As you may well know, I’m currently in the middle of revising ready for my Open University exam coming up very soon. I’m studying history for this module of my degree, specifically A200 Exploring History: Medieval to Modern 1400-1900. This particular module consists of 6 assignments followed by one exam, hence my revision. I am determined to do well in this exam so have been spending my time going over the course materials and hoping that they all sink in and stay there ready for the exam. At this stage (you might want to ask me again after the exam when my results come in!) I am feeling like I am taking it in, so I thought that today I would share with you my top revision tips for exams and a little insight into what works for me.
Make a Plan
This one is twofold. You need a plan for the exam first, and then a revision plan. For example, in the case of my exam, we are informed of the blocks that will be tested within each of the three sections of the exam. This has enabled me to consider which modules I will revise and so which questions I plan to answer. I have a plan. This has meant I’ve been able to look at the time that I have available to revise and note down the sections that I will cover, how I will do so and when. So, know what’s going to be required of you in the exam, look at your time available (free up more and rearrange things if you need to) and allot it accordingly.
Little and Often
Revising for hours on end will not work, you need to intersperse it with breaks if you’re going at it for a whole day and definitely change up the subjects. If you’re studying several, this works well, or in my case as it’s all the one module, I simply change from block to block every hour or so to keep it fresh. I find an hour or so each evening is often more beneficial than one whole day in a week.
Do not simply sit and read everything. Take notes, highlight relevant points, move around and study in different places, test yourself, and as above, go for little and often. It needs to all be broken up into chunks, as if you sit and simply read continuously, your mind is likely to wander and you’re unlikely to retain it all.
Personally, I started my revision by allotting each block of the module one A2 sheet of paper and then using timelines and mind maps to note down key events and causes, with quotes and historiography dotted around it all on post-it notes. By sticking to one big sheet, front and back, it meant that the materials looked more manageable to remember and it challenged me to draw out the main points within each page and section. It then works as a sheet to work off and test myself, a little like using cards. For me, having it all bright and with different colours kept it interesting for me to actually do.
Go Visual or Auditory
We tend to each take in the world around us in different ways, and though we can often do so through all of our senses, chances are that one of them is stronger for you. For me, I know that I am a visual person, meaning that I find it much easier to recall information if I have seen it, rather than hearing it, for example. So for me, watching films about the periods I’m covering, watching YouTube clips (they have everything there, everything!) and making my mind maps really helps to cement the learning. Use extra resources like this, if it helps. It can also be a welcome break from the books and links back to the previous point where you’ll be studying in different ways and remaining active.
Revise Facts, then Consider the Questions
OK, what I mean here is that yes, you need to know your stuff, but certainly in the case of my upcoming exam, a narrative of history isn’t going to get me the mark I want, as the examiner will be looking for more than that. For example, I am unlikely to be asked to simply tell all I know about the Wars of the Roses, I am more likely to be asked about what led to it, why it happened, was it because of xxx, and so forth, so revising these angles are crucial as well. I think this applies to many subjects at many different levels.
Recognition is not the same as Recall
I read this somewhere recently and it stuck with me. Do not fall into the trap of looking over books and notes and thinking ‘oh yes, I remember this, it’s all coming back to me now’ and moving on assuming it’s all in your head now. Recognition is not the same as recall, so just because your mind tells you its seen that before, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you know it well enough to retain and use it in an exam. Check by testing yourself. You have to be able to tell the story or recount the facts to a friend.
Prepare for the Exam Practicalities
Be sure that you know when it is, where it is, what you’re permitted to take in with you, what you’ll need to take in with you, how the exam paper is set up, how many questions you’ll need to answer and their weightings towards the overall mark. Get these basics out of the way early on so that you’re comfortable with them and can concentrate on the materials.
Practice the Exam
Where possible, get hold of past papers so that you can have some practice runs, or create your own questions, ask others to do so, or use old assignments. Anything that gives you a go at running through the exam. You’ll need to get a feel for how much time you have to plan, how much you’ll be able to write in that time, and actually writing for a few hours and not getting cramp in your hand! It is well worth doing this towards the end of your revision to cement your work and boost your confidence as you’ll feel better equipped for the real thing. Similarly, practice answering as many as you can by essay planning and preparing to answer a question, as this will be a necessary skill to master under time constraints.
Do Not Panic!
Oh, it is so easy to say, but stay calm. Throughout the revision and throughout the exam, the key to mastering this will be a calm, clear head. Butterflies on the day are totally natural, but go into the exam, read the paper thoroughly (always check the back!), make a plan and take the exam as an opportunity to show what you can do. You’ve got this.
Hoping this helps if you’re in the middle of revising, too, and if you’re not but soon will be, do Pin this for later.