Study Skills, Exam Revision and Time Management

Friday, June 26th, 2020 | Petrina Duncan | No Comments

Student sitting meditatively on pile of booksRevising for exams is a task that most students dread. It’s that daunting time when you suddenly realise that there is a lot more information to learn than days left to learn it all. Often, many other events are going on in your life at the same time, so revision gets left until the last minute, which only makes things worse. As your stress levels build, you may find it difficult to sleep or lack the energy to exercise. Ultimately, you need to monitor your own stress levels and take control over when and how your revision gets done.

The University of Leicester in the UK has produced some very helpful and informative guides for students on topics such as revision techniques, managing exam stress, exam skills, organising your time, planner timetable templates and improving your reading skills.

If there is one piece of advice to give, plan ahead. It’s never too early to start getting organised for assessment. With a clear plan for each of the subjects you’re studying, you will have more confidence and a sense of purpose. You’ll know what the end goal is, how long you have to get there, and all the steps needed on the way to achieving success.

For school students, you’ll probably have some practice exams coming up during Term Three. These exams are often shorter in duration than the final exams because you haven’t yet covered all the topics for the year’s work. Find out from your teachers exactly what will be examined in the practice exams. Then find out when these exams are and make a plan going backwards from exam week to now. Use a planner template to plan when you will revise each subject. You can also add in other commitments such as sports practice, hobbies and leadership roles. You may have other deadlines such as internal assessments, practicals and sports competitions coming up, all of which should be added to your planner.

Identify when you have time each day to study for the exams. It might be a slot between 4pm and 6pm each week day, or a Saturday afternoon. For each subject you study at school, allow at least three hours of study time per week. As exams get closer, increase the number of hours per week. Remember to include breaks, sport, relaxation and fun in your schedule. Avoid too much computer time, especially just before bed. If you are lacking motivation, think about creating a study group with a few friends. Getting together for a focused session for one hour might be more worthwhile than sitting alone at home all evening getting distracted by social media. You could even teach each other part of a topic. Most of all, keep eating well, get plenty of sleep and exercise, and monitor your stress levels.

Revision can be broken down into four phases:

  1. You’ll need to do an initial reading of the content of a topic. After reading, try writing a summary (from memory) of what you have read. Organise the summary in a way that works for you, such as in mind maps, wall charts, flash cards, voice recordings or flow charts. Go back to check that your original notes match your summary – add in any forgotten information.
  1. Next you should read your summary over and over again for the next few days. Test your knowledge by forcing yourself to say it out loud, make links between parts, do quizzes, draw diagrams, write paragraphs or write definitions. Stick notes onto the wall of your room so that you see them daily. Your aim is to move the information into your long term memory.
  1. Monitor your ability to recall/understand certain aspects over others. Which bits do you keep forgetting? Try another way to remember those things. Keep reading over your notes and summaries. Test yourself again. Ask a friend/relative to help with testing you. Do more quizzes or multi-choice tests … try Kahoot online.
  1. Finally, practise answering past exam questions. NZQA subject resources can be found here. Become familiar with the way exam questions are worded for each subject. Be aware of which topics have been asked in the last three years of exams. If parts of questions such as graphics or photos are missing from the website versions of exams, ask your teachers if they have a paper version that you can photocopy. Mark your work using online assessment schedules. Give your work to your teacher for feedback and ask if you can spend some time going over their suggestions after class.

At this point, forming a small study group would be worthwhile. You could all attempt a past exam paper, then meet up to discuss your answers and mark each other’s work. Talking about the parts you struggled to answer will help your understanding greatly. Find out how your friends are doing their revision. Swap ideas and share your knowledge. Keep it fun!

Finally, always put your phone in another room when you are studying. It is just a distraction. Use it as a reward for an hour’s solid study when you take a break. Good luck with your revision!


Revision and exam skills (Leicester University, UK):

Phases of revision (Massey University, NZ):

NZQA Subject Resources

Revision tips



Wednesday, October 1st, 2014 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

invisibleNumberAt morning tea the other day, our IT wizard mentioned this website which is an amazing collection of mathematical goodness.

You can type in any equation and get it solved with steps here:

Or if you go to the examples, you can pick something you would like to learn about (to study for example hint hint) and have a play with changing up the numbers in the example questions.

There’s even a spot where you can get them to generate problems for you to practise online with feedback – this is not free but you can get a 7 day trial, just in time for exam study.

So sit back, relax and play with Maths this holiday!!!

I’ve eaten so much fish oil I may grow gills, but I still didn’t ace the Calculus internal…..

Thursday, March 6th, 2014 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

brain fullProducts to increase or enhance memory are seemingly endless, foods, vitamins, minerals, brain exercises… Seems like a lot of work to make my brain, well, work!!

Sooner than you think fair students, you will be writing the last exams of your high school careers, and as part of that process, you will need to call upon your brain’s extraordinary power and memorise/assimilate the subject related knowledge to get you through those externals!!

Whether you want to believe it or not, one of the tried and true exam techniques is NOT leaving it to the last minute or even last term to study, but starting with regular revision now. This could be especially important for external topics covered at the beginning of the year. If you keep touching them regularly, there won’t be a big amount to try and cram into your head all at the end.

Another technique – teaching! Teaching something to someone else makes you think hard about your own understanding of the topic. If you are struggling with a question, try to explain the problem to a friend who is not studying the subject – this can force your brain to work out a solution and someone with little to no knowledge of the subject can make you reconsider information you had taken for granted. Even just speaking the information out loud and trying to explain concepts in your own words helps.

So start studying now, teach your cat some Physics and get ready to see Excellence at the end of the school year. In the meantime – spend some time checking out the Student Learning Centre. This is an invaluable resource for your first year of University but their study tips and writing tips can help you out in High School as well!! They also have a nice printable study planner that is generic enough you can start using it today!

Student Learning Centre

When one door closes, another opens….

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

Or something like that anyway. As you all know, we are rapidly approach the end of the school year, and the end of secondary schooling for the majority of our 2013 intake. Next year our 2013-ers will be off at University, Polytech, gap years, working and more! If you are off to University though, consider this tool for helping you choose a major to focus on. No Major Drama. Yes it is an odd time to be thinking about University but it only takes a few minutes and could be a fun yet useful little exam break (although my top degree path came out as Medicine followed by Dentistry at number 2 and Physics all the way down at number 11!)

Remeber to study hard, make sure to schedule in some breaks, and if you need help, we are only and email/phonecall away 🙂

– Emily