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How to revise in one day and ace it

So you've 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!

stressed woman next to A+ papers

Credit: Fotohunt (background), Photo Veterok (left), Marcos Mesa Sam Wordley (right) - Shutterstock

Whether it's down to extreme procrastination, a killer timetable or genuinely unforeseen circumstances, you probably want to learn how to revise quickly because you've realised your exam is tomorrow and you're completely unprepared.

While we wouldn't condone leaving all your revision until the final day, we're here to reassure you that all is not lost! It's possible to revise for a test in a day, and we're about to share our top tips with you.

This plan partly relies on the strength of your lecture notes and attendance throughout the course. Not confident in your work so far? For future reference, here's how to take better lecture notes!

18 last-minute revision tips

These are our top tips for studying the day before an exam:

  1. Wake up early

    joey and ross sleeping friends

    Credit: Warner Bros.

    When you've only got one day to deal with the job in hand, you need to make the most of it.

    You don't want to get up at stupid-o-clock and burn out too early, but you should set yourself an alarm for a sensible time and aim to start work at around 9am.

    After all, you can nap all you want after the exam!

  2. Choose the right place to work

    As much as we wish it weren't true, you really won't get much done from your bed. As much as we'd like to say otherwise, it's just a fact.

    You'll be a whole lot more productive in an environment that you associate with working, so set yourself up at your desk or haul yourself down to the library.

  3. Go to the library prepared

    shocked cat in a suitcase

    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 be wasting time searching for books or notes, or giving yourself an excuse to stop working because you don't have everything you need.

    It might be a bit late in the game for this, but if you're a bit of a scatterbrain, check out our seven easy steps to becoming more organised.

  4. 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 a waste of valuable revision time, but trust us – it'll save you much more time in the long run.

    Check out our guide to writing an essay in a day for an insight into how easy it is to break down a massive task into something far more achievable.

  5. Refrain from panicking

    will inbetweeners stressed and panicking over revision

    Credit: Bwark Productions

    Although the exam is staring you straight in the face with all its nastiness, giving in to a sense of impending doom won't help you one bit.

    You still have plenty of time to digest information and come out of the other side smiling, and a positive can-do attitude will go a long way!

    And don't worry if you're feeling the pressure – it's perfectly natural! Just know that it's possible to beat the exam stress with these six great tips.

  6. 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 textbooks to jot down key notes on each area. Look out for chapter summaries and key information 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.

  7. Study without technology and social media

    mobile phone with red no sign over it

    As tough as it may seem, opting for a day without your phone, laptop and tablet will really help you to study for your exam.

    Not only will you be able to focus more on the task at hand, but writing things down (as opposed to typing) helps your brain to process the information better.

    And if you need lecture notes, print them off. This will also keep you away from the procrastination devil that is social media!

    Don't think you can manage it? The Hold app rewards you with free popcorn, Costa coffees and loads more just for avoiding your phone!

  8. Re-read your lecture notes and highlight

    This is where your hard work earlier in the year will hopefully pay off, as you can now consolidate whatever was on your lecture slides or in the textbooks.

    As an added bonus, cues you've jotted down in lectures should hopefully trigger more info from the depths of your brain.

    You don't have a huge amount of time on your hands (after all, this is a guide on how to revise quickly), so if something isn't jogging your memory, it may be worth coming back to it if you have any spare time later on.

  9. Condense your notes

    many textbooks

    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've learned key concepts, examples and evaluations, along with at least one conflicting argument.

    Don't waste time copying out paragraphs – this is laborious, time-consuming and totally unnecessary. Simply reading through some selective notes should act as a memory trigger when you read through them on the morning of your exam.

  10. Eat healthy brain food

    As tempting as it might be to stock up on the Red Bull and Haribo and go hell for leather, this is never a good idea.

    Sugar and caffeine will give you a short-term energy boost, but after a few hours (if not sooner) you'll crash in a big way – despite still having a load more revision to do.

    Instead, opt for some healthy, energy-boosting snacks like bananas or porridge. Our guide to the best brain fuel foods has all your best options, including (dark) chocolate!

  11. Use memory tricks

    Neville Longbottom holding remembrall

    Credit: Warner Bros

    Sometimes, sitting there and reading the lecture slides just isn't enough. Instead, you might need to turn to some more... unusual ways of making things stick.

    Now, we're not suggesting that you turn your notes into a full-blown musical to help you revise, but rhymes, funny anecdotes and mnemonics (e.g. Never Eat Shredded Wheat for reciting the clockwise order of North, East, South and West) 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? Don't work hard, work smart (ok, work hard too).

  12. Memorise some important names and dates

    A lot of university subjects will require you to know some key authors or critics and what their key arguments were. On top of that, you may even be asked to include some top quotes and the years they were uttered.

    Truth be told, you can usually be a few years off with the year (or employ some clever terms like "Smith commented in the early 19th century" rather than using an exact year), 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.

    Go for a mix of well-known and more obscure quotes. Aside from cheering them up having spared them from reading the same quotes in every essay, throwing in something your lecturer hasn't read before makes it seem like you've done a lot of in-depth research.

  13. Take breaks between each topic

    ross friends wearing frankie say relax t-shirt

    Credit: Warner Bros

    As weird as it sounds, learning how to revise quickly actually involves learning to take a break.

    You need to rest your eyes and your brain, as not only will this help you process what you've just read, but it'll also give you a moment to recharge and avoid burning out.

    When taking a break, it's a good opportunity to grab a quick bite to eat and, if you're experiencing withdrawal symptoms, quickly take a look at Twitter. And we mean quickly.

    Post a mandatory "I hate revision can't wait until it's all over xoxo" tweet, laugh at some student memes and then return to your work.

    Oh, and it's worth setting a timer to let you know when to get back to work, as it can be easy to get carried away.

  14. Review each topic

    When you return from each break, review the topic you have just learned 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.

  15. Revise the next topic

    Student reading

    Apply the previous steps to every topic until you have everything covered. Learning to revise quickly is really just a simple process of writing, condensing, taking a break, reviewing and then moving onto the next topic. Easy peasy.

    Aim to have all your material covered by 10pm at the very latest – you need to sleep! You can then spend a few hours absorbing the information from your simple one-page flashcards.

  16. Prepare yourself for the exam

    Get ready and prepare your bag for the exam the night before – calculator, spare pens, student card, whatever else you need. Even set 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. And, of course, it'll also give you an extra 10 minutes in bed in the morning – especially useful given that tip 18 involves getting up earlier than usual...

  17. Sleep well

    pam sleeping on jim's shoulder the office

    Credit: NBC

    No matter how stressed you feel, make sure to get some good quality shut-eye for at least six hours (ideally eight or more, though).

    If you're having trouble sleeping, remind yourself that at this point, sleep is more important than endlessly cramming. Exhaustion won't help you perform and your brain needs time to process all the things you've been revising the day before.

  18. Wake up earlier than usual

    Make sure you get up a little earlier than you need to in order to go over your notes.

    And before you enter the exam room, avoid talking to other people about what you've studied – it'll undo all of the work you've been doing to manage your exam stress as you'll just feel you've done less than everyone else, or missed out some topics.

    At the end of the day, there's nothing more you can do at this point – if you've forgotten to revise something, you can't do anything about that now. It's better to go in full of confidence and just 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!

We've got loads of tried and tested revision hacks in episode three of our podcast! If you're struggling to cram before an exam, you're certainly not alone...

Comments

fukass

Literally, i have 5 mins till exams start.

PokeGen9000

very stressed, i have 5 days until i have 22 gcse exams for my 10 (or 11 I'm not sure) subjects. have done absolutely f- all revision, but tonight I'm planning to really get some stuff done, good luck to everyone else

anna

I have year 10 end of year exams in like 2 weeks and i haven't revised at all during the holidays and i wont have enough time to do it at the weekends. Im really stressed!! it does make me feel better that they're not that important tho and not my gcses

Daniel

Well... I start my GCSE's in 1 week and I haven't even started.. and to make things worse, I have 10 subjects to conplete

Fatima

Life's tough! I have a mock tomorow and I have barely revised! I think I'm going crazy and overthinking of what the worst can happen however the quote "what doesn't kill you makes your stronger" makes me realise it's not going to kill me if I fail but indeed make me strong and motivate me towards success

ghaith

that's so true, how ever I have both chemistry and math mock tomorrow and I'm feeling positive no matter how hard the exam is , because I'm sure being positive will make me feel more self confident and distressed ; especially mocks are a practice exam they don't predict ur finally grades basically not accurate results or grades .

olla

omg same scenario here!!!! I have a biology mock and I'm freaking out!!!!!

Fatima

yes recieved my results and got U's for all 3 sciences so don't worry

zeennat

My exam is in 1 weeks and i have 7 subject to revise.Not yet started revision.Have to revise 2 years notes for all 7 subject.Please help me...I am too stress!!!!HELP...

NAthimahesep zeennat

7 subjects? what were you doing instead of studying?

Good luck finding a job next month.

Peter

aaah my exams are in 6 months i have no organisational skills plz help!

James

Just do what it says in the article.

Megan

Ironic how I'm procrastinating looking at the article and writing this comment. I bet you are procrastinating right now by reading this comment... GO REVISE!

Marie Fussell

I NEED HELP. My exam isn't tomorrow but my examS start one after the other tuesday and its currently friday. They're my gcses and i need Bs and i have barely touched my subjects revision wise. Any advise? and yes i know im an idiot.

Honey Lemon

Don't worry, you'll do fine! Just try to get a lot of revision done in any free time you have, and keep away from social media! Try to make up silly jokes or rhymes that help you remember certain things and recite them until they are like an annoying pop song in your head!

Julie

My exams are not until May but I haven't revised. I remember when I had 100 days until exams but in a blink of an eye there are only like 30 something days and I'm freaking out. I'm always thinking about revision but the I scare myself out of it because exams are just getting closer. I can't get my head in the right mind set. I really need some help before its to late to revise. This is my GCSEs that are coming up so they're really important to me. If someone could reply I would be really greatfull.

yulie

me too... i dont know what to do, i come home every evening so tired saying i will have a half hour break... then it turns into two hours... then after dinner i have no motivation... and then the entire evening is gone something i have started doing is homework in the mornings - i get up at 6:30 everyday and get ready in about an hour so i have about an hour (well about half with all my messing around) for the homework that i was too lazy to do the night before i have 14 days until my first one, but i have done under 5 hours independent revision since september (and this is for every subject) sorry that this turned into an essay; all my friends are really proactive so finally finding someone like me makes me feel super open

Libby

I really hopes this works... I have a physics exam in the morning.

Riya

I revised for 2 weeks and I'm still stressed

LoulouxdRose

does that really works?... like my exams are tomorrow, and now its early morning so... DOES THIS ACTUALLY WORKS? ive got 2 subjects to revise (physics and computer science)

Im sooo stressed.. dunno wat to do ..

NaomieIttoo

Thx a lot , this maths exams was stressing me loads

steph

lol....thanks loads!! <3 I was already starting to panic.... Who says last minute reading doesn't help? After all, a drowning man can clench unto a straw ey??

Kausar Patel

Oh thank god

aimee

Saved my life, thank you:)

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