Take a look at these great tips and advice from our authors, on preparing for and excelling in exams.
Where are you right now?
If you’ve ever used maps on your smartphone or used a sat-nav, you’ll know that it does three things:
- It asks you where you want to go.
- It finds out where you are.
- It prepares the best route for you.
So, what should we believe about ourselves? Well, as my friend and legendary youth worker Pip Wilson says – you are a beautiful human being (whether you feel like it or not!). Not a human doing – we don’t have to do amazing things to be worth something. Not a human buying – we don’t have to buy expensive stuff in shops to be worth something. But a human being. We just have to ‘be’. And the trick is to not let circumstances or others take that away from you. Let’s just give our education a good go, otherwise it’s just years of wasted time. We can’t travel back in time. But we can change our future. Starting now. It’s simple, but it won’t be easy. Because simple isn’t the same as easy. That’s where hard work comes in. Something most of us don’t like, but we know deep down makes sense. A few small changes can add up to a better, brighter future.
Challenging limiting beliefs
Every time you think the words ‘I can’t ...’ or ‘What if ...’ you’re limiting yourself, and we’re all guilty of it! Negative thoughts have the power to destroy everything you’ve worked so hard for. If you think that you’re terrible at taking exams then you probably won’t be motivated to study hard. Your grades are likely to reflect this mentality, which just confirms that your original thought of being terrible at taking exams is correct. So it’s time to get you thinking positively. This is where you’re going to reprogram that computer in your brain.
As soon as a negative thought pops into your head it should start ringing alarm bells. Visualising a bright red stop sign is a really great way to challenge a negative thought. Close your eyes now and see if you can picture one.
Once you’ve got that image in your mind, you need to start the process of changing your negative thought into a positive one. Use logic to find an answer that rejects your negative belief – no matter how impossible a situation may seem at first, there is always another way of looking at things. When you’ve done the questioning and found that your belief isn’t true then you need to change it to a positive. My dream was to stand on top of that podium, a gold medal around my neck. I went out there and made that dream come true because I always believed I would. Having that unwavering self-confidence is undoubtedly the key to success and building this self-confidence will have a profound and positive impact on your results.
How stress and anxiety can affect learning
When you’re stressed, imagine parts of your brain being occupied with worrying, which may well include the parts you also need to use for your work. So you’ll find it harder to focus on your tasks. You might have heard of ‘multi-tasking’ but research shows that if we’re occupied with one task, we cannot perform another task as well as if we were focusing on it alone. (Some tasks become automatic and we can manage them at the same time: for example, expert drivers can talk and drive, but if something happens that means they have to focus more on their driving, even they will stop talking.) So, thinking about something (a worry) will affect your concentration.
Trouble is, if you really convince yourself that you’re useless, it will be even harder to succeed. When we believe we can do something, we often find we can. So, somehow you need to banish those ‘I can’t do it’ thoughts, and replace them with ‘I can if I break it into steps.
If you suffer from one of the following, they are often a sign of stress:
- Regular headaches, stomach-aches and/or dizzy spells. (You should check with your GP first, but it’s likely that it’s stress-related.)
- Pain in shoulders, jaw or neck, often caused by not realising you’re tensing up those muscles. (Again, check with a GP first.)
- Appetite problems – either having no appetite or binging on ‘junk’ food – and weight changes.
- Intrusive negative thoughts.
Getting ready for the exams
All the organisation, all the time management, all the focus on remembering and understanding, all the practice – all will count for nothing if you do not deliver on the day. Is that what you think? Then think again!
So, having put in all the preparatory work, let’s try to get it right on the day, just like the athlete in a World Championship final, or the footballer on his international debut, or the singer and the actor when they finally walk on stage.
So, here are some things to consider in the final run-up, in the last few days before the exams.
Over the winter, athletes concentrate on stamina work, building up the strength required for the physical demands of running fast. As the season gets
closer they do more speed work, sharpening themselves up, building on the reserves they have put in the tank over the previous months.
You should have been like such athletes. Over the winter you should have been doing the hard grind of reading, writing, problem-solving and experimenting in order to widen and deepen your knowledge and understanding of the subjects you are studying, so that the key information is now deep in your long- term memory ready to be retrieved as necessary.
Don’t practise what you know you know. Practise any last remaining parts of the course that you are still unsure of.
Watch these video clips to see how our authors help students get motivated and deal with the stress of revision and the pressure of exams.
Lee Jackson, Motivational Speaker and Co-author of Collins GCSE Study Skills talks about top tips for Year 11 Students
Danielle Brown, Paralympic Gold Medalist and Co-author of Collins GCSE Study Skills talks about building confidence for Year 10 Students
Nicola Morgan talks about strategies for dealing with stress at Castlebrae Community High School, Edinburgh
Students and teachers at Castlebrae Community High School discuss what they've learned about dealing with stress
Students at Trinity Catholic School discuss the revision tips and methods for handling pressure acquired through using GCSE Revision Study Skills.