• Abbie Tibbott

Motivation Tips for Exams

This semester I’ve written a trilogy of blogs concerning motivation, this being the last! By the time I publish this, many of you will be beginning the process of preparing for your summer exams. Exams aren’t my favourite thing in the world, but I made sure to put in plenty of preparation time to make the process easier. However, I know all too well that by the end of the academic year we are all burnt out from loads of coursework, so revising for exams probably isn’t going to be a particularly enjoyable activity. In this blog, I’ll be rounding off my motivation series with tips for exams.


1. Work when it suits you best

Exams are all about revising core knowledge and applying it to a question. We all absorb different amounts of information at certain times, so be kind to your brain and use it when it’s working best. In my case, I struggled to revise content early in the morning, so I would focus more on exam revision in the afternoons. To continue being productive, I would use my mornings instead for picking up extra reading, making revision materials and doing admin tasks.

I’ve had many times where I’ve been bored senseless when revising, and I probably didn’t remember much of the material I was studying. Although it may seem counter-productive, taking a break when this happens will give you a bit of time to absorb the information, as well as take your mind off the stress of exams. Finding these times of peak productivity may take a few tries, so test out different times of day to find your best periods.


2. Create revision materials before hardcore revision starts

It may leave you feeling productive, but spending all day creating colour-coded charts and posters isn’t active revision; you need to test your brain. These activities are important though, so start creating materials as early as possible. Being creative for an hour or two while you’re finishing up your coursework is a great way to start reviewing the content ahead of time, and it’ll leave you plenty of hours to test yourself.

Doing all the admin related to exams is worth doing early, and I’d recommend setting aside a folder for everything. Print off practice papers, marking criteria and lecture notes and get everything organised, as those tasks often lead you to procrastinate getting on with revision.


3. Work with friends

Although I tended to write better when I was alone, I loved revising with friends. If we were all studying for exams on different modules, a mutual environment of hanging out, doing practice questions and testing each other was a great way to stop revision from being so boring. We’d often study together in our kitchen with drinks and snacks, and it doubled as social time as well as study time. These sessions definitely helped me feel less stressed about my exams, as it was helpful to see how my friends were handling their revision.

If there are a group of you revising for the same exam, swapping lecture notes can help to bulk out your knowledge without doing a lot of extra reading. I’d recommend dumping all your notes, organised by topic, into a Google Docs page that you’re all linked to, so everything is updated in real time. Then you can either print it off as a revision guide, or use Ctrl+F on your keyboard to look up keywords that you’re revising.


4. Set deadlines for content knowledge

Setting yourself mini-exams might not sound like the most motivating of experiences, but testing your knowledge will let you know how well you are getting on, as well as giving yourself permission to move on to the next topic. Complete a timed, closed-book exam question once you have spent some time on the content, or keep it open-book if you’re not feeling that confident. This approach really gave me some confidence when it came to exams, as it turned out I usually knew more than I thought I did! Nothing will be perfect, but being able to close the book on a certain topic on your exam paper will motivate you to move onto the next thing.


5. Plan a celebration

Even if you have exams back-to-back, planning a celebration every time you complete a test will pull you along. I liked to treat myself to a takeaway or something nice from the shop, even if I did have to eat it whilst revising for the next exam!

If you’ve had a lot of exams, planning something to look forward to in the summer can be a real boost. A holiday is the ultimate way to relax, and I headed off to Greece about a month after my exams finished. I was there when I received my final BA result, and the time spent with family was extra-special.


Exams are short and sharp ways to test your knowledge, so try to be kind to yourself if you’re not that type of learner. They will pass by really quickly, and setting yourself up by preparing in advance and doing active revision will set you on a path to success.

Happy studying!