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Last Updated: Tuesday May 11 2010 13:59 GMT

Top tips for coping with exams

PSHE Study and careers

Jonny Wilkinson

Most of us have a preferred way of getting ready for an exam or tests, but it's still worth talking to other people to see what new ideas you can pick up. It can also help reduce anxiety.

Read some celebrity exam tips and act as 'agony aunts' for imaginary worried students by sharing study advice.

Learning aims
  • Learn useful study skills from each other
  • Solve problems for imaginary students


Exam papers on desks in an exam hall

Look at the exam tips from Lily Cole and Jonny Wilkinson. Are the group surprised that these celebrities take education seriously? Why might a model like Lily Cole still want to carry on her studies?

Read out some of the comments submitted to the Newsround website.
They are available as a printable worksheet with the following questions attached.

Ask the class:

  • Is it possible to 'make your own luck' by preparing properly for exams?
  • How can getting worried about exams stop you doing as well as you should?
  • What are the best conditions for you to study in?
  • How could music be used to help students learn?
  • What is your best revision tip?

Warm up

A boy sitting his exams

Students examine these exam tips submitted by readers of the Newsround website.

Ask students to rank them in order of effectiveness.

Main activity


Give out copies of this 'revision worries' worksheet.

In groups, students come up with solutions for each of the ten worries.

Suggested answers can be found in the Teachers' Background below.

Students draw from these discussions a chart of their own Top Ten Study Tips.

Extension activity

Students devise a timetable to organise their revision.


Students share their best study advice.

Teachers' Background

Answers to studying worries:

1. "I don't know where to begin."
Make a list of all the things you have to do. Break your workload down into manageable chunks. Interrupt study time with planned study breaks. Begin studying early, with an hour or two per day, and slowly build as the exam approaches.

2. "I've got so much to study and so little time."
Identify the most important topics and areas you don't understand. Skim-reading saves time, especially with non-fiction reading, by helping you organise and focus in on the main topics. But remember that previewing is not an effective substitute for reading.

3. "This stuff is so boring."
Get actively involved with the text as you read. Ask yourself what is important to remember about this section. Take notes or underline key concepts. This is better than reading passively and missing important points.

4. "I've read it and I understand it. I just can't remember it."
We remember best the things that are most meaningful to us. As you are reading, try to elaborate upon new information with your own examples. Try to integrate what you're studying with what you already know.

5. "I think I understand it."
Test yourself. Make up questions about key sections in notes or reading. Often, simply by changing section headings you can generate effective questions.

6. "There's too much to remember."
There are many techniques that can help you organize new information:

  • Write chapter outlines or summaries.
  • Group information into categories or hierarchies.
  • Draw up a matrix to organise and interrelate material.

For example, if you were trying to understand the causes of World War I, you could make a chart listing all the major countries involved across the top, and then list the important issues and events down the side. In the boxes between, you could describe the impact each issue had on each country.

7. "I knew it a minute ago."
After reading a section, try to recall the information contained in it. Try answering questions you've made up for that section.

8. "But I like to study in bed."
Recall is better when study context (physical location, as well as mental, emotional, and physical state) are similar to the test context.

9. "Cramming before a test helps keep it fresh in my mind."
Start studying now. Keep studying as you go along. Begin with an hour or two a day about one week before the exam, and then increase study time as the exam approaches.

10. "I'll stay up all night until I get this."
Take short breaks often when studying. Before a test, have a rested mind. When you take a study break, and just before you go to sleep at night, don't think about work. Relax and unwind, mentally and physically. Otherwise, you'll find yourself lying awake at night.

For hundreds more lesson plans, click on Teachers on the left hand side.