The ultimate student revision guide

Find a course
Student completing her personal statement whilst applying to Essex

Keep calm and read on

It's exam season. And stress levels are high. But with our handy revision guide, we'll help you feel prepared so you can stay cool as a cucumber.  

1.  Make a plan

Create a revision planner and schedule in time to review for each exam. Stick this up on your wall so that you can refer to it whenever you need to. Not only is this a great way to keep track of your progress, but it'll help kick-start your revision by making you organise and break down areas of study into manageable chunks. 

Prioritise, and give yourself enough time to get to grips with anything you really struggle with. Make sure your timetable is simple and realistic. Don't kid yourself: are you honestly going to be waking up at half past six on a Sunday morning to brush up on your algebra?

No, we don't believe you either, and whilst ambition is great, it's important not to be too hard on yourself - you're only human, and you'll need rest in order to make the most of your time, which leads us nicely onto our next point. 

2.  Beware the attack of the revision zombies

A healthy body means a healthy mind. Exam period can be stressful, but it's important not to let it get the best of you - you've got to be top of your game and that means getting enough sleep, exercising and eating healthily.

Whilst you might just plan on hiding yourself away with your notes and a month's supply of energy drinks and fast food, you run the serious risk of turning into a revision zombie. Here's how to keep yourself sane during the study period. 

  • Take regular breaks - we mean every hour or so - five minutes of reading does not warrant a rest. 
  • Catch some Z's - get as many early nights as you can. If you're working well into the night but not getting anywhere, it's far better to stop, sleep, and start again refreshed the next day.
  • Move your body - exercise is proven to help studies, so rather than lazying around the house, go for a run - it'll clear your head, energise you and relieve any revision stress.
  • Fill up on brain food - whole grains, oily fish, blueberries and broccoli are all thought to be brilliant for boosting your concentration and energy levels. Why not try our signature blueberry, mackerel and broccoli smoothie?*
  • Kick the energy drinks – trust us, a decent night’s sleep, plenty of water and a banana will provide you all the energy and brainpower you need, without the sugar rush and caffeine shake


*Consume at your own risk.


3.  Experiment

Let's face it, revision can be tough, so it's important to make it as fun as possible. 

‘Fun? Are you kidding?’ we hear you say. Ok, so whilst we aren’t going to pretend you’ll want to swap your salsa classes/X Box/bird watching hobby for revision, there are ways you can inject some fun into your studies and optimise your learning.

Think about how you learn best, and try to use your different senses. You might find you remember things easier by listening, so why not record some sound bites, questions, and revision tips into a dictaphone and play them back. Even better, save them on your phone so you can listen to them
on the go – just make sure you’ve removed them before your end of exams party – nothing will clear a dance floor like your recorded recital of Newton’s three laws of motion.

If you’re more of a visual learner, you might want to draw a very quick illustration or comic strip to help memorise a point, or cover your entire room in posters and mind maps, which will catch your eye even when you’re not officially revising. Some people find working in a group really beneficial, as you can discuss ideas, quiz each other, and help with any problems. Be careful not to get distracted though, it’s important you keep on track.

Whether it’s through song, mnemonics, different accents, interpretive dance or just plain old notes, find a medium that works for you and go for it.


4.  Make sure it's all in hand

At the risk of sounding like your grandma, the art of penmanship is rapidly becoming extinct, and that, my dear, is a great shame. She might have a point, you know.

Back in the good old days, before all these new-fangled  computers and mobile phones, grandma had to write everything with a pen and paper/quill and parchment/chisel  and rock, and whilst this sounds terribly long-winded and time-consuming, good handwriting is actually a pretty useful skill to have.

Because most of us now type rather than write, we’re used to using different muscles in our hands. In an exam, you could be writing frantically for up to four hours, which, if you’re not used to, can actually be rather difficult. If you’re out of practice, you might experience hand cramp and wrist fatigue (a serious ailment during exam period), so it’s definitely worth getting used to writing in timed conditions, and for longer periods of time to build up your hand stamina.

Planning becomes even more important – you can’t just cut and paste paragraphs and edit and re-edit as you write like you’re able to on your computer, so it’s vital you get your ideas sorted before you start scribbling away. If your handwriting looks like something your cat might have scrawled, it’s worth trying to neaten it up. It might not seem like an important factor, but if the examiner simply can’t read your perfect answer, the chances are you won’t get the marks you deserve.


5.  Don't become nocturnal

If you’ve followed the rest of the tips on this list, then this point should, in theory, be totally irrelevant.

Pulling an all-nighter might seem like a viable option, and yes, you may have got through your mock exams, bleary eyed and by the skin of your teeth by cramming the night before, but is it really worth the risk?

Revising over a longer period of time means that more is engrained into your long-term memory, as well as giving you plenty of time to get to grips with anything you really don’t understand. So, to summarise, only use this technique when you absolutely have to.


6.  Relax

A little bit of stress isn’t necessarily a bad thing – it’ll give you the push you need to work hard.

However, sleeplessness, panicking, and nightmares of turning up to your exam naked, and the paper being written in an alien language, really aren’t going to help. If you find yourself getting too worked up, there are plenty of ways to avoid getting the dreaded revision blues.
  • Don’t spend all your time studying – life goes on, so take time out to do things you enjoy.
  • Avoid other stress-heads – hanging out with your friends is a great way to unwind but comparing how much revision you’ve done, particularly the morning before the exam, will only make you paranoid, so try and avoid all exam-related chat.
  • Exercise – see point two. We really can’t emphasise enough how much this will help. Release some aggression with some kickboxing or find your inner calm with a spot of yoga – you’ll feel better.
  • – it speaks for itself really.
  • Think of the light at the end of the tunnel – it’s not all doom and gloom, and it won’t be long until you’re free to enjoy the summer. And just imagine how brilliant you’ll feel when all your hard work pays off.

For more helpful revision tips from our students, search #INSTANTWISDOM on Twitter.

Or if you'd like to download the Revision Guide as a pdf you can here




Student in the Talent Development Centre
Boost your talent

Our Talent Development Centre helps you identify your talents and strengthen areas you need to develop. We offer support and resources to help you improve your writing, maths, research skills, study skills and English language.

Find out more about the Talent Development Centre

Study here?

Essex is top 15 in England for overall student satisfaction (NSS 2018, mainstream universities*)
Awarded the highest rating of Gold in the 2017 Teaching Excellence Framework
8 of our departments feature in QS World Rankings 2017
Students sitting outside student centre
Student in the Talent Development Centre
Student studying with laptop