Exam Revision Health Check – Are You Studying Too Much?

With exam season about to get into full swing it seems a strange question to ask, but are you studying too much? Just how much is too much? And how much should you study during the holidays leading up to exams?

Exams are not just about the ability to simply recall key words, but being able to apply then in context; and this is where long term memory techniques are needed! Comitting information to your long term memory requires a combination of repetation of similar topics in small chunks, and a low stress environment.

According to Barnaby Lennon, ICS (Independent School Council) Chairman and former Headmaster of Harrow, students should be revising for 7 hours each day for most of the Easter Holidays. This applies to both gcse and a level students. whilst I don’t entirely disagree with him open brackets and certainly don’t disagree with his methods close brackets, my own approach uses the 10-minute approach that can be applied to any year group.

The 10 minute method is usually applied to the amount of time for homework during a usual term time. But can be easily adapted to plan revision during the holidays full stop new line the system suggests 10 minutes of study for each year of education per day. For example, in year 11 in the UK, you’ve been in formal education for 12 years:

12 x 10 minutes = 120 minutes or 2 hours per night

This means that over 5 days you’ll be studying 2 hours per night or 10 hours per week when also attending school with usual lessons.

Using Barnaby Lennon’s theory, if you continue your 2 hours of homework time throughout the holidays and add the time you would usually be in class (5 hours) then 7 hours makes perfect sense. However, class time also includes group discussion, admin (register, answering questions, other disruptions) so working individually may not actually require quite so long. Instead, try this equation for working out your easter revision schedule:

10 Minute Rule (TMR)  = (Year Group + 1) x 10 minutes

TMR x 5

Add (2 x Number of Subjects)

Using this, the average Year 11 with eight GCSE subjects could calculate their time in the following way:

TMR = (11 + 1) x 10 = 120 minutes per day (2 hours)

(TMR x 5) + (Subjects x 2)

(2 x 5) + (8 x 2)

10 + 16

= 26 Hours per week during the holidays

OR

5.2 hours each day

But how do I spend that much time studying?!

Breaking down your revision into manageable chunks will help. using the calculation above, you could cover all 8 subjects each day with 40 minutes per subject.

Study for 80 minutes, then build in a 20-minute break. The example below shows how you could divide your eight subjects into smaller, more manageable daily chunks. This is a technique called “time chunking’ that many bloggers and vloggers use to maximise their time:

 9 English 9.4 Maths 10.2 BREAK 10.4 History 11.2 German 11.4 LUNCH 12.4 Computer Science 1.2 Science 1 1.4 BREAK 2.2 Music 2.4 Science 2 3.2 FREEDOM!

For the days you want to go out with friends, or just have a little downtime, split the study in two or get started little earlier. Don’t be tempted to remove the breaks though! It’s important to give your brain some time to digest the information – just like you wouldn’t go for a run straight after a meal.

If you’re struggling to set out your study plan, you can always use a timetable templates like my Painlessly Planned Revision planner to help get organised. Just remember to spend more time revising then planning!

Holly

Mocks Shouldn’t = Misery

I’ve set myself a mission for the next few weeks. Every morning, before I do anything else I’m responding to at least 5 cries for help from students on social media.

We’ve entered the festive season of mock exams and for many year 10s, 11s, and A Level students this has meant an increase in mental health problems. So many posts about feeling overwhelmed, scared, and much much worse cannot be ignored.

The majority of my responses are reminding them that the results are formative, so will help them revise better. It’s not a “fail”, it’s still a work in progress. These discussions have prompted me to create my Painlessly Planned Revision printable which I’ve linked to at the end of the post.

What are mocks for?

With the new A Levels being linear (the exams are at the emd of two years), and most GCSEs being at least 80% – 100% exam, most students won’t experience the exam hall until the real thing. Mock exams give students a taster for what it’s like, so when they sit the real exams the anxiety of where to sit & what to bring is gone.

They’re also a way to assess progress so far. By now, most (not all) of the syllabus will have been covered and many teachers will use mocks to pick up on trends of topics that need to be re-covered as a class. They also give students the opportunity to identify what to put into their revision plan later.

They are not:

• An end point
• Going towards the real exam
• Pointless
• The end of the world

Can I fail my mocks?

On a technicality, yes. But! You’re not failing in a final sense. It’s not failure, but feedback.

• Am I on track for my target?
• Are there topics I need to study?
• Can I improve my technique?

Even if the grade written on the front of the moack exam paper isn’t what you were hoping for, it is an opportuinity to identify when you should work on over the next few months so it’s not the grade that arrives in the results letter.

How Am I Meant To Revise If We Haven’t Finished The Syllabus?

If you haven’t covered it in class, it most likely won’t be in your mock paper. Lots of students have fooled themselves into thinking that every school is given a set of mock papers that everybody sits. Some are even sharing these online.

Firstly, don’t be so daft to think that sharing exam papers won’t land you in a tonne of hot water. If that really is an exam board mock paper, you could end up in heaps of trouble. Everything you post online is tracable, even if you’re not using your real name. Just don’t risk it. Please.

Secondly, the vast majority of schools and colleges write their own mock papers, and will set them based on what you have covered so far.

The best advice I can give you is to plan your revision to cover all of the topics that you have been taught, and if you can’t remember just ask your teacher for a list of topics (you can make it easier on them by printing the topic list from your exam specification and asking them to highlight the topics that you haven’t covered yet).

Why is Revision So Stressful?

If you weren’t a bit worried about your exams there would probably be something wrong. Feeling a bit worried means that you care about the results. However, if the worry is affecting the way that you sleep or eat, or you have felt really low about them for some time, you ought to talk to someone about it.

I sat my GCSE mocks waaaaaay back in the 90s, and it was quite stressful then. But comparing them to the high stakes & volume of the GCSE tests now, we really did have it easy. If you happen to scroll past posts bemoaning how much easier you have it and that it’s just fuss over nothing, keep scrolling. Don’t take it personally – it’s very likely that they haven’t seen the changes to the exam papers of the past 10 years. Don’t feel that your stress in invalid, equally don’t feed it with poor study habits.

Ok, How Should I Revise Then?

If your mocks aren’t for a few weeks then you still have plenty of time to put together a plan. If not, well a condensed plan will have to do (some revision is still better than no revision). I’ve spent some time putting together my Painlessly Planned Revision printable which I’m sending out into the world completely free.

If you’re a student, please download it and keep reading that first page until you believe that we’ll be utterly proud of your best, no matter what that is (although you might want to fill in the rest too!).

If you’re a teacher, please feel free to download and print off copies for everyone. It’s not subject specific – in fact it’s designed to be a plan for all revision.

If you’re a parent or guardian, please download it and use the first few pages as prompts to talk to your child about how they feel going into revision, and as a springboard to being able to offer help (even if you’re a bit nervous about it).