Tips for Exam Success

As someone who has gone through secondary school and college there have been a couple of lessons learnt over the years about what to do and what not to do when it comes to studying and revision.  Many students are shocked at the difference and the leap in the amount of work needed between GCSE and A Levels. It is evident in many colleges that there is a distinct difference between the grades many pupils get in their January modules to retakes in the June modules. This is because it quickly becomes apparent on results day in March that A Level is not the same as GCSEs and what worked then doesn’t work as well in college. So here are a couple of tips that I wish I had known and stuck to back when I was starting college. Now this is written as an English student in the view of moving up from secondary school to college so from GCSEs to A Levels but these tips are applicable to anyone taking any exams or studying at any level, so hopefully they are helpful to you.


Many colleges allow pupils to have study leave during the exam seasons, however some like my college do not allow this and have classes scheduled even during exam season; which as much as it was a pain at the time did help me as it meant I was actually revising when if I’d been left to my own devices at home I would have probably still been in bed or out with my friends and not preparing for the exam I had the next day. This changes depending on the person; some people are able to work well at home and stay focused while other people like myself get distracted by daytime television, MSN, or something shiny. Study leave is not just time off, it is essential time to revise and should be treated as such if you want to succeed in your exams and save yourself the panic and stress of last minute revision. So essentials for study leave and exam season:

– Revision timetable with a balance between revision and time off to relax.

– Breaks between revision sessions, there is only so much information you can receive before you brain starts to slow down and become more open to distraction at which point it is better to take a small break and then come back fully refreshed and able to fully concentrate.

– An area to study, quiet and free from distractions with everything you need to be able to revise at hand. It is easier to keep focused if you have everything you need with you and don’t need to be constantly going and getting things.


In my college in particular they were less strict about attendance as you were no longer in compulsory education therefore the only person who would be suffering if you didn’t show up to class would be you, this means there will be no teacher coming after you if you take a day off. However this does not mean that it’s all right to just take a day off whenever you feel like it as there is not much time in the school year and with the vast amount of information the teachers need to give out they may not have time to go back to that particular lesson you missed and even if they do summarize it during end of term revision it will not be in the amount of depth necessary for you to fully understand it. So unless it is absolutely necessary to miss a lesson, attend all lessons and available revision sessions as it is easier to revise a topic if you fully understood it when it was first being taught. Then it is merely a process of remembering and memorizing it when it comes to exam season.


Another thing that is different between college or sixth form and secondary school and is another aspect of self learning and taking responsibility for your own learning is that in a lot of colleges teachers will no longer follow you up for homework so if you don’t have it ready to hand in on the day it is due in then it may not get marked if you do hand it in later and some teachers will not ask for it again and just put it down as a 0 in their records. This varies between teachers however it not only looks bad on your record to a teacher to have not handed in homework or to have handed it in late which means they may be less likely to assist or support you if you do have trouble on the course but it also means you don’t get necessary feedback that could help you and can be the difference between passing and failing. Exams are marked in a particular way and therefore there are particular ways to write different essays and the people who know the best way to earn top marks in these exams are the subject teachers. This makes their feedback essential if you want to learn how to improve your essays and work and therefore improve your final grade.