Whether you’ve got an exam around the corner or you’ve got a few months to prepare, creating an effective exam revision plan is the very first step you need to take on your journey to kick-butt exam grades.
In this blog post you’ll discover the simple 5-step process I use to plan for my exams. Implement these steps and you’ll feel a lot more confident moving forward in your exam revision.
5 Steps to Creating an Effective Exam Revision Plan
1. How long do you have to revise?
The first step to creating an effective exam revision plan is working out how long you actually have to revise.
So work back from your exam date to identify how many weeks there are until the big day, then write this at the top of a piece of paper.
Now it’s no use knowing how many weeks you have left if you don’t also know how busy those weeks already are.
So then note down any remaining studying commitments you have between now and your exam e.g. assignments, tutorials, group projects…etc.
Then, I want you to do this for the rest of your life. Add headings for your other commitments, such as personal, work…etc. Write down any events or responsibilities that will take up your time before your exam.
Now you’re starting to build the picture needed to create your exam revision plan.
2. What do you need to revise?
The second step is to do some exam investigation and find out what your exam is about.
Will it cover everything you’ve learned in the year or module, or will it be focused on specific topics?
You can find this out by asking your tutor, talking to your university, or looking in your module handbook.
Once you’ve got a general idea of what might come up I want you to get specific and create an exam concept map.
Depending on the amount of content you need to revise, take one or a few sheets of paper and create some exam concept mindmaps.
Draw a bubble in the middle and write in it your exam title.
Then using the guidance from your tutor, university or handbook, start mapping out all the topics and concepts you need to revise. Try to dig deep and get specific here so you end up with mindmaps containing individual theories, concepts and models.
You want to create a one-stop resource for you to keep coming back to throughout your revision.
3. What is your current understanding?
The third step to creating a kick-butt exam revision plan is to determine how well you know the concepts already.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of just rereading the stuff you know over and over, because it makes you feel calmer and more prepared.
But it’s important to focus the majority of your revision time on the theories you’re less confident with, so you can improve your understanding and recall in the exam.
Now don’t panic if you feel like you know nothing. If you have an effective, smart revision system in place you WILL be able to learn the concepts needed to pass well.
Completing this step means you’ll know how much time you need to dedicate to revision. You’ll be able to spend less time revising for an exam where you feel confident about most concepts, than for an exam where you’re lacking understanding in a lot of areas.
Take the mindmap or mindmaps you’ve created and identify your confidence level right now for each element.
So if you were given an exam question about a topic, would you feel:
- you could give a good answer
- you could give some details but you may miss some
- you have no idea whatsoever.
Either colour code your mindmaps or create lists so you can see your confidence levels easily and prep for the next stage in creating an exam revision plan.
4. Plan your weeks and days
So you’ve worked out: how long you have to revise; your other commitments; what you need to learn; and how well you know each concept.
Now it’s time to start creating your exam revision plan.
Print out some of my weekly planners and start scheduling revision sessions. Add in your existing work, personal and studying commitments then find spaces to add in time for revision.
It’s important to physically book these sessions in because ‘if it doesn’t get scheduled, it doesn’t get done’.
Then take your concept maps and work out what you want to revise and when. This will help you stay on track and dedicate enough time to each area you need to revise.
Don’t worry about these plans being ‘perfect’ – as things always change. Crises will come up but it’s helpful to start off organised and with an idea of the topics you need to cover each week.
Then, if you want to break it down further you can. At the beginning of each week, split your weekly plan into daily plans and use my study session planner to list your priorities for each day’s revision session.
Complete these 4 steps and you’ll be almost there in creating an effective exam revision plan.
5. The 3 keys to exam revision success
Now I want to share with you some key ideas you need to keep in mind when creating your exam revision plan, but also during your revision.
1. Revise every concept multiple times
The power of revision lies in reviewing each concept multiple times as each review increases your understanding and the amount you’ll be able to recall in your exam. So aim to review every concept once, then go back and focus your time on re-reviewing everything you’re still unsure on.
2. Focus on active learning
Active learning is VITAL for exam success. Passive revision techniques are rereading notes, making posters, creating flashcards of bullet points – anything that doesn’t involve you actively TESTING your knowledge.
Instead you want to focus on active revision techniques: making and taking quizzes, completing practice papers, testing yourself with simple flashcards.
Embrace the discomfort of testing your knowledge so you can actually remember what you learn in your exams…and nab those high grades.
3. Make space in your schedule
After completing step 1 you may realise you haven’t got a lot of ‘free’ time to revise.
Ultimately, you’re going to have to make time if you want to be as prepared as possible for your exam. Look at your schedule and see where you can create space.
Could you take any days off work to boost your revision time?
Could you rearrange any social plans until have your exam, or alter some so they’re shorter or closer to home?
Could your friends or family help out with more housework or with childcare?
Commit to finding some ways to make more space so you can give your exam revision the dedication it deserves.