How to prepare for your final year exams

24 July 2019

With the excitement of finishing University, the final phase of your degree will most likely include exams. To help you prepare we asked recent graduate Eleanor, who has just completed her exams, to share her top tips.

Exam season isn’t always the most enjoyable of times, as balancing revision, daily tasks, exercise, all whilst still having a life - can often prove challenging. It personally took me quite a long time to figure out what revision techniques worked best for me, from mind-maps, to revision cards and study-groups. As there are so many options, it can feel overwhelming but you must remember that revision is completely different for everyone, so do not panic if something does not work for you, or it takes some time to get to grips with things. After just finishing my final year exams - here are some tips that I have implemented (or tried to implement!) to get me through the final few months of my degree.

  • Start Revision Early

Starting early is one of the best ways to avoid the classic last-minute exam stress that you are missing key information or haven’t done enough. But despite saying “next year I’ll start revision much earlier”, it doesn’t always materialise in practice. One key thing you can do throughout the year, is ensure that your notes are organised and clear as you go along, rather than having a frantic run around your room attempting to look for notes you made in October. Invest in a folder and keep everything clear, so that when revision comes around, future you will be thanking yourself.Eleanor's study space

  • Do not be afraid to ask questions

Make sure that you understand things as you are taught them! If there is any confusion in a lecture or seminar, don’t be afraid to ask for help. It is so much easier to make sure you understand key concepts early, and give yourself time to recap things rather than trying to teach yourself everything from scratch. Warwick gives you access to so many resources and support systems, so if you feel uncomfortable questioning something in person, it is really simple to email or arrange a one-to-one appointment for advice.

  • Planning ahead

Planning and managing your time effectively is super important to ensure that you are maximising productivity. I would definitely recommend making some sort of timetable (even if you’re like me and don’t always stick to it 100%!), just to make sure that you are allocating all relevant topics evenly. This way you can make sure that you spend longer actually revising, instead of just flustering about what to revise that day. I usually split the day into morning, afternoon and evening - so my plan is not too confined to specific time slots and means that I can be a little more flexible if I need to be.  

  • Set yourself weekly goals

Another thing which I would recommend is to set yourself goals or a checklist for the day/week to help you keep on track. I always find that ticking and crossing off things that I’ve completed really satisfying and keeps me motivated! Over Easter, my motivation was based on treating myself to a mini egg (or perhaps a massive chocolate egg) after every page of notes I completed, for me food is the best motivator, but it is important to find what works for you!  Eleanor's study notes

  • Take Breaks

Making sure you are having an effective work balance is such an important consideration for exam preparation. Studying for hours and hours on end is not always the most productive and you can often get stuck in a rut. I always find that having a break from your notes is the best way to calm down and come back with a fresh mind-set and outlook. Whether that is going for coffee with friends, heading to the gym, or watching an episode of your favourite Netflix show, just make sure that you are breaking up the workload sensibly. Having rewards and nights off motivates me to maximise the time I spend revising and gives my eyes a break after staring at my laptop screen for ages! 

Having said this, be careful not to get too distracted. I can be a queen procrastinator, and often will attempt to avoid revision by doing anything and everything else, from cleaning to looking on social media for hours on end. I ended up blocking the screen time on my phone, as well as placing it on top of my wardrobe, which something I would recommend for any other procrastinators out there. You could even give your phone to a friend!

  • Stay positive and talk to others if you need support  

Sometimes exams can feel like the most important and worrying thing in the world. However, it is so important to put things in perspective, and be aware that you cannot always control everything (which for an absolute control-freak like me can be difficult to accept). Sometimes, things will take longer than you expect or want to, and that is okay! One key thing I struggle to grasp is that facing the day with a positive mental attitude, really does benefit your revision. Even though sometimes revision can feel never-ending and draining, remember that you can do it, or in the words of my best friends “believe in yourself”.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help from friends and family, I find that sharing things makes me feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. Make sure to take care of your physical and mental health, and remember that the university has lots of support systems, so if you’re feeling anxious there is always someone that will be there to help you out.

Overall, the most important thing about revision and the run up to exam season is making sure you have a healthy balance. Prepare in advance, and have a clear plan of action but don’t overdo it, and make sure you still have things to look forward to.

If you have exams coming up, I wish you the best of luck and hope that some of these tips have helped you out!

Looking for more study advice? Check out our student blog about managing your University workload.