How to revise in one day and ace it
So you've gone and left all your exam revision to the last minute. Don't worry – it's a scenario that can creep up on the best of us, and we're here to help! Whether it's down to extreme procrastination, an evil exam timetable or genuine unforeseen circumstances, you're probably here because you've realised your exam is tomorrow and you've done nothing to revise yet.
While we wouldn't condone failing to kickstart revision mode until the countdown clock hits 24 hours, we're here to reassure you that all is not lost!
We've put together a step-by-step plan for fitting in as much as you can before showtime, so grab yourself a cuppa and get reading. And don't worry, you can thank us later 🙂
18 steps to revising in one day
You can do this, honest. We've got your back every step of the way!
Rise and shine early (ish)
When you've only got one day to deal with the job in hand, you need to make the most of it.
While you don't want to get up at stupid-o-clock and burn out too early, do set yourself a sensible alarm and aim to start work for around 9am. After all, there's ample time for napping post exam!
Choose the right place to work
As much as we wish it weren't true, you really won't be very productive from your bed. Don't argue, there's no way around it.
Your brain will function much better in an environment it connects to work, so set yourself up at your desk or haul yourself down to the library.
Lug everything you need with you
Think of every possibility – you might have only used those erasable highlighters once, but if you leave them, you'll probably need them.
When the going gets tough later on, you don't want to waste time searching for books or notes, or give yourself an excuse to stop working cause you don't have everything you need.
Maybe a bit late in the game, but check out our 6 easy steps to becoming more organised.
Create a plan before you start
Don't go into a blind revision frenzy – you may only have one day, but you'll get much more done if you break it up and work out exactly what you need to know rather than just cram in any old info.
Spend half an hour working out what topics you need to cover and allotting chunks of time for each bit.
It might seem like time wasted, but trust us, it'll be time well spent in the long run.
Refrain from panicking
As much as the exam is pretty much staring you in the face with all its nastiness, giving in to a sense of impending doom will not help you now.
You have plenty of time to digest information and come out of the other side smiling, and a positive can-do attitude will go a loooooooooooong way.
Use lecture slides and past papers
Lecture slides and past papers are both great ways to work out what's likely to come up in the exam, so make use of them.
Once you've worked out what's probably going to come up, head to the text books to jot down key notes on each area. Look out for chapter summaries and key info boxes for a more succinct read.
You can also use past papers to test your knowledge – you don't have to actually do any essay questions, but you can write quick plans of how you'd approach them.
Go 1980s style
Remember the days before computers? Well, probably not, since you only started university in the 21st century, but opting for a day without electrical equipment will really help you to study.
Not only will you be able to focus more on the task in hand, writing things down, as opposed to typing, helps your brain to process it better.
If you need lecture notes, print them off. This will also keep you away from the procrastination devil that is social media!
Re-read your lecture notes and highlight
This is where your hard work earlier in the year will hopefully pay off and help consolidate what's on lecture slides or in text books.
The cues you've jotted down in lectures should hopefully trigger more info from the depths of your brain.
You don't have a large amount of time so if something isn't jogging your memory it may be worth coming back to it when you have time.
Condense the information
Streamline each topic down to one page of notes using your lecture slides, previous notes and textbooks.
How you revise depends on your degree, but for 'bookish' subjects, ensure you have learned key concepts, examples and evaluations, along with one conflicting argument at least.
Don't waste time copying out paragraphs – this is laborious, time-consuming and totally unnecessary. Simply reading through longer notes should act as a memory jog when you read them through the morning of your exam.
As tempting as it might be to stock up on the redbull and haribo and go hell for leather, this is never a good idea as you'll crash heavily after a few hours when you still need to be tip-top tomorrow morning.
Opt for some healthy, energy boosting snacks like bananas or porridge – check out our guide to the best brain fuel foods for a list of what else will keep you going strong.
Be (ever so slightly) ridiculous
So, we're not suggesting that you turn your notes into a full blown Nordic saga to help you revise, but mnemonics, rhymes and funny anecdotes will help you to remember key facts and phrases.
It might feel a little bit primary school, but if it helps you remember who cares? Your secret's safe with us…
Know your names
A lot of university subjects will require you to know some key authors or critics and what they said – as well as some top quotes and the dates.
If the truth be told, you can be a few years off with the year – or employ clever terms like "Smith commented in the early 19th century" – but you will need to get their names correct.
Pick a few quotes for each topic and write them down on another single page of notes so you can keep going over them.
Try and pick a selection of well known and more obscure quotes – throwing in something your lecturer hasn't heard of before makes it seem like you've done a lot of in-depth research.
Take breaks between each topic
You need to rest your eyes and your brain. This will help your brain process what you have just fed it, and prevent you from falling asleep at your desk.
When taking a rest, it's a good opportunity to grab a quick bite to eat and, if you're experiencing withdrawals, quickly take a look at Facebook. And we mean quickly.
Post a mandatory "I hate revision can't wait until it's all over" status and then watch some funny cats on YouTube.
It is worth setting a timer to shout when to get back to work, as it's easy to get carried away.
Review each topic
Review the topic you have just learned when you return from your break to ensure you understand everything. If there's something important that you can't get your head around, try using a different source to explain it – sometimes our brains process things better when explained from a different angle.
When you are satisfied that you understand the main points and aren't just kidding yourself, go on to your next topic.
Rinse and repeat…
Apply this formula to every topic until you have everything covered. It's a simple process of write, condense, break, review, next topic. Easy peasy.
Aim to have all your material covered by 10pm. You can then spend a few hours absorbing the information from your simple one-page flashcards.
Get ready and prepare your bag for the exam the night before – calculator, spare pens, ID, whatever else you need. Even pick out what you're going to wear the next day so you're 100% ready. This is really important as it can save you a lot of stress on the morning of the exam.
It'll also give you an extra ten minutes in bed in the morning!
No matter how stressed you feel, make sure to get some good quality shut-eye for at least 6 hours. Remind yourself that there's literally nothing more you can do to prepare when lying in your bed, so stop thinking about the exam immediately!
Exhaustion won't help you perform and your brain needs time to process all the things you've been revising the day before.
It's been a long day after all, grab yourself some cocoa and pat yourself on the back.
Wake up ready
Make sure you get up a little early to go over your notes. Before you enter the exam room avoid talking to other people about what you've studied – it's likely to knock your confidence or even confuse you (it's easy for your friends to give off the impression they've done more revision than they actually have).
If you still feel you haven't covered enough, don't panic about it now – it's too late. Just go in and do your best.
It's also worth reading the whole paper before answering any questions – that way your brain has time to subconsciously work on the next answers.
And that's it, you're done! Once again, we really should stress that you shouldn't use this method as your first choice. Emergency back-up only!
That said, if this article has helped you, take a look at our guide to writing a 3000 word essay in a day – you seem like the kind of person who could use it!