Plan, practice and prepare: our top tips for exam success

Blog for students
18 April 2019
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‘Exam time;’ a phrase that can instil fear and anxiety in any language!  At UKCISA we know that exam season is a particularly stressful time so we’ve put together some tips to help reduce any anxiety and help you prepare:


1. Give yourself enough time to revise. Start by creating a realistic revision plan based on when you work best. Are you more motivated in the morning or at later in the evening? This will help you to revise at the most productive time for you 

2. Practice, practice, practice! Familiarise yourself with the layout of the exam by taking past papers.  This will help you understand how much time you’ll have to answer each section and means you’ll feel more prepared about the format and the kinds of questions asked. We suggest seek help and information from your academic department – this might be your lecturer, course tutor or departmental administrator and you can also get lots of useful guidance from library staff

3. Explain your answers to others. Speaking what you’ve learned aloud is a great way to check that you really understand what you’ve been studying. Why not set a time to ‘information swap’ with people on your course or your housemates (they don’t need to be studying the same subject!)

4. Factor in some ‘me time’ into your revision plan. Don’t lock yourself away for hours on end - making time for relaxation is important and will help to reduce stress. This will allow you to focus more on your revision. Research has shown that 30 minute spells of revision work best (take a look at this article in the Independent for more information)

5. Look after your body. Eating a healthy diet and ensuring you stay hydrated will help keep you healthy over exam season. There are some tips about quick and healthy food at BBC Good Food

6. Reward yourself. We know revising is tough. So why not treat yourself after tackling a particular topic or after a set time period? This could be anything from going out for a coffee to watching your favourite TV programme

7. Turn off those social networks. Just while you’re revising! Abstaining from social media can help you focus on studying rather than tempting you to procrastinate

8. Use support on offer from your institution.  Many universities and colleges run exam preparation seminars to prepare you as well as seminars on how to avoid procrastination, how to cope with exam stress etc.  Find out what is available and use it!

9. Check where you’re going! An obvious, but often forgotten, one. Make sure you know where your exam is and what time it starts This will help you to avoid additional stress on the day itself

10. As well as checking where you’re going to take the exam, do you know what (if any) equipment you can bring? You may be able to bring a dictionary or calculator depending on what you’re studying. There are also a number of items that are not allowed in the exam hall. These vary but most exams prohibit mobile phones and food and drink (other than a bottle of water). Please check with your tutor or lecturer about these items so you’re not at a disadvantage if you don’t bring something you could have

11. If you find that you’re struggling with revision, are unsure of what topics might be on the exam or are anxious about any aspect of the tests; please talk to your tutor or student advice centre wherever you’re studying

12. Be traditional. Are there traditions in your home country that you would usually take part in? A BBC article mentions avoiding seaweed soup, drinking chicken essence and wearing lucky red underwear! If you have any traditions yourself, why not share some of these ideas with your classmates and friends?

If you're feeling stressed about exams we recommend having a look at Student Minds

Best of luck from all at UKCISA! Let us know how you get on. 


What top tip for exam success do you rely on? Please share any other ideas in the comment box below to help your fellow international students.