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Effective Strategies for Exam Revision

Updated: May 24

Transform Stress into Success with Effective Strategies to Master Exam Revision

Cramming the night before an exam is far from being one of the most effective revision strategies! Ideally, students should be calmly and confidently reviewing materials explored thoroughly in previous study sessions over the last few weeks. 

However, we all know that doesn’t happen!

To be ready and maintain your mental health, a structured strategy can be a game-changer in reducing exam anxiety. Entering an exam room with a clear mind and steady concentration will significantly improve performance. Using techniques such as positive self-talk and taking practical measures can help alleviate the physical symptoms of anxiety and refocus your energy on the task at hand.

This article discusses the key practices that can help you turn pre-test pressure into confidence and a positive attitude, ensuring you set yourself up for success on any exam.


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Students taking exams in a library

Starting Early is the most Effective Revision Strategy

For optimal results, it's important to start your revision plan between well in advance of the exam period, ideally 2-4 weeks, but even 1-2 weeks before exam day is good. You may also use this time to improve your revision methods and find what works best for you.

Effective Repetition and Recall Revision Tactics

  • Begin by incorporating spaced repetition, which involves reviewing material at progressively longer intervals to strengthen your memory retention.

  • Complement this with active recall, a method that requires you to actively test your knowledge, as opposed to passively reading notes.

Revision Plan Strategy

  • Days 1-2: Start with a broad overview of all topics and identify key areas to focus on.

  • Days 3-4: Deepen your understanding by tackling complex topics and using active recall.

  • Days 5-6: Mix it up by revising both newer and older material, retaining the benefits of spaced repetition.

  • Day 7: Focus on the areas you have found difficult to recall and refine your understanding through more active revision sessions..

Incorporating Relaxation into your Revision Routine

  • Establish a consistent daily routine that includes time for both study and relaxation to keep your mind fresh. An adaptation of the Pomodoro method could be good – try 2 x 25 min revision sessions, with a longer relaxation period after the second session if time allows and you feel you need it.

  • Avoid the temptation of cramming; it's an ineffective habit relied on by many procrastinators and only exacerbates test anxiety.

  • Find a relaxation method that works best for you. Go for a walk to clear your head or move to a different environment to change it up for your next revision session.

Exam Format and Effective Test Strategies

  • Familiarize yourself with the exam structure to boost your confidence and guide your study sessions. You should have been taught the structure in which the exam will take place in class in the run-up to the exam period.

  • Hone your test-taking skills with practice, mock or past papers and simulate exam conditions to avoid being surprised on exam day.

  • Approach each study session with a thoughtful strategy that focuses on long-term memory and comprehension.

Remember, knowing the material thoroughly - rather than learning new material at this stage is key! Finding and adopting the most efficient revision strategies that suit your way of learning will naturally improve your chances of exam success.

Student revising for exams on their laptop


Effective Night-Before Exam Revision Strategies

Plan Your Night Before the Exam

Cramming or pulling an all-nighter is NOT the answer to successfully passing exams. To get the sleep you need and avoid a late night, start studying early in the evening and set a cut-off time to ensure you have enough time to prepare for the next day, have some downtime to calm your brain, and do your night-time routine before getting at least 6 hours sleep.

Develop a Balanced Revision Routine

Improve memory retention by splitting your study session into two parts. This takes advantage of spaced repetition and can help strengthen your understanding of the material:

  • Schedule two short review sessions with a break in-between, rather than one long study session.

  • If you are aiming for a 90-minute total review, consider two 45-minute sessions separated by a break.

  • This division helps to reinforce the content and the breaks can help with mental recovery.

Master Test-Taking Techniques

Test your readiness by simulating exam conditions during your revision:

  • Use active recall methods such as quizzes, flashcards, and mock exams to assess your understanding.

  • Remove any study aids and test yourself to effectively contextualize your preparation.

Stationery essentials for effective revision strategies

Build a "Cheat Sheet" for each Subject *

Create a concise reference sheet to review thematic notes for each exam subject:

Collection of colourful flash cards for effective exam revision

  • Condense key topics into a single page or card as you study.

  • Instead of writing pages of notes, try using mind maps as an alternative means of jogging your memory.

  • This tests your understanding and creates an effective, portable revision resource that you can take anywhere.

  • This revision method is more effective if you write the cards by hand, which helps the brain to remember them.

* obviously we don't mean this should be used to cheat in exams!

Preparing for a Stress-Free Exam Day

Prioritize Sleep and Health Habits

Quality sleep is fundamental to consolidating knowledge:

  • Allow your brain to process and remember data by sticking to your sleep schedule.

  • Avoiding sleep deprivation can improve recall skills.

To make sure your brain gets enough rest, do not drink energy drinks or caffeine after 4pm:

  • The effects of caffeine can linger and disrupt your sleep which is essential for effective rest.

  • If your brain is wired from caffeine and unable to shut down during the night, you will feel exhausted during the exam and unable to think clearly.

Minimize stress by getting organized the night before so your morning does not involve last minute stress finding your belongings or deciding what to wear:

  • Pick out the clothes you want to wear. Choose something comfortable – now is not the time to wear a new outfit or shoes!

  • Get your breakfast things ready to eat and go!

  • Prepared your lunch – make yourself an extra portion from dinner that night!

  • Get your backpack and other essentials ready and waiting by the front door.

These preparations will help reduce anxiety and maintain a calm influence on your brain the morning of exams to activate its memory resources for the test.

Keep a Notebook by Your Bed

The reason why I recommend a notebook rather than your phone to jot down any thoughts at night (that could disturb your rest) is to avoid reactivating your brain by writing your note and then watching TikTok videos or Instagram reels. This is a slippery slope to passing an hour or two mindlessly scrolling, and not getting the rest you need.


By following these tips, you can approach exams feeling confident and prepared. Remember that consistent preparation, relaxation techniques and a positive attitude are key to overcoming exam anxiety.

Remember to plan ahead, take breaks and reward yourself for your hard work. With these tips, you’ll be ready to ace your exams in no time!

Good luck with your exams! Don't forget to visit our FromHighSchooltoUni website and download all our packing lists, accommodation guides, student budget calculators as well as our Free Resources to help you settle in stress-free!


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