10 Revision Tips for University January Exams!

Revision Tips for University January Exams

January exams are the worst, right? You're about to finish a twelve-week term, then you have to spend your 'holiday' working your socks off because someone has scheduled your first exam for January 11th. I know how you feel. More than half of my final year undergraduate exams were right after Christmas ... five of them in total ... many on consecutive days.

I'm here to say that there is an upside. I always did better in January exams than in the summer. Why? I didn't do anything differently, but my fellow students did. I'm convinced the average performance in January exams is lower than in June because everyone gets so distracted by Christmas. I'm pretty sure the grades got scaled up accordingly if you're at the top of the pile your grades can potentially reach astronomical heights! Here are ten tips to help you make the most of this opportunity ...

Mental attitude.

This is not a four week holiday, it is a four week revision period with a few days of celebration thrown in. The sooner you realise that the less you will resent that task you have to do, the more productive you will be and the more you will enjoy your free time once you've done it. Of course give yourself time to enjoy all things Christmas, but get your work done first.

Be ready to revise by the end of term.

Have all of your revision notes prepared so that your entire revision period can be spent doing exactly that: revising, instead of learning. By that I mean, you need to have been through all of your lecture notes making sure you understand everything and condensed them into the essentials you need to remember before term ends.

Revise on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve.

Work on the eve of the celebrations so that you can take time off the day of and day after the celebration. Once you start taking days off it's easier to take another and another ... so start slacking as late as possible! More importantly your peers probably won't be working on these days ... you're gaining an advantage and you'll feel a whole lot better about taking the necessary time off if you've worked your socks off before hand!

Get into a routine and stick to it.

Each day I liked to start early and end early so that I could do something fun in the evening. It also meant I had extra time in case I didn't manage to get through everything I had planned ... plus I'm a TV addict! Take your breaks at the same time every day.

Have a focused plan.

Don't go in blind. Consider the amount of work you need to get through and create a plan to ensure you get it all done. For me this meant creating a rolling schedule for which modules I would revise each day. I preferred to revise a little bit of each module on most days instead of assigning a whole day to a module then not doing it for another week. The continual repetition in relatively close proximity helped things stick in my mind.

Work by quantity not by time.

I can't stress this enough. I swear the human brain has an uncanny ability to expand work to fill time. I found it much more motivating to say 'I'm going to get through three lectures' than say 'I'm going to sit here revising x for 2 hours and see how much I can get through'. My revision was of a much better quality and I got through things more efficiently. Obviously you do have to consider the amount of time you have when setting the workload targets. Whatever anyone tells you, don't be afraid to work for multiple hours without a break ... university topics are complex ... you need to give your brain time to get to grips with them ... coffee breaks don't help that.

Don't be afraid to ignore a module.

Be clever with your time. If your last exam is a long time after the penultimate one, ignore it at the start of the holidays and focus on the exams that are in the first week of term. As long as you've done the ground work understanding the content you should be able to remember it all in just a few days before the exam if you have no other modules to distract you.

Go back to uni a week early.

Get yourself settled back into your routine before your first exam. I know from experience that there is nothing more unsettling than arriving back to your lonely hall room the evening before your first 9am exam. Plus campus is usually deserted so make use of a peaceful library ... once term starts you won't be able to get a seat.


Exam questions are uncannily similar to past exam questions which are usually uncannily similar to tutorial problem sets. Practice them all. Practice them all under time pressure.

How do I actually revise?

Of course this varies from subject to subject and individual to individual, so all I can do is give you an insight into my way of working. I used to memorise (word for word) my revision notes, which were a skeleton of my lecture notes. I'd memories headings, subheadings, lists of key words, explanations, methods, mathematical proofs etc. etc. all of which triggered a bigger bulk of knowledge already sitting in my mind from the lectures. I think the headings are really important ... going into the exam it was like I had a filing system in my head. I'd read the exam question and essentially look up the answer in my mental revision notes. It was almost like being in an open book test, the only difference being the book was in my mind!

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