E Book – 6 Steps to Revising, Preparing For And Smashing Your Exams

About the Author

The author is a Trainer and Master Practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) having studied both in the UK and USA for his qualifications.

Over the last 15 years, he has helped:

  • people to have a better, more fulfilling lives 
  • students to achieve better results in their GCSE, A-Level, Under and Post Graduate studies
  • parents to enjoy the joys of parenthood through developing loving, respectful and aspirational relationships with their children
  • many people, both children and adults, to overcome learning and social difficulties and to achieve beyond their wildest dreams.

He is also a qualified Hypnotherapist and has Specialist training to help those diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Asperger’s, ADD, ADHD, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Dyscalculia etc.  His belief is that such people are not broken; rather, they are gifted.  He helps to uncover and unravel that gift to help people soar high and free.

He has a passion for life and for people and this career helps him to combine both.

6 Steps To Revising, Preparing For And Smashing Any Exam

The very word ‘exam’ sends a shiver down the spine of many, whilst others may break out in a cold sweat.  There are others whose mind will just go blank.  And then there are those who just smash every exam they take without putting in, seemingly, much of an effort.

How do they do it?  Can their success be copied and emulated?  Or is it just that they were born ‘brilliant’?

My specialism in the field of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), and my experience of helping well over 30,000 exam students over the last 9 years suggests that everyone is brilliant and that exam success can be modelled and repeated.

The main thing that needs to be understood at the outset is that there is not an easy way.  There is, however, a smarter way.  It involves focus, planning, action and belief.

The steps outlined in this book are applicable to any subject because what I’m teaching you are specific, proven ‘Learning Skills’.  They apply to school and college tests, university degrees and even professional exams.

This book is my effort to help you understand the method of outstanding achievers, to provide you the support you need to go and smash all your exams.

Let’s do it!

Step 1:  Know Your Goal

The one step that all successful people always take is to know what they want to achieve.  This is not just a vague goal, such as “I want to pass my exams”.  Rather the goals they set follow the SMART principles.

Briefly, the SMART principles are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time Bound

There are a couple of extra steps that I always recommend.  The first is to make your goal in the ‘present’ moment.  What this means is that you simply record your goal at the moment of achieving it.  This process ‘tricks’ your subconscious mind to believing that you have already achieved your goal and therefore ‘repeating’ the process is easy.

The second is to introduce a positive emotion to help to motivate you.

If we put this into a practical example, your exam goal might look like this:

“It is now 15 August 2015 and I have achieved a ‘B’ in my Maths exam.  I feel totally great.”

Let’s analyse this ‘goal’ statement.  

  • Your goal is to achieve a grade B – that is very specific. 
  • You are on target to achieve it according to your teacher’s assessment and your mock results so your result is measurable.
  • Setting a target of a grade B is both achievable based on your mock results and realistic because you know that an A or an A* is a step too far right now.  This is a really important concept – always make sure that whatever goal you set is achievable and realistic – if your goal is not that, you are setting yourself up for failure.  You will also be demotivated because in your heart you are not convinced in your ability to make an A grade.  Please remember that you must stretch yourself.  Don’t just go for what you can easily do – that won’t motivate you either!  Push the boundaries, but keep it real.
  • It is now 15 August 2015 – a specific end date written in the present tense.  This element is remarkable in that it gives you the focus you need and also gives you a set timeframe in which to fit in your preparation.
  • The last part is the emotional aspect – a good, strong emotion that you can picture and which will drive you to success.

So begin by setting your SMART goal for each exam you’ll be taking.  Make each one fit the SMART template.  Then write out each statement in clear, bold writing or type and stick it on your noticeboard, your dressing table etc. so that you see it multiple times every day.  When you see it, read it nice and loudly.  As you do that, the goals will begin to imprint on you and your subconscious mind will begin to attend to your decision to achieve.

That’s the first step – know your SMART goal.

Step 2:  Plan Your Revision

The next step is to plan your approach to your revision and exam.

The best time to begin your revision is not a week or a month before your exam.  The best time is now!  The first thing you must do in this step is to identify how much time you have left till the exam, then work out how many exams you need to revise for, and then devise a plan which will allow you to revise a little part of every subject every day so by the time the exams come around you have revised each subject.  If you can, start this process a year before your exams because a little revision regularly is better than cramming.

 Look at the diagram below.  This is from Ebbinghaus, a German scientist.  He said that regular review of learned material helped to increase the amount of information remembered, as you can see from the green line in the diagram.

So make a plan, a revision timetable, and stick to it.  Remember also that you don’t have to revise for hours on end – a short 40 minute session in which you’re focussed and revising aspects of material is far more beneficial than long, unfocussed and vague sessions.

Other things to consider when planning are:

  • Write exam dates and times into your plan
  • Manage your time – develop a regular work schedule
  • Include other unavoidable academic / work / family commitments, and time for relaxation, exercise or social events 
  • Set a revision timetable with realistic goals 
  • Plan your revision as far in advance as possible 
  • Think of it as part of the course – not something separate 
  • Spread your revision – don’t cram everything in the last few days before the exam.  

That’s the second step – plan.

Step 3: Take Action

All the planning and preparation in the world will do you no good until you take action and revise!  I have a saying:  

Massive action always beats tons of planning.

I absolutely believe that you need to plan, and plan well (see Step 2).  Without action, however, it’s all futile.  How many times have you planned things in the past and achieved nothing?  I’m pretty sure that what was missing from your plan was the crucial step of acting on the plan.  We sometimes fool ourselves into thinking that the planning is the work – it’s not, it’s only an element of the plan.

The main thing that stops people from taking action is that their first steps are too big, or too difficult.  Just the thought of taking out your books and starting your revision, especially for a subject you may not like, is enough to make you procrastinate.  

To overcome this, I suggest you plan your revision to be short sessions, perhaps only 40 minutes long with a 5 minute break half way through.  For each full session, have a very clear focus – exactly which topic are you going to revise and what will you expect to know when you finish?  (Read more on this in the next section on Revision Process.)

You must continually motivate yourself. In order to do that, mark your plan off when you’ve completed a particular task.  The more ticks (or crosses) you see will serve to encourage you.  Each little task that you complete is a ‘win’.  Lots of little wins will add up to a big win.  Remind yourself that you must take action every day – Infuse your life with action. Don’t wait for it to happen. Make it happen. Make your own future. Make your own hope.

That’s the third step – take action.

Step 4: The Revision Process

A question I’m commonly asked is “How should I revise?” and “How long should I revise for?”

In terms of how you should revise, employ an effective method.  Reading notes and / or books is not effective.  I suggest you use the ‘SQ3R’ method.  This is:

  • Survey – look over your material.  Look over pictures, titles, headings.  Get a feel for the topic 
  • Question – what is the topic about?  What do I need to learn from this?  
  • Read – go over the material: scan, speed read, pick out areas you need to read in more detail
  • Recall – what you’ve read and make notes from memory.  Identify gaps in your knowledge
  • Review – what you’ve learned and revise what you still don’t know or are unsure about.

In terms of how long you should revise for, there are a number of valid opinions on this.  My experience suggests that the most effective length for a revision session is 40 – 50 minutes, with a 5 minute break half way through.  Experiment and see what works for you – you may find that you can do an hour, whereas others can do only half an hour.  What is important is not to revise until you’re tired.  You won’t remember much and you’ll have wasted your time.

I’ve listed some other tips that make revision fun – yes, fun! – here:

  • Work with a revision buddy – but remain focussed
  • Work in a silent environment – no music, no TV, no Facebook/Twitter/BBM etc.  If you must listen to something, listen to instrumental music only at a very low volume so you you’re your right brain engaged
  • Make mind maps for the topics you’re revising *
  • Speed read your material *
  • Review your material and work out what you already know.  Then, revise only what you don’t know or not that clear about.  This makes for very effective revision.  After all, what’s the point of revising what you already know at the expense of what you don’t?

That’s the fourth step – employ a good revision process to achieve success.

* Contact the author to learn about his Mind Mapping and Speed Reading programmes.

Step 5:  Preparing for the Exam

All the work you’ve been doing so far is simply preparing yourself for the exam.  If you have done that well with focus, concentration and commitment, the exam itself will be easy.  Many students complain of feeling nervous or anxious before the exam.  Frankly, this is good!  It shows that you care about your exam and are concerned about your future.  

Here’s the interesting thing: nervousness and/or anxiety are just a form of energy.  It’s up to you how you channel that energy.  You can let it ‘get to you’ and destroy you, or you can use it to energise you.  The simple fact is that if your preparation has been solid, then you will be confident.  It’s a natural law that those who are the most knowledgeable are normally the most confident and assured.

Here are some of the things you should be doing when preparing for your exam.

  • Treat the exam as a normal school or college day.  Try to follow your normal routine as this will help you relax.
  • Remind yourself that at least after the exam, you’ll be able to relax and won’t have to do any further revision – this will help you relax before the event too.
  • Get a good night’s sleep – do not stay up late revising or worse still, socialising.  If you must, when it comes to last minute revision, a quick review of topics and a review of your “strong” and “weaker” areas is better.
  • Take sufficient pens / pencil, rubber, ruler etc.  Try to use the same pens etc. as you would normally use in class as this too, can be a small psychological.
  • Take a wristwatch or small traveller’s clock so you can monitor how you’re using the time available – make sure any alarms / hourly chimes are disabled.
  • Use relaxation techniques – practice these beforehand so you’re not learning how to do them when you might need them most!  Some techniques that I teach and which work very well are:
    • Deep breathing
    • Visualisation
    • Meditation

Before The Exam

  • Make your way to your desk and make yourself comfortable.
  • Make sure you listen very carefully to instructions that are given or any announcements that are made.  If anything is unclear, ask questions before you start as this may save you a great deal of time later.
  • Set out your pens / pencils etc. and set up your clock or wristwatch so that you can see it just by looking up and not having to move anything out of the way.
  • Make sure that you have everything necessary – question paper, answer papers, additional sheets etc.  Ask the invigilator if something appears to be missing.

These are all ‘little’ things but if you include them in your preparation for the exam, you’ll be more comfortable and therefore less stressed so you can smash your exam.

That’s the fifth step – prepare for your exam by being ready mentally and practically.

Step 6: Taking The Exam and Passing It

This is the moment that all your efforts have been focussed towards: the exam.  I’m very confident that if you follow the steps outlined in this e-book, then the actual exam will be an enjoyable experience for you.  However, you need to be careful that you don’t become complacent and remember that it’s not over until the invigilator says ‘Stop Writing’.

Here are some tips to ensure you do your very best in the exam itself:

  • Read all the paper and all the instructions carefully – check that you know exactly how many questions you have to answer and carefully note any constraints such as “Answer 1 question from each section” or “Answer 2 questions from Section A and 1 question from Section B” etc.
  • “Speed Read” the paper to get an idea of what questions are in it but then…
  • Read each question carefully and thoroughly and make sure you understand what it is asking.  Read all parts of the question before deciding whether or not to answer it.
  • Work out how much time you will need to answer each question, but allow some time for reading / checking at the end of the time.
  • If you are doing mathematical questions always show your working.  Simply stating an answer will not get full marks.  If you get a question partially correct, and have shown your working, you may be given some marks.
  • Relax as much as possible and think clearly and keep confident.
  • In a given question, concentrate of what you do know rather than what you don’t know.
  • Use what you know to maximum effect, but remember to ANSWER THE QUESTION.
  • Do the questions you feel most confident about first (it rarely matters which order you answer questions in).  This will help to build your confidence and you may find yourself remembering more things.
  • Sometimes, intense thought whilst answering a question can facilitate understanding.  If you find this happening, try to use it to maximum effect.
  • Keep thinking positive and do the best you can.  Just answer as much as you can.
  • If, after reading a question, you genuinely feel it is ambiguous or too broadly based, state this in the first part of your answer and explain briefly your reason for answering the question in a particular way.  The examiner will then have a better chance of empathising with your answer.
  • Use all the time available to you.  If you finish the paper early, go back and review your answers.  Change or add to them if you feel it will improve your answer.  Whilst checking your answers, check the questions too to ensure you’ve properly understood and correctly answered them.
  • When the exam is over, relax in the knowledge that you’ve done your very best from start to end.  Well done!

That’s the sixth step – take your exam and pass it!

More Information and Training Programmes

We have many training programmes that you might find useful.  Feel free to contact us for further information about out programmes which include:

  • Speed Reading
  • Mind Mapping for Learning and Success
  • Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) – Practitioner, Master Practitioner and Trainers Training
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Emotional Freedom Therapy (EFT)
  • Overcoming ADHD, ADD, Autism, Asperger’s, Dyslexia etc.

These trainings are available as open courses, for small groups and 1:1 therapy.