Exams are still a huge part of the educational process.  Whilst debates continue over the merits of standardised testing and new innovations emerge as potential successors, examinations currently remain the most effective way of measuring knowledge retention and student progress; as well as ascertaining their best routes forward.  Exam time can be almost as stressful for teachers as it can be for students.  Depending on your subject or age group, you could find yourself setting, moderating, marking, or accurately preparing your class for, a range of different exams and tests.  Teachers also have to deal with the added pressure of ensuring they have given their students enough support and guidance for them to be able to perform at their best. All of us will have stories of students who have strived to do well on exams or surpassed their own expectations and the happiness that ensues when results day arrives. 

Given that many students will find themselves tackling exams in the next few months, we thought it might be worth collecting together some tips and tricks for how to help them prepare.  We’ve even sourced some more unusual options if you have been looking for something more unique.  We understand how different our students can be and that many of them can struggle with conventional retention methods.  That is one of the reasons why it is so important for us to consider new ways to teach and to seek out opportunities for designing bespoke teaching aids that can help students flourish in their own way. 

Plan it out

One of the biggest issues students can face when revising is becoming overwhelmed.  Having become used to a set school timetable and structured days, they can often get quite lost when having to juggle multiple subjects without guidance.  Set some time aside to help students work on building their own timetable for revision and how best to slot things together. Make sure they schedule in breaks and other activities, perhaps even on a work/reward basis; for instance 2 hours of work gets them 30 minutes of TV time.  Show them the benefits of having a plan that they can refer too if they start to feel lost and that by mixing up their studying they can avoid feeling bored or having their learning stagnate. 

Clear the mind

If you have study periods in your classroom, this is a great way to get everyone in the right mind set and a helpful practice for them to employ at home. Begin study sessions with a quick meditation.  The exact nature of the meditation can be completely up to you, especially as you know your students the best, but even a quick few minutes of quiet time and deep breaths can work wonders for preparing the mind.  You could use an app, tell a story, share affirmations or play soft music or white noise; whatever works for your classroom.  The bottom line is that you will be helping your students focus for the task at hand and get them to associate a peaceful mind as the route to the most productive study sessions. 

Spark a conversation

Help your students open up about their revision practices and struggles.  By having a dialogue between students you are letting them know that revision challenges are very normal and that different people might need different solutions to learn more effectively.  Encourage those who seem more confident to share their methods with the class and help propose ideas that might work for others.  If concentration is an issue, perhaps listening to calming sounds or music might help?  Often music with words can be distracting, but classical music or film scores can be very conducive to knowledge retention, especially if they begin to associate the sounds with successful learning practices.  

Keep it colourful

There are so many other little tips and tricks that can be helpful when finding the right niche to facilitate successful revision.  From flash cards to covering a room in post-its, sweet-treat rewards (may we suggest an Oreo for every page?!) to rapping your notes, there is definitely a technique, or techniques, to suit every learning style and student.  It is important to make sure students who do struggle with exams are shown that there are plenty of ways to learn and that finding their own will be extremely beneficial.  Here are some more quirky methods that some of your students might want to draw on:

  • Record your notes onto your phone and listen to them as you walk around, do chores or fall asleep
  • Find a family member and explain your topic or subject to them, by getting them to understand it you will immediately expand your knowledge and retention
  • Revise with friends and design games that incorporate the necessary knowledge – or test each other and have fun rewards or penalties for correct or incorrect answers
  • Use different colours of pens, folders or notes for different subjects or areas of a subject.
  • Smell the difference. Since our sense of smell can be a powerful memory trigger, you could try wearing a particular perfume or spray whilst revising a particular subject and then use that same one in the exam. 

How do your students cope with revision?  How did you cope with revision?  Make sure you share with us your tips and tricks!  Do you think the exam system is still useful?  Is there a better way we could be testing or evaluating our students?  Let us know what you think and let’s keep the conversation going!