Written by UKCP psychotherapist, Susan Smith
1) What’s Your Style of Revision?
When studying for exams it’s good to know whether you’re a big chunk learner or small.
So how do you know? Well, some students study better when they spend large chunks of time learning and revising. If that’s you, you need time to get into the groove and really settle into your study flow. This means you could spend the whole day or an entire weekend deeply engrossed in revision.
If you find it hard to knuckle down to revision try studying in small chunks. Set the timer on your phone and start by revising in 20-minute chunks when the alarm goes off change your activity for at least 5 minutes. Get up and stretch. Go and get a drink. Play with the dog! Then go back to revising, obviously if you’re on a roll and studying well, skip the break and continue on for the next 20-minute chunk.
There’s something about having a choice that feels empowering so you’re more likely to get on with it and the variety keeps the intellect sharp.
2) Get Your Surroundings Right
It’s important to know what will facilitate a comfortable study environment for you.
Be honest with yourself, do you really study at your best with music in the background? If so, great and whether that’s funk, baroque or dolphin music if it works for you use it. On the other hand, you may require complete silence in order to properly concentrate.
Does it help if you have a blank wall in front of you or do you work better when you can see some sky or the garden? Set yourself up in a nice space to get the best out of yourself.
3) If you fail to plan you plan to fail
Whatever your style and aids, it’s essential to create a study schedule.
If nothing has been provided for you, create a basic schedule by dividing the subjects you’re studying between the days/hours available between now and the exams.
Ask your favourite teacher to help you develop a system of revision.
Find the cleverest person you know and pick their brains to find out how they revise, what’s their approach, when, how and where do they study? Keep asking them questions until you illicit their revision strategy – then make it your own.
4) Develop Concentration
If you’re really struggling to concentrate, practice balancing. I’m serious it will develop your ability to concentrate! Set your gaze softly on something in the distance and lift one foot. Keep it in the air and focus on slow easy breathing in and out of your nose. Once you’re able to balance stay there for a minute or so before changing to the other foot. This will settle your breathing and calm your thoughts down. Then you can begin to study again.
5) On The Day of Your Exams
Aim to be early and be prepared. Have your bag and any items that you might need.
Plan a good routine for the day. It might sound daft but it’s important to know exactly where you’re going. It has been known for people to go to the wrong place, out of sheer panic! Not you though. If you have to travel to your place of exam, do a dummy run a week before if necessary. Give yourself as much chance as possible to feel confident.
Even planning exactly what you’re going to wear so that you’re in charge of your own temperature will give you a sense of control (Layers are good).
6) Remember there are things you can do in the moment to relieve stress
If your head feels fuzzy, or your chest tight, there’s a couple things you need:
Water: Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate! Sipping room temperature water will keep you feeling buoyant and less tired.
Breath: If you’re not breathing properly and everything feels contracted and restricted, it doesn’t matter whether it’s your head, your chest or your stomach, a good deep breath will help you to relax. Rather than get caught up in breathing exercises try this. Hum. That’s it, just hum … for as long as you can. At the end of it, you will need to take a slighter longer deeper in-breath so make your humming as long as possible. Don’t just take my word for it, try it now.
7) Dealing with Negative Thoughts
Finally, how do you deal with the negative thoughts? If you have genuinely given it your best shot and have studied and revised to the best of your ability. That is all you can do. The ego part of the brain, however, does love to judge, label, taunt, and generally give you a hard time. You may hear it as a nagging, critical voice or as dark negative suggestions. It is your mind at play and you can stop the negativity. Here are a few ways. Mentally and silently shout at this voice/words say something like ‘stop! That’s enough’ or ‘be quiet now’ or even, ‘go away you’re not wanted here’ will work. It’s a simple but effective method and it works better the more you practice it.
Follow it up with positive future placed suggestions such as, ‘I am relaxed and at ease. On the day of my exams, my recall is sharp and clear and I find it easy to remember all the information relating to…blah blah.’ Or ‘throughout my exams I am relaxed, calm and confident, my mind is clear and my recall excellent.’
Leading up to the exams tell yourself everyday ‘as my exams get nearer I feel more confident and self-assured.’ Interestingly your back-of-the-mind-brain absorbs whatever thoughts you feed it.
Do you want to entertain negative thoughts or create positive ones? The choice is yours.
You will do well if you think you will, it’s all in the mind!