Your A Level’s can feel overwhelming but there are coping techniques to help you get through this stressful time. Here are six top tips that should go some way to helping you achieve your best whilst preventing any burnouts:
Learn in your own way:
There is no one size fits all approach to learning. We all have different learning styles, so ensure you are studying in the way that is most effective for you. Perhaps this is obsessively re-writing notes, maybe it’s drawing diagrams or maybe it is writing a song about your subject to remember key dates or facts. If you don’t know your specific learning style maybe try a few different approaches and see which resonate most strongly with you.
Having a conversation or debate around your subject with someone can often be a good method of learning! The key is to not let it get you down if you are finding that highlighting and note taking isn’t cutting it for you. It may even be the case that you have different learning styles for each of your subjects, you just need to switch it up and see what suits you best without getting disheartened.
Prepare, prepare, prepare:
This may seem obvious, but it really is key to exam success. Make sure you have plenty of past exam papers – as they say, practice makes perfect! Every year the examination board publishes a report online advising students on what they want to see in their answers, and what they absolutely don’t want to see. Make use of this! Try to read the examiner’s report before you begin studying as it can give you a rough guideline of where you should be putting your focus. Also, don’t go into your study leave without having asked your teachers all the questions you need to. If there’s anything you’re not clear on make sure you get them to explain it to you. It’s far too easy to shy away from asking for help even though we all need it.
Procrastination is real! It can waste hours of your time before you even realise you’ve fallen prey to it. One way to tackle this is to switch up your surroundings. Maybe spend part of the day alone at your desk and then, if you don’t require a computer, switch to an outdoors setting. If the solitude of revision is driving you mad, then you may want to try a café or a public library. You may even want to try creating a study group and revising with friends from class, you can motivate each other, offer each other moral support and test each other on your progression. It’s about whatever combination works best for you.
Self-care is vital:
Exam season is an incredibly stressful time and can lead to a breakdown in your mental health. You must make looking after yourself a priority! It is easy to justify pushing yourself too hard during exams, but this can be just as bad as underpreparing. Lack of sleep harms both your ability to concentrate and your ability to retain information! Try to make sure you are getting a full eight hours sleep, with at least an hour’s down time before bedtime.
Self-care during exams isn’t limited to getting enough sleep; diet is also critical. It is too easy to slip into bad diet routines whilst studying; munching on biscuits, sandwiches and guzzling energy drinks is unsurprisingly not the key to sustained concentration. For a caffeine boost try green tea instead, it is full of antioxidants and won’t send you crashing like coffee or sugary energy drinks will. Water is also a must; aim to get your full two litres each day. Try fruit, nuts or even dark chocolate as a snack instead of the unhealthy alternatives. For main meals, focus on protein rich foods and foods high in Omega 3. A healthy diet will help improve your brain function and stop you feeling lethargic throughout the day.
Exercise is also key to maintaining a healthy mind throughout the revision period. Whether it is yoga, running or just going for a walk, make sure you are incorporating some exercise into your daily routine. Going for a walk is also great way to ensure you are getting time away from your screen – which is vital. It also gives your brain the space it needs to process the information it has just been bombarded with.
Try to create a timetable of your studying hours and be sure to incorporate set breaks. You need to map out when you are going to study what, so you don’t end up focusing on one subject area and neglecting another. In the exam malaise it is easy to over focus on topics you find harder and completely neglect the ones you feel more comfortable with (or maybe vice versa?!). Begin by allocating equal time to each topic and then once you have a grasp on exactly what areas you are lagging behind in, begin to carve out a little more time for them.
Again, this seems like obvious advice, but it is still vital – start early! This will significantly improve your study experience. It means less stress, more chance to familiarise yourself comfortably with the materials and will allow you to pinpoint where you need to improve in time to actually do so.
Broaden your understanding:
Arguably one of the best ways to ensure your revision doesn’t go in one ear and out the other is to take an active interest in it. This means trying to understand its role in the real-world. If you are studying politics – read the newspaper, apply the theories to world events happening today. Studying history? Read other opinions about the historical events you are studying, don’t simply rely on the textbook analysis of the event. Examiners want to see critical evaluation; they don’t just want to know that you can memorise lots of facts. If you can demonstrate your ability to apply the knowledge gained to the world around you, that’s when you will be reaching the top marks.
This also prepares you for any awkward exam questions! When you have a real grasp of your subject it is far less likely that you will find yourself phased by some badly phrased question. You are also less likely to be stumped by a last-minute panic in the exam hall as you will feel far more confident of your ability to answer whatever comes up.
But remember, above all else – look after yourself!