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Revising for multiple exams: tips & techniques

Managing exams can be hard enough without the added pressure of having multiple topics to absorb within a short time frame, especially if you didn’t start revising until recently…

So you have several exams coming up, each with their own weight of knowledge to be understood and committed to memory. Overwhelming? Definitely. So what can you do to manage all of this information? Here are our handy tips:

Prioritise

Firstly, you need to get organised and work out your timeframes. When is each exam? How long do you have between them? Is one module exam going to take more time to revise than another? Get a handy timetable with your exam times written in just so you get an idea of the space between them. You can easily do this on your phone calendar if you don’t want to waste time drawing up a perfect, colour coded calendrical masterpiece…  (Who knew calendrical was a word?!). Once you’ve done this, you should have an idea of how much time to dedicate to each topic and which topics to master first. Make sure you start revising all your topics from now though, rather than taking one at a time and relying on your short term memory! Which leads me onto…

Identify subject overlap

You’ll probably find that a lot of your modules have some overlapping topics, themes or base information. Make sure to make the most of this! Identify the examples/case studies/key texts/theories which apply to more than one of your potential exam questions. By doing this, you’ll be saving some precious memory space and minimising the information that you need to learn. To give you an example (sticking to what I know here – bear with me), the Ara Pacis (the Ancient Roman Altar of Peace) not only tells us about Augustus (to whom it was dedicated) but its symbolism covers the themes of art, religion and Roman society. It was a really useful piece of art to understand intimately because it was so applicable to several of my exams. Naturally, you’ll have to apply this technique to your own subject area but once you have a few key examples under your belt, you’ll feel a lot more confident about dealing with unknown exam questions.

Keep things physically separate

Now this might seem to contradict my previous point but creating some division between exam topics is essential. You don’t want to be sitting in an exam with a smoothie of information in your brain, unable to pick out your previously revised key points or that one applicable equation. By keeping your exam revision physically separate, you’ll find it a lot easier to get into the correct mind-set in each exam. There are lots of ways to do this: colour coding each topic meticulously (down to the colour of your pen or ring binders) helps those with a more visual learning style, while revising each topic in a different setting can help more kinaesthetic learners. I remember for one topic, I made sure to wear the same hoodie when revising. I then wore this hoodie to the exam and the association really helped bring back the revision & key facts. Probably not the most hygienic solution, but desperate times…

NB: for any subject overlap, it’s best to repeat each relevant example within each exam revision pack, keeping them separate. Otherwise your revision notes can get rather confusing!

Take breaks before switching revision topics

Much like keeping things physically separate, it helps to create some head space between each topic. An easy and simple way to do this is to take a break, move around and switch up your scene. Mental distancing is just as important in avoiding a soup of information! (Yes, I’m fond of food metaphors.) There’s no better way to do this than getting up, taking a quick leisurely stroll or popping down to the café for delicious revision snacks. And of course, the Library’s Study Happy campaign has lots of potential break activities. Check out their programme.

 I hope you find these tips helpful. If you have any that I haven’t mentioned, pop them in the comments. Best of luck in your exams!

Image: juggling/lollyman/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

 

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