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Revision and Examination Skills

Revision and examination skills

Examinations can seem daunting, but any student can achieve highly with the right amount of preparation.

Before you start revising, consider how you like to revise.

  • Morning or afternoon?

  • Alone or with friends?

  • At home or in the library?

Make a list of what exactly you need to cover – and what you can leave out. This will stop you feeling less overwhelmed.  It can be tempting to procrastinate sometimes in the beginning, so try to remove as many distractions from your environment as possible.  Some students prefer to listen to music while they’re revising; whether you do this is a matter of personal choice.

Managing your time

Aim to start six weeks before your exams. It is recommended that revision sessions should last around 45 minutes, followed by a five minute break.

Making a revision timetable is recommended (see below.) Ensure you leave enough time for your other commitments, whether that be caring for dependents or working part time.  It is also important to give yourself a break in the evenings and do something you enjoy, otherwise you may burn out.

Image of an example revision timetable

If you have four examinations to revise for, try to roughly split your time so you spend an equal amount of time revising each module.

Group work

Some students enjoy revising with others, although make sure you do not get distracted discussing other non-exam related topics.

Explaining what you have learnt to a friend is a good way of consolidating the information in your mind. You could also practice writing answers to past exam papers together or swap memory cards.

As you revise, write out a list of questions about the different topics – with the answers too! Then towards the end of your revision, you can look back at this list and test yourself.

What is active and passive revision?

Some students like to read their notes as their main method of revision. This is a very passive method, and it is unlikely that the information will be retained in your memory.  More active methods – such as making notes on your notes, creating spider diagrams or quizzing yourself – are preferred as it means facts are more likely to be converted to long term memory.

Creating a skeleton essay

Rather than writing out a full essay (which could take a while), it could be productive to create a short outline of how you would answer the question.

It may be useful to write out full essays occasionally, to get used to the timings of the essay. However, skeleton essays allow you to practice the hardest part of writing – remembering and selecting the right facts.

If you are not sure about how to structure an essay or how to construct the perfect paragraph, information can be found in other parts of the LibGuide.


Ahead of the examination, work out how many marks are available for the full exam paper and how much time you will have for each question. This information can usually be found in your Module Study Guide or by asking your lecturer.  Once you have received this information, divide up your time according to how many marks are available.  Remember to give yourself 5 minutes for planning at the start and proofreading at the end.

Avoid cramming

Cramming refers to studying intensively for many hours at the last minute. 

Cramming is usually ineffective – it tires out the student both physically and mentally and leads to poor retention of information. It is better to start studying in advance to get you in the best shape possible for the examination.

In the exam room

  • Follow all instructions regarding electronic devices and what you can take in.

  • Highlight or circle the key questions you want to answer, ensuring that you have read them properly.

  • If you find a question you cannot answer, leave it and come back to it later – you may find that you remember more later.

  • After the examination, try to refrain from discussing your answers with your friends.You may find this makes you more anxious.



  • If you want your brain to perform to its best during the exam, you also need to look after your body. It is recommended that you:

  • Sleep for at least 8 hours an day

  • Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day.

  • Make sure you get all the essential nutrients in your diet.

    If you find yourself overwhelmed by nerves and anxiety, you may want to contact the Counselling team. They can be contacted at or 020 8231 2218 (link to webpage here)