Planny planny plan
First, set out what you need to learn and how much time you have, and how many subjects and topics you have to go through. This can feel very overwhelming at first, but the more you plan it out the more manageable it will actually be and the more likely it will be that you'll get through everything. My condition can fluctuate quite a lot, so I needed to plan in some wiggle room in case I had a flare-up for a week or something.
It can help to be quite methodical and tick things off as you go (gives a sense of achievement for small steps) so I sat down and made a spreadsheet of all the exam papers I would have to sit and how many topics I would have to revise for each exam.
So, I had my list of stuff to revise.
Then, I needed to set a time limit for how long I would have to go through everything. This was quite scary, because it meant I had just one week on each exam paper. But this was actually enough to do well enough (that is, to get through the exam, not get 100%!)
Then I planned it down to what I was going to do every day. Be realistic about how much you can do in a day, I have chronic fatigue so my limit was four hours per day. I would do two hour-long blocks on one subject in the morning, and two hour-long blocks on a different subject in the afternoon. That way, I kept consistent and felt like I was making progress in more than one area. I learnt that you don't want to spend too long on the same topic because it's easier to procrastinate if you have too much time to spend on one thing.
JUST. GET. STARTED.
This is the hardest bit. Do whatever you need to to just get GOING. It can feel really overwhelming if you think AAAAHH I need to learn this whole topic today. I found it easier to just break every tiny thing down, so instead of thinking ‘I need to learn the entirety of Of Mice and Men’, I thought:
‘Now, I just need to sit at my desk and turn on the computer.’ ‘Now, I just need to find and open a past paper.’ And every tiny step is an achievement. Focus on the tiniest steps to JUST. GET. STARTED.
Discipline is key... and so is forgiveness
I made so many mistakes with my revision, mainly thinking ‘oh, I'll just spend one more day on that topic I find so difficult..." and then ending up spending twice the amount of time on a topic at the beginning that never even came up.
Looking back, I got better at revision as I went along, so I should have just moved through all the topics as I'd planned so I could come back to it later. It's easy to get bogged down at the beginning but just keep moving through the stuff.
It's never smooth and you will make mistakes and have bad days and all you can do is keep going. If you really get stuck in a rut, move on to the next topic and set time aside to come back to it.
Coping with anxiety and not feeling in control
Of course, you want to do yourself justice, and you may have various pressures and barriers that make exam preparation difficult for you. So, do everything you can to make revising fun for yourself (short of procrastinating, where possible!!)
I would get myself started some days by playing music and imagining I'm in a training montage in a film, or imagining I'm a spy trying to crack a code or a detective trying to research a suspect. It all helps.
And finally, remember to keep on doing the things you love because they remind you that exams are not everything. If for whatever reason things don't exactly go as you hoped (there's always something), it doesn't mean that you won't have an amazing life filled with awesome things. Things always do work out in the end, whatever path you take. It can be easy to slip into perfectionism, but often this can just slow you down. Sometimes things just have to be good ENOUGH to open doors for you (that is, if you need 60%, you only need 60%, not 100% to get where you need to be).
So, my motto is work smart, not hard.
- Planny planny plan.
- JUST. GET. STARTED.
- Move quickly through the stuff.
- Work smart not hard.
- It only has to be good ENOUGH .
Don’t forget that Believe & Achieve is here for you, whether you want to chat about exams, revision or ways to stay calm and self-care during the exam period.