Top 5 ways to get through exam season

Five alternative ways to help improve your grades.

We all know that during exam season there’s no escaping revision. When it comes down to it, you can’t really beat solid hours spent creating effective notes, practising developing answers, and ensuring you understand the importance of time constraints. However, there is a definitely a sweet spot with revision, and overdoing it can actually be detrimental to exam performance. Therefore, we'd like to suggest a few alternative methods of improving your grades that don’t involve memorising equations, historical dates, or another Shakespeare quote.

Top 5 ways to get through exam season image

1. Structure is key

A good routine is often cited as a main cause for many peoples’ success and indeed, just like those exam answers you’ve been working on, structure is also key to your daily life. Though many people often see student life as a time that almost encourages a lack of structure, the opposite can in fact be closer to the truth. It’s all about perspective - how you choose to view, and subsequently manage, the time afforded. Whilst having time off from lectures to study does allow a few more lie-ins, you could also spend this time getting into the habit of starting your day earlier, so that 10am exam next week isn’t such a shock to the system.

Watch former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell’s TED talk about how important structure can be to growing children and see if it relates to anything you might be able to incorporate into your own routines.

Colin Powell's TED talk

2. Work it out by working out

Okay, so you’ve been won over and want to add more structure to your day - but where to start? Contrary to popular belief, being a student is actually is actually a great time to get into good exercise habits; believe it or not, you’ll probably never have as much time to dedicate to sporting hobbies or gym sessions. The exam period is a great time to put this into practice. Providing you prioritise your study time, exercising can be a great supplementary revision tool, keeping you alert and energised, whilst helping to relieve stress by producing naturally painkilling endorphins that aid sleep.

Take a look at how one student from Leicester University took his fitness interest to the next level whilst working towards his undergraduate degree.

Bodybuilder David Bissel article on Muscle Food Website

3. Don’t lose friends and alienate people

Whilst the first two suggestions can be scientifically supported by numerous studies, this advice is perhaps more anecdotal. Nevertheless, talking to your peers during this stressful period definitely has its benefits. Whether this means having a bit of a rant about exams to your flatmates, or swapping study techniques with your course mates, verbalising your areas of concern, or equally confidence, may help you approach certain sections of your revision more effectively. Alternatively, if you find your friends are prone to stressing you out even more, then talking your notes through to yourself can also help in the memorising process, just try not to do it in the exam hall.

4. Beneficial breaks

Some people would much rather keep human contact to a minimum at this point, and that’s totally fine too. But regardless, study breaks are necessary in preventing you from burning out and ultimately getting the most out of your revision time. Though, try to make these breaks as beneficial as possible. Whilst Netflix is always an enticing option, it’s best to keep yourself intellectually stimulated during periods of down time. Now, I’m not suggesting you read Nietzsche in between note making (unless that’s your thing…), but think about swapping that extra episode of ‘Always Sunny’ with a Ted Talk, a documentary, or a news article to keep your brain ticking over.

5. Challenge yourself

If you’ve mastered keeping your breaks stimulating, or have run out of interesting documentaries (and no, Keeping up with the Kardashians does not count as a documentary…), then try your hand at activities that will challenge your brain in different ways. There are endless ways to do this, ranging from Sudoku, practising a musical instrument, or even playing Tetris. As extra-curricular activities, these allow you to focus on the process rather than the outcome, which is a great way to view your revision in general.

Even if football’s not your thing, give this article about German club Borussia Dortmund’s coach Thomas Tuchel. The young, up-and-coming manager is quickly becoming renowned for his out-the-box thinking and alternative training techniques that keep his players on their toes.

Thomas Tuchel article on Guardian website

For more guidance on getting through exam season

Consult the Student Counselling Service’s ‘The Step by Step Guide to Exam Success