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Everyone loves a good filter to make everything look glamorous, but the reality is that your GCSE exams are zooming in like the paparazzi with a long lens camera. So, even if you don’t want to, you should probably start to think about revising. #nofilter #realitycheck

For some, revising is just a normal part of learning and you don’t get too fazed by it. For others though, it can cause feelings of anxiety and you may feel like there is just too much pressure. Whichever it is for you, or if you’re somewhere in between, here at Your Favourite Teacher, we’re always looking to support you and make the exam process a stress free as we can.

Here are a few of our top tips to get you started.

1. De-clutter.

Yes, go ahead and Marie Kondo your space.

Tidying up means that you won’t get distracted by old plates and glasses or any general clutter you might have lying around. As she says, “tidying your physical space allows you to tend to your psychological space.”[1] This means that you can focus and not make excuses about not having any room to work, or other distraction tactics, that work against using your time to actually get down to revising.

You may also want to de-clutter further distractions by silencing (or even turning off) the notifications on your phones and tablets while you revise. If you know you use checking social media as a way to kill your boredom, maybe even think about closing down your accounts for a while. It’s a freeing experience if used correctly

2. Make a plan

This works in two ways.

Firstly, decide how long you want to spend revising. It is your holiday after all so you deserve to have some space and freedom before you have to go back to full time learning again. Studies from Birmingham City University suggest that three to five hours a day are the optimum amount of time to dedicate to revision[2]. So, if you revise in chunks of 45 minutes to one hour at a time, you should retain the information you are going over. You could be done by lunchtime!

Secondly, plan your work in a way that allows you to see what needs to be done.  One way of doing this is by creating fresh check sheets of either course content or what is expected in the exam. For example, your teachers may have already explained the order of questions in your GCSE English Language exam and making a checklist of what you need to remember to include for each question is a good way to plan for what might come up. You can then use this when you go on to practice exam papers. Writing essay plans is another positive way to plan.  These can be checked against others you have made in class, or perhaps you even feel confident enough to show your teacher after the break to get their feedback.

In Maths, separating Stats and Probability from Ratios and Proportion, and so on, to outline what falls under those categories might also help you focus what you will revise that day and what you need to read up on.

There are pros and cons to creating revision timetables. A significant pro is that having one gives you an outline of what you are going to cover and when. It allows you to organise your workload and many people find this a useful tool to avoid becoming overwhelmed.

Some cons, however, are that some people can feel confined by them and they cause more anxiety than just deciding what to look at that day. Some feel judgement if they have not stuck to the timetable and, again, anxiety can follow this train of thought. When revising for my GCSES, I spent so long making mine look precise and colourful that when I finally finished, I could have actually spent that time revising instead! It was a total distraction tactic I used to avoid revising. This is not a proud moment and if that sounds familiar, perhaps you should find an alternative way to make a plan.

The big thing here is to not take on too much. Break down what needs to be done into manageable pieces and work from there. If you look at it as a whole, those feelings of anxiety might creep in. Take regular breaks and try to not get overwhelmed

3. Read through

Have you looked at your notes and you can see that you wrote it down but you have no recollection of ever doing so? You’re not alone. Reading through your notes, through text books and set texts is a great way to refresh your memory if other information has somehow pushed it out.

This part is directly linked to our suggestions above in Making a Plan, as it will help you to sort out information you need to know for your exams and also acts as a way to retain the knowledge you have already learned in class. No one ever said at the end of their GCSE exam period “Do you know what? I wish I’d read less.”

But what happens if you’ve read it a thousand times already and it still means nothing to you? Well, see below for number.

4. Share

You are not alone in this GCSE experience! You are one of dozens in your class, probably hundreds in your area. If you really don’t “get it”, talk to a friend and see if it makes sense to them. Can they explain it in a way that will help you out? If they don’t “get it” either, do you have access to other resources such as the videos, quizzes and guides available on Your Favourite Teacher? We are here to help you and have lots of ideas to share in order to give you the confidence you need to succeed during your exams.

Try to avoid shutting down and ignoring when you can’t do something or don’t fully understand it. Use this opportunity to take steps to figure out where the gaps in your knowledge are so that you don’t struggle later, or worse panic. If you don’t admit you need help, no one will know to offer it to you and support you more. Be brave and share what you do understand with your friends so that they can share with you. Utilise all of the resources you can get your hands on

5. RELAX!

It is so important that you take time to relax, even when you are revising. A known factor that causes anxiety during exam periods is a fear of being underprepared.  There are some easy ways to combat this.

You could try allocating a time slot for revision, for example, do an hour after breakfast and then a 30-minute break, followed by another hour. During your break, go into the garden with a cup of tea and enjoy the sunshine. Take the dog for a walk. Do whatever gets you outside or moving.

Starting revision now will help you take control of the workload and build your confidence moving forward. Don’t get too rigid though. If something more entertaining is going on, then go and enjoy it. Just remember that you still owe it to yourself to prepare for the exams and work out a rough time of when you’ll catch up.

Eating the right foods is also important. Wholegrains, nuts and berries (allergies permitting) and oily fish are all listed in the BBC’s Good Food’s “Brain food” section online[3]. Also, avoiding drinks with too much sugar and caffeine is also a good idea. According to Madelyn Fernstrom, TODAY Health and Diet Editor, “Caffeine can boost mental focus and alertness…it doesn’t make you smarter – and has no effect on learning!” She goes on to say “Too much caffeine is a health negative, with symptoms like anxiety, sleep disturbances, digestive problems, muscle twitching, and heart palpitations”[4]. So, although they might give you a good buzz to start, the crash at the end is actually a big negative on the whole. Drink lots of water instead to stay hydrated and make you feel on top form.

Mindfulness and meditation are also great ways to relieve stress and anxiety. A particular favourite of mine is known as “the puppy mind”.  I try to meditate regularly and start off the first few moments fine. I feel myself start to relax and the tension leaves my body. But then, I remember something I have to do and that leads on to another thought, then another and I wonder why I’m sitting there with my eyes closed when I have a hundred things to do. Well, this is known as the “puppy mind”. As the name suggests, the mind wanders just like an inquisitive puppy, so this technique actually “congratulates” you for losing focus. According to Mindfulness for Students, “It’s simply what minds do.”[5] The way to combat this is to refocus on your breath and start that relaxation process again (and again if necessary) so that you are actually focusing on the moment you are in and the breaths you are taking. More tips for mindfulness and even yoga techniques can be found in the Common Room once you have logged in to Your Favourite Teacher.

So, there you have it. Starting revision need not be a daunting prospect that makes you want to pull the duvet firmly over your head until it all goes away. Sorry to break it to you, but it isn’t going anywhere. This is real and happening and the more you take control, the better prepared you should feel when the exams take place.

From everyone here at Your Favourite Teacher, we’re here when you need us. Good Luck!

[1]     https://understandingtherapy.com/2017/01/19/10-marie-kondo-quotes-that-will-spark-joy/

[2]     https://www.bcu.ac.uk/exams-and-revision/time-management-tips/how-much-revision-should-i-do-a-day

[3]     https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/10-foods-boost-your-brainpower

[4]     https://www.today.com/health/7-things-you-didnt-know-about-caffeine-1B6013380

[5]     http://mindfulnessforstudents.co.uk/resources/puppy-mind/