How to Guide Students Through the Exam Season

Published: 27 Apr 2015

Jenny Wilkins, Scholars Programme Manager - Swindon

Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail

May is a crucial time for students as they enter the final stages of exam season.  By now the revision should be well under way which is likely to result in increased stress, if not panic.

So how best to help your students, or child, through this?  Firstly, help them think, plan and prepare their revision; secondly encourage them to consider how a healthy body helps to give them a healthy mind.

Here are some tips that you can pass on to your students to help them do this:

Think – Plan – Prepare

  1. What works best for you when learning/revising – most people have a tendency towards one of the following but rarely use it exclusively:
    • Visual – seeing and reading: e.g. highlight and/or abbreviate notes; use diagrams, colours, revision cards/books, lists, bullet points, mind maps, mnemonics for difficult or long lists/sequences
    • Auditory – listening and speaking: e.g. talk out loud, teach a friend/relative; make up rhymes; discuss with a group; record yourself reading revision cards and listen back
    • Kinaesthetic – touching and doing: e.g. read on the go; teach other people; large scale mind maps; squeeze a ball whilst revising; annotated diagrams; post-it notes on the wall; act it out
  2. Create a Revision Timetable:
    • Start by thinking about your exam timetable – obviously you have more time to revise for the last one than the first one
    • Think about which subjects you find hardest to learn – you may want to allocate more time for them
    • What time of day do you learn best? – you may want to revise the harder subjects when you are at your most productive
    • Now divide your days into slots – morning, afternoon and evening, ensuring you build in time to get up, move around, maybe even go for a short walk in order to keep you alert – a ten to fifteen minute break every hour is a good guideline
    • Block out any times you are unable to revise due to other commitments and some ‘free’ slots when you can catch up or revisit any subjects you feel need extra time
    • Remember to vary the subjects to keep your mind fresh
    • Add up the hours allocated to each subject across the period to ensure the time is allocated appropriately
    • Be realistic – be SMART (specific – measurable – achievable – relevant – timed) in setting your objectives for a session and don’t worry if you get out of step, just revise your revision plan
  3. Organise your study space:
    • Make sure you have a calm space with few distractions – switch off your phone, laptop and any other electrical devices
    • Sit in a comfortable position – but don’t forget to stand up and move around from time to time
    • Ensure you have everything you need before you start revising – notes, notepad, pens
  4. Exam Preparation – the best way to keep calm is to know you are prepared.  Before each exam make sure you:
    • Relax the night before, have a good night’s sleep and a healthy breakfast.  Ensure you turn up early for the exam.
    • Understand what is expected of you – know the key words such as ‘describe, ‘discuss’, ‘compare’ etc as well as the marking scheme
    • Have all the equipment and materials you need for each exam – including spares
    • Take a couple of deep breaths first then read the entire exam paper – making a note of any specific instructions
    • Plan your time – allow more time for the questions that carry more points and ensure you leave enough time to answer all the questions
    • If it is an essay style exam – prepare an outline before you start writing – it will help you focus your thoughts and manage your time better
    • If you have an idea – write it down immediately so you don’t forget it
    • If you have any time left at the end – read over your answers, check for missing information, spelling etc


Healthy Body – Healthy Mind

  • Keep hydrated but avoid high energy drinks as they can give you a quick boost, but then you are quickly exhausted – better to have a steady flow of energy
  • Have regular breaks  – remember to keep active but also to relax your mind – a short walk in the fresh air can help with both
  • Eat healthy food to help maintain your energy and concentration
  • Keep calm – if you have prepared well there is no need to panic
  • Stay positive – you can do this, you have everything you need to succeed
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Talk to your family, friends and teachers about what you’re doing and what they can do to help you


Finally, don’t forget to remind your students to reward themselves when the exams are over – thinking about their ‘treat’ will help them work hard towards that goal.

Useful Resources


Did you find this blog useful?  If so, please share with friends and colleagues using the buttons at the top of the post. You may also be interested in our previous posts on:

Our next post, appearing in early June, will consider what students can do over the long summer break to make returning to school in September easier.  To sign up to receive notifications on forthcoming posts please fill in this form.