The exam season is upon us!

Don’t panic just yet. I’m JJ from Hello Future, and this page is dedicated to taking you through some tips and tricks to make sure you are best prepared for your exams – so that you can secure your next step moving forward.

So your exams are coming up – why should you care? If you’re locked in, you’ve got a career path, and a Higher Education goal; if you know what you want to do, you might think this is a simple question. You need these results to get to where you want to go.

If you don’t know what you want to do next though, it’s harder to convince your brain that studying is worth your time. Does this sound like you?

Benefits of studying:

  1. Learning makes you more disciplined: Discipline, being able to make yourself sit down and do something even when you don’t want to is an integral life skill.
  2. The subjects don’t need to be relevant to be valuable: Most jobs require English and Maths, to a certain level, to prove that you can write well and have basic maths skills. Just because you might never use Pythagoras’ Theory in your life, doesn’t mean that the skills developed aren’t useful.
  3. You learn interdisciplinary skills through studying: The ability to research, critically analyse and effectively communicate ideas and opinions are all key in your working life, regardless of what you were studying when you learned those skills.
  4. No experience is a wasted experience: You might decide that you hate history, and you never want to do it again – that is valuable, now you know and you can avoid it. You might think that you don’t like Biology, but then you go on a work experience trip and realise that when that knowledge is applied it is enjoyable and what you want to do for your career.
  5. Studying exposes you to new ideas that can take you in all sorts of directions: When I was at school we did a section of history on Ancient Egypt. 10 years later, I chose to do Egyptology at university because I wanted to do history, and I remembered how much I enjoyed studying Ancient Egypt. You never know what is going to change your life path.

If you are looking to make some choices about what you want to do in the future, our Progression Routes E-Course is a good place to start. We also have some fantastic resources on our News and Blogs page.

You know why you have to study, but when are you going to study? How do you start? Taking control of your time, making your work efficient so that you get the highest output from the least amount of effort is really important.

There are so many ways in which you can organise your time. You probably already have a planner from school, have been told to make a schedule, have been shown how to make a timetable and on and on. We can start off with the best of intentions to stick to a schedule, but that is easier said than done. Not all of our brains work well with a schedule, but all of us need to manage our time well. I’m going to offer you two alternatives to schedules.

Controlling your time helps you to:

  1. Gain a sense of control.
  2. Reduce procrastination and unproductive usages of time.
  3. Make tasks feel manageable.

There are so many methods out there to help you plan your time! Let’s look at two:

  1. Time blocking: Make a list of everything in your daily routine, both your school tasks and personal commitments. Estimate how long you need for each task, and then block each task off into slots. Make sure you schedule in breaks!
  2. Pomodoro method: If you don’t like the constraints of having a timetable, but want the benefits on your focus, try the Pomodoro method. Make a list of your tasks, choose one, and then set a timer for 25 minutes. Work for those 25 minutes, don’t stop. After 25 minutes, take a break for 5 minutes, with a longer break after 4 sets. Alternatively, you can work for 50 minutes and then take a 10 minute break, or whatever timings work best for you. This will help you lock in and keep you motivated.

You can find lots of YouTube Study With Me videos with Pomodoro timers, and there are also sites out there that have timers on them – which limits opportunities for distractions from technology. We’ve also made a playlist for you on Spotify that covers 2 periods of 50 minutes’ study followed by a 10 minute dance break. Check it out!

You know why you’re studying, you’ve sorted your time and you’ve sat down feeling like you can conquer everything. But then – the motivation disappears and you’re on your phone 5 minutes later. Sound familiar? Or does the motivation never appear at all for studying, but you can’t wait for football practice? Let’s explore how we can increase our motivation and decrease our distractions.

I am very easily distracted, I really struggle to sit down and get to work. I’ll work for 5 minutes, and then “reward” myself for working by going on my phone – even though I’ve actually done nothing. Yet, when I am able to get to work, my focus can be unparalleled. I can work for hours, without stopping, I am fulfilled by what I am doing and I am locked in. Over the years, I’ve developed a few tricks which have helped me to lock myself in to that focused mindset.

  1. Identify the best study environment for yourself: Where do you work best?
  2. Remove your phone from the equation: Hand it off to someone you trust, leave it in another room, or shut it in a box you’ll be less tempted to open.
  3. Tell people you’re revising: That way they won’t try to distract you and can help hold you accountable to your plans.
  4. Rewards!: They’re not just good for after you’ve done work, but also to make yourself sit down in the first place. Give yourself a treat for starting, a favourite drink or a chocolate bar.
  5. Videos: There are many videos out there that provide a motivational boost. My favourite is the scene from Legally Blonde where she decides to prove them all wrong and starts studying. Alternatively, watch a real time Study With Me whilst you work! Seeing someone else studying without getting distracted can help you do it too.

You’ve done the hard work in getting yourself motivated to sit down – but lets make sure your study session is effective and worth the time and effort you’ve put in to showing up. Studying is a very personal task – it’s subjective and what works for me might not work for you. Don’t feel like you have to study a specific way and have a play around with some different options. See what feels good for you, what works for you. These are just a few of my favourite techniques.

  1. Figure out what you already know : Brain dump a mind map of everything you can think of on a topic, you might surprise yourself! At the end of your study session/s you can do this again to see how much your knowledge has changed.
  2. Pneumonic: If you’ve not looked into pneumonic systems before, they are absolutely worth a look at. This can simply be using a funny story to remember the facts or figures, building a mind palace, or even translating information into a simpler and more memorable image. Richard of York Gave Battle in Vain is a famous pneumonic. There are so many out there, so see where google takes you.
  3. Teach someone!: Teaching others is a light-hearted way to revise productively with friends. Communicating your knowledge in a concise manner is an important exam skill and teaching uses the same skill. You don’t have to do this to friends, you can also do it to an inanimate object or an animal – a teddy bear or your pet. I personally taught my dog – I think she would have done better in my exams than me.

Exams are… a lot. It is a stressful and anxiety inducing time. No amount of reassurance that it will be okay, or meditative techniques will make that worry fully go away – and that is okay the worry is a reminder that you are pursuing something you want. My exam anxiety was so bad that I’d often do worse in my real exams than in my mocks, just because of the pressure. You’re not alone.

There are techniques to ease the stress though, and make the exam season a little more peaceful.

  1. Get outside: I know it is often wet and windy, but try and get outside during this period. If there’s a rare sunny spell, but you have to revise – take it outside! Make sure you are breathing fresh air regularly during your revision because it will help you focus and remember more.
  2. Deep breathing: Inhale for 5 seconds through the nose, hold your breath for 2 seconds and exhale slowly. Repeat as many times as you need. If this breathing exercise doesn’t work for you, there are many more you can try.
  3. Remember that your best will vary: Some days you will be able to study solidly for hours on end and not tire. Other days it might be hard to even read a page. Progress isn’t linear, and you can only give 100% of the energy you have on a given day. Appreciate yourself for showing up, and try and get at least a little bit done each day.
  4. Ask for help if you need it: If your anxiety and stress are getting too much, reach out for help. Always reach out to friends, family, and teachers if you can. If you need more help, Childline and Mind both have further resources and helplines you can call.