Exam preparation

Exam preparation. You’ll hear this term a lot over the next few months- to the point where you might get tired of hearing it! However, it is true that it’s very important to make sure you are fully prepared for your GCSE exams well in advance, as this is the key to exam success. 

So, this year you’ll sit your GCSE exams and prepare to embark on the next stages of your educational journey. That is why this year is perhaps the most important year of you high school education- here is where you pave the pathways to your future!

You may feel excited about the year ahead, or you may feel worried and nervous as you may have a lot of high expectations for yourself this year, and feel a lot of pressure. Nevertheless, we want you to know that as long as you prepare well for your exams, remain focused over the year, and organise your time effectively, you’ll be setting yourself up to succeed! 

This page will allow you to explore a range of different exam tips, advice, and revision support, which you can use throughout the next year. But remember – everyone is different! What works for you may not work for someone else; and what works for them, may not work for you! Use this page to explore your own learning style, find the things that work for you, and most importantly, have a positive and optimistic approach to your exams and your revision!


Set your own goals

Before you start with your revision preparation, it’s important to set goals for yourself for the coming year. They should be realistic and attainable, but you should be pushing yourself and challenging yourself to ensure you achieve your highest potential.

  1. What grades do you want to achieve in each of your subjects?
  2. What topics do you need to know in each of your subjects? Which of them might you need to spend more time revising for?
  3. What question format do you need to master for each of your subjects?

Once you’ve set your goals, and established what you want to get out of the year/your exams, then you can start your preparation towards obtaining these goals!

Creating a revision timetable

The easiest way to structure your exam revision, is to organise your time effectively, and create a revision schedule. This can be for after school, over the weekend, or during the school holidays.

Why? A revision timetable will allow you to balance your revision with your social life and leisure activities, and ensure you’re still able to do all the things you enjoy doing outside of school.

Follow these steps to create an effective revision timetable:

Step 1: Make a note of your exam dates (either on a calendar/in a diary/on your phone/etc.).

Step 2: Work backwards from these dates – work out how many days you have until each exam, and when you need to begin. The earlier you start, the better! You’ll have more time to do your revision, and do some revision each day if you can

  • You will need more revision time for the subjects you aren’t as confident in
  • But you shouldn’t completely neglect the subjects you are good at – you have a real chance of achieving highly in these!

Step 3: Figure out what times work for you. Do you work best in the morning or later on in the day? If you’re not sure, you can find out if you are an early bird or a night owl using this quiz, and adjust your revision timetable accordingly!

Step 4: Write up your timetable – planning one week at a time to ensure flexibility.

  • Keep your days varied – different subjects and different revision techniques
  • Don’t do too much – two hours after school days and 6 hours each day over weekends and school holidays should be enough and will stop you getting overwhelmed and too tired.
  • Plan in regular breaks to ensure your brain works at full capacity

Use this revision planner as a starting point for your revision schedule. Remember – you can adapt the times and schedule to suit you and your style!

Click here to access the revision planner for schools days/weekends

Click here to access the revision planner for school holidays

Revision techniques

There are a huge number of different revision techniques that you can use when revising for your GCSEs. However, everyone learns differently, and it’s really important that you understand your own learning style, and use the techniques that best suit you. You may learn best be reading text, look at images, or listening to someone explain something. Most people learnt through a combination of three, but will definitely have a learning style they prefer.

Use our list of revision tools and techniques below, and establish how you learn best.

Effective note taking – make notes as you read a revision guide, watch a video, or listen to your teacher in class.

  • Don’t copy anything you read or learn word for word! You should establish the key points, and summarise it in your own words to make sure you understand it.

Create flashcards – this is a great way of summarise key points, in a concise way.

  • A really effective way to create your flashcards is to have the question on the front, and the answer on the back – this means you can test yourself, or get someone else to test you at a later stage.
  • These can be done physically by hand, or you can use a flashcard making app which can provide you with remote access and test you on the subject areas you would like to revise. Some good sites for this include ‘Quizlet‘ and ‘Brainscape‘. 

Create mind maps – this is a way to organise the information visually, and you can see the links and connections between different pieces of information.

  • Remember to focus on the information with mind maps – don’t spend all of your time making it look pretty, as this can often be a form of procrastination!

Discuss information and ideas with your classmates – it’s ok to disagree but explore why you disagree.

  • This can be particularly useful for essay-based subjects, as you can express different opinions, attitudes and thoughts about a topic.

Teach a topic to someone who knows nothing about it – this allows you time to show your understanding of it.

  • You will also be able to establish gaps in your knowledge.

Draw diagrams and tables – – this can help organise lots of information into more visually appealing and easier to digest forms.

  • This will support you in obtaining that information from your memory.

Create PowerPoint presentations – each slide may contain different pieces of information linked to the overall topic.

  • This will support you in organising the information visually

Test your friends – and let them test you too.

  • When you don’t know the answer to something, it’s important that when you don’t know the answer to something, that you write the topic down, and focus revision on this when you can.

Answer practise questions – you will be able to get these from your teachers/online.

  • This will allow you to apply the knowledge that you’ve gained, to a real-life exam question

Do past exam papers! – you should be doing these under timed conditions, and marking them afterwards to establish what you did/didn’t know

  • It’s important that you only do these when you are ready and have done enough revision – there are only a set number of past papers that you can do, so it’s worth saving them for when feel confident in having a go!


Remember – mix up the techniques and styles of revision that you use to avoid getting bored – there’s so many things you can do, you shouldn’t run out of techniques!! 

A really great way of making sure you are using the revision techniques which are right for you, is by figuring out whether you are a kinaesthetic learner, a visual learner, or an auditory learner. You can still incorporate different styles of revision regardless of your learning type, however it can be useful to know how you best retain information. 

Click here to take a quiz on what type of learner you are.

Motivating Yourself

Revision can be really difficult to start. It may seem like you have too much to learn, the process might seem too boring, and it’s likely there are other things you’d prefer to be doing instead. This is why it’s important to focus on increasing your self-motivation, and remembering to take little steps in the revision process to help you form bigger steps in the long run. Let’s think about how to increase your motivation

Getting Started…

Starting your revision can be the hardest part, so it’s important to ease yourself in. Choose the subject that you find the least daunting or difficult, and note down the things that you feel confident in, note down the areas that you need to improve on, and start to think about what tools and resources you need to use to increase your knowledge of these areas. Before you know it, your brain will be engaged in the task, and you’ll be in the swing!

Get yourself into a routine…

Like everything else, the more revision you do, the better you will get at revising. As you create a routine, it will become more and more natural to study and remain motivated. Create your revision schedule, and although your subject areas will change as you go through the days/weeks, keep the timings the same – ensure you have a break of the same length and at the same time, every day, and this will help you stay motivated, knowing you have a break coming up.

Don’t panic if things aren’t going to plan…

If you find that you are in a cycle of panic and/or procrastination, it’s important to take some time away from your revision. Don’t feel like you have to stay sat at your desk, as it’s likely to be counter-productive. Instead, try going to another room, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths, then refocus on your goals and ambitions to keep yourself motivated.

  • Why do you want to study? Go back to thinking about your goals and what you want to achieve at the end of the year, and remember that no matter what, there will always be a plan b. Do your best, and that’s all that anyone can ask of you
  • Don’t be too hard on yourself! Everyone is human, and the more negative your thoughts, the worse you will feel, and the less productive you’ll be.
  • What have you already achieved? You’ve done so much work whilst at school and every school year before Year 11, you’re likely to have already done a lot of important revision, and although you may have had times where you could’ve tried harder, you can be in control of trying harder now – so just go back and try again!

Create a study zone…

The better your environment, the more productive you will be. Take some time at the start of your day/study period to create a peaceful environment, with as few distractions as possible. It should be quiet, well-lit and spacious if possible. Try and sit at a kitchen table or a desk to help you keep focused. 

Shut out distractions…

In a world where most people are glued to their phones, it can be difficult to switch off completely. Try turning your phone off for the hours that you are revising, or at least turn it over so you can’t see the screen. (You’ll work even better if it’s out of your reach – try and avoid temptation!!)

Every time you get distracted, you’ll lost your flow and it can become more and more difficult to start back up again. You’ll also be wasting your revision time and learning less and less! If the distraction isn’t there, then you can’t be tempted by it!!

Get out more…

When you have a break, make sure you move away from your study zone, to ensure you feel refreshed when you return. Go and get a bit of fresh air, have a stroll round your house, or just go and get a drink or snack.

So remember, the more pressure you put on yourself, the harder it will be. Take it as it comes, do as much as you can, and use your time as effectively as possible! 

Managing Exam Anxiety and Stress

The exam period can be a very stressful time for a lot of students. It is a period of unknown, with questions that are completely out of your control. However, how you deal with the stress and period leading up to your exams, is in your control, and it’s important that you look after yourself throughout this period, to help minimalise the stress and worry as much as possible.

So, what you can do to manage your stress?

  1. Recognise stress symptoms – it is important that if you experience any of these, that you take a moment to make sure you are taking breaks, eating well, and being kind to yourself. Symptoms of stress include:
    • Loss of appetite
    • Not sleeping well
    • Forgetfulness
    • Stomach pains
    • Headaches
  2. Watch what you eat – eating a balanced diet will put you in a better mood for studying and will help to recover energy that is lost whilst revising
    • Try to reduce your intake of sugary food as this can lead to mood imbalances and cause you to lose concentration
  3. Try and be physically active – exercise will help clear your mind and boost your energy levels
    • It’s important to remember that being active doesn’t have to mean going for a run, going to the gym or doing a workout – it can be as simple as going for a walk, cycling to the shop, etc.
  4. Get enough sleep – you need to rest your brain to make you ready for the next days revision/actually sitting the exam
    • Students have a tendency to continue revision all through the night – but you should make an effort to finish revising early enough to get a full 8 hours of sleep!
  5. Talk to other people – rather than keeping all the stress and worry locked in your head.
    • Talk to your parents, teachers, friends, etc. – it’s likely that they know exactly how you are feeling
  6. Organise your study environment – find somewhere that is quiet and free of distractions whenever you can
    • Library
    • Desk in your bedroom
    • School library
  7. Be your own person – you must create a revision schedule that works for you, and your unique way of doing things
    • Remember that everyone has different abilities and ways of doing things, so try and avoid comparing yourself to others all the time.
    • You are your only competition, so ensure you put 100% of your effort into everything
  8. Be confident in your ability and your revision
    • If you’ve worked hard, put in the revision time, and done your best then that’s all you can ask for. You’ll be as prepared as you can be, so sit the exam with the confidence that you’ve done enough revision!

On the day: Stay calm, take your time and read the question thoroughly before starting. Deep breaths will help, and just remember – it’ll be over before you know it!! Bookmark this page so you can easily return to it during revision and exam periods.

Next, let’s click ‘read more’ in the box below to reflect on your Post-16 choices.

Your Post-16 Choices

Remind yourself of your Post 16 choices

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