self-esteem and chances of success.” Elena Touroni, psychologist at My Online Therapy clinic ‘Try to stop revising at least an hour before you plan to going to sleep.’ “A good night’s sleep can help you retain information as well as learn new skills. Make sure you sleep well by avoiding caffeine and alcohol in the evening and making some time during the day for exercise. A regular bedtime routine can also help. Try to stop revising at least an hour before going to sleep so you have time to unwind. Even a quick nap during the day could help your brain consolidate the information you’ve been revising – but don’t nap for too long, as it could make it more difficult for you to sleep properly at night.” Laura Little, learning manager at wellbeing charity CABA

Take these steps as soon as you enter an exam hall

“Practice some deep breathing exercises before you enter the exam hall. Take time to calm yourself down and put any calming techniques you might have into practice. Read the exam paper carefully. Make sure you know how many questions you have to answer and think about how long to allow for each question. Decide which questions you will answer (if you have a choice) and work out what is wanted from your response – focus on the key words you worked on during your revision.

“Make a plan for each question. What are the key points you wish to make, what evidence can you include to support these points, and how can you evaluate this? RAvoid writing everything you know about the subject area and instead think about how you can use what you know to answer the question effectively. Plan how much time you can spend on each question to help you stay on track, and take care not to run out of time for the final questions.

“If you are running short on time, make sure you have attempted each question; you can always write a list of key points you would have covered if you had time. You never know – this might help you to pick up a few extra marks. If you have time, check back over your answers.” Caroline Harvey, psychology lecturer at University of Derby Try mind exercises to avoid exam-hall panic

“If you’re feeling panicked – either while revising or in an exam – here are some tips to reduce stress and distract the mind.

“Spread the fingers of your left hand. Now, using the index finger of your right hand, trace the spaces between the fingers of your left hand. Allow your right hand’s index finger to move in and out and up and down, going from the thumb of the left hand all the way along to the little finger. It is a simple physical exercise, yet utterly distracting.

“Place your tongue as close as you can to the roof of your mouth behind your upper set of teeth. Imagine there is a tiny droplet of edible oil between your tongue and the roof of your mouth, and hold that droplet there for around half a minute. This works like a guided visualisation, to distract from any feelings of panic.

“Imagine the space inside your nostrils, and notice how your breath passes through this space – first on the way in, when you breathe in, and then on the way out when you breathe out. Get a sense of how the breath flows through that space. Do so for about a minute, to disengage from any overwhelming thoughts.”

Peter Wright, mindfulness expert Best wishes & good luck in your exams

The Student Wellbeing Service

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