I don’t want to be too prescriptive about how you should revise – everyone’s different, everyone remembers stuff in different ways – but you should definitely prepare a revision plan. If you don’t, then it will be a matter of luck whether or not you’ll be ready in time for the exams.

Most of you will have at least some holiday time before the exams, and it’s imperative you make the most of it – you’re on your own, and it’s up to you to plan how best to fill the days. But even during term-time you must think about revision – you’ve got evenings and weekends where you must make the most of the available time.

First of all, what form should revision take? That’s subject-dependent. In some subjects you will have a lot of content to commit to memory; in others you will need to practise techniques, such as essay writing; in my subject, Mathematics, the best way to revise is to answer as many past paper questions as possible and, depending on how well you do each question, that should lead you to what you need to revise. But don’t fall into the trap of spending lots of time revising what you already know, or what you’re already good at: you may feel you have achieved lots, but the real work must go into the areas you find hard, or where your grasp of the detail is sketchy.

The key to a revision plan is (a) dividing the available time into revision periods, (b) deciding how to allocate the time to each subject, and (c) then deciding exactly what to revise and how to do it.

For (a), try this: when you are not at school, divide each revision day into three sessions: morning, afternoon and evening (of three hours). Then choose which two sessions you are going to work, and take the other as time off. If you’e going out in the evening, you must work morning and afternoon; if you decide on some retail therapy one afternoon, you must work morning and evening. And three hours equals three hours! Don’t pretend you’re working when the first five minutes is making a drink, and then next ten minutes is checking your phone while you have your drink. Take a short break every 45 minutes or hour, but generally aim for three solid hours work; not necessarily all on the same subject
– you need to break the tedium!

The advantage of this method is that you can plan all the sessions in advance, and so ensure that you’re ready in time. Perhaps work the plan backwards from the exam date, and that tells you when you need to start serious revision. The advantage is that you don’t feel guilty taking time off each day – it’s all in the plan! You may need to change the plan as time goes on: perhaps revision in school time overtakes something you were planning to do at home; or perhaps something proved harder than expected and you need to allocate extra time. And do get advice from your teachers: they’ve seen lots of exams, and they know exactly what you need to prepare.

Should you work on your own or with your friends? There’s no harm in revising with others: testing each other, helping each other understand difficult points, solving problems together. But don’t pretend you’re doing well if you revise with friends who do all the work – when it comes to the exam, you’re on your own!

We’ll talk about (c) in my next blog ….