Revision and exams - some top tips to get you through

Geoff Filmore, student rep at Plymouth University, has some very helpful advice to help make your revision less tedious and more effective. He also has some top tips for the exams – well worth a read...

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Revision is one of those things that just has to be done. Nobody enjoys it, but it’ll be worth it in the long run if you put the work in. Probably the most important thing is to find a revision technique that works for you. 

Everyone is a bit different. Personally, I make flashcards, either on paper or using an app on my phone. But some people will find going over flashcards soul destroying! For me it’s perfect, as if I feel productive, I can go over them on the bus going in to uni or have a quick read through them before an OSCE. Other techniques include mind maps, shrinking your notes as much as possible and group quizzes, but have a look around online if you’re looking for something different to try, or ask some of your friends what they do.

Here are some of my tips for revision:

  • Try and limit the amount of distractions around you, unless you’re able to ignore them. You can always go to the library, a coffee shop, or somewhere else.
  • Most people listen to music when revising, and this can be good, but you might find that some music will distract you more than others – If you find yourself singing along to some catchy lyrics, you’re probably not fully focused on the revision!
  • Start revising, or at least making notes you can use for revision, as early as possible. This helps in two ways: 
    • Firstly, you’ll find you follow what’s being said in new lectures/seminars better because you will have a stronger understanding of previous relevant parts (this actually means you’ll end up with less to learn later!)
    • Secondly, you won’t get overwhelmed by it all later, as many modules are way too big to cram in one go – especially when you have multiple to revise for.
  • Take breaks when you revise. You’ll absorb it all better and feel more relaxed/happy if you do something you enjoy alongside the revision. But make sure the breaks are reasonable compared to the amount of revision you are doing.
  • Be aware that, for some modules. It’s virtually impossible to learn everything - anatomy and ocular disease for example.  There’s just way too much to learn in these sorts of modules. Don’t let the amount there is overwhelm you. Choose to focus on the key bits, and don’t let it demoralise you either – just keep working away at it bit-by-bit without stressing too much about the amount there is, it’ll all help in the end.
  • If the revision is going well, treat yourself!

Be prepared for your exams, it’ll make them easier, less stressful and your revision more focused onto the best areas to do well:

  • If your lecturer seems to be dropping hints that something might be in the exam, it probably will be!
  • Past papers are extremely useful: They will give you an idea of what to expect for the exam, and you can treat them like an actual exam to see how you’d do under timed conditions.
  • Make sure you know what to expect from the exam in advance. Is it multiple-choice, or short-answer questions? Do you have to answer everything, or just a certain number of questions? As well as that, knowing how the marks are spread out will give you an idea how long you should be spending on each question.

On the exam day itself: 

  • Try to get a reasonable night’s sleep. Pulling an all-nighter to revise in the library is rarely the best plan!
  • Try and be as relaxed as possible.  That’s easier said than done, but you will do better if you don’t let yourself worry overly much.
  • Eat breakfast even if you don’t feel like it. 
  • If you’ve got an exam-day ritual or like to bring something lucky in, go for it! Anything that gives you a confidence boost is worth it.
  • It’s worth bringing in a sugary snack, water, and something with caffeine: coke/coffee/tea – reach for it if you find yourself losing focus!
  • Don’t spend too long stuck on what to write for a question, you’ll just waste time and get demoralised – skip it for now and come back to it later. You might even think of something to write for it when you’re working on another question.
  • Finally, if you think an exam hasn’t gone great, don’t stress out about it – there’s a good chance you’ve done better than you expected, and if you’ve got more exams coming up you need to try and stay focused for those.

Nobody truly enjoys revision, but exams are just one of those things you’ve got to get through.  Keep focused on your long-term goal, and you just have to tough it out for a few weeks before you’ll be taking months off over summer!

Geoff Filmore
Student rep, Plymouth University

Geoff is a mature student from Cornwall currently in his second year at Plymouth Uni, having completed a foundation year to get his qualifications in order. He loves the practical side of optometry, but thinks the theory can be really interesting too. The course it fast paced, whereas Geoff is a bit more chilled, but he says it pushes him to get more out of himself.


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