Rachel from the Student Wellbeing Team shares tips on how to manage your revision time effectively.
It can be really hard to find self-motivation as the exam period gets closer. It requires a great deal of discipline and organisation to revise, especially when the joint demands of different courses or modules become overwhelming. Good planning skills can make these difficult times much easier to handle and help you keep on top of your workload in the lead up to exams.
Here are some tips that may help…
1. Organise your work
Spending a couple of hours planning out your work in detail might seem like a waste of time, but in fact it will make your studying much more effective. You’ll be more productive, your work will be of a higher quality, you can keep track of what you’ve done and how much you have left to do, so that you’re less likely to worry about ‘falling behind’ or leaving things until the last minute.
The point of planning is to help you take control of your work – organising means you have to make things happen instead of waiting for things to happen to you. It helps you decide how to prioritise your workload, rather than letting yourself be carried along by deadlines. Because you’ve planned ahead you’ll be able to choose what to do and when. You may even find that you’ll enjoy your work more, it will build your confidence and give you more leisure time to enjoy.
2. Plan your time
The key to effective time management is imposing structure on your working time by breaking it up. This works all the way from dividing up the structure of an academic year down to planning how to organise your day off or even just a free hour
- Work out how much time you have available and when
- List the tasks you need to complete
- Work out which of these tasks are the highest priorities
- Decide how long to spend on each task and set yourself targets
- Organise larger pieces of work (such as essays or revision) into smaller, less daunting chunks
- Try to do everything all at once
- Neglect any of your modules, even if you find them easy and especially if you find them difficult!
- Drift along from deadline to deadline. Carry on working on other modules while you write each essay and consider preparing for future essays or revision
- Let yourself be distracted
3. Get into a Routine
Planning at this level is mostly about developing a routine. This should be based on your own habits – you know when you’re most awake, when your housemates are out so you won’t be disturbed and how long you need to study for in order to actually get anything done.
At the start of the week, the weekend might seem forever away, but after all the things that take up your time there can be frustratingly little left. Here are some suggestions to help you make the most of the remaining hours:
- Use a diary to work out EXACTLY how much time you have available. Put on your planner everything from looking over lecture notes to tidying the house! Be realistic with your plan so that you can see how much time you really have to spend on revision.
- Write a ‘to-do list’ of tasks that need to be accomplished during the week. Some of these (such as going over lecture notes) can be done in odd hours here and there, whereas others (like essays) will need longer blocks of time devoted to them.
- Once you’ve decided on your tasks, allocate each to a day and time, based on how big and how urgent it is.
- Be flexible. If your schedule isn’t working, change it. If you don’t like where you’re studying, move somewhere else. Break up long study sessions into different tasks if you start to burn out.
- If the larger tasks are too daunting, start with something smaller.
- If you’re struggling for inspiration, skim through your lecture notes or textbooks.
- Draft your essays even if you don’t like what you’re writing – you can always change it later.
- You don’t have to write essays in order. If it’s easier, start with the main body and come back to the introduction and the title.
- Take responsibility for your work. Set yourself deadlines and stick to them.
4. Time-saving Tips
There aren’t golden rules that work for everyone as we all study in different ways, but these general ideas might help you work out a system for organising your time:
- Don’t overdo it. It’s not sensible to plan to work until you drop, and working in irregular patterns or infrequent binges will lead to underperformance.
- Pace yourself and work out how long you can concentrate for before the effort starts to outweigh the benefits. Don’t push past this upper limit.
- Find strategies to help you deal with the times when you know that your concentration won’t be up to scratch. If you’re struggling to follow a particular piece of work make a note of it so you remember to come back to it later.
We hope some of this information is helpful during this stressful time. The moral of the story is that being on top of things, although hard in the short term, reduces stress and increases exam performance in the longer term. Planning and doing the work now is better than playing catch up, in terms of your studies and also your wellbeing. Keep a watchful eye on how you use your time and this can be enough to tip the balance the right way.
Watch our Relaxation videos for some techniques to help you reduce stress
Workshops could help!
The Counselling, Health and Wellbeing service run workshops that could help you overcome exam anxiety, stress and procrastination:
Dealing with Exam Anxiety (Online), Tuesday 9 January
Mindfulness for Exams (Online), Wednesday 10 January
Mindfulness Drop-in Exam Stress Workshops, Wednesday 17 and 24 January
If you don’t want to attend a workshop, some of these will be carried out online so you can learn strategies from the comfort of your home.
Check out more of our exam advice and tips
Contacting Counselling Health and Wellbeing
If you are finding things difficult at the moment and you would like further support, please know that the Cardiff University Support Services are here for you – there is no problem too big or too small, and we offer a range of flexible support options including:
- Self-help resources
- Peer Support
- Wellbeing Workshops
- Courses and Groups
- Wellbeing Walk-in: Drop-in Service running Monday- Friday, 15:00-15:45, and Wednesday, 09:30-10:15
- Counselling and Wellbeing Appointments
- Face to Face, Online or Telephone
- Bookable appointments are available via our online referral questionnaire.
Watch our video to meet our friendly and approachable staff, who will listen to you non-judgmentally, in a safe and confidential space.
If you are worried that you are experiencing physical symptoms that may be affecting your health, we strongly advise you to make a GP appointment to discuss this. If you do not already have a GP, please contact NHS Wales on 0845 46 47 or check out their website to view all of your GP options.
Your feedback and help please
Have you found this blog post useful? Please help us by commenting in the comments bar below, and if there is anything further you’d like to know ask your questions there too.
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Rachel, Wellbeing Practitioner, Counselling, Health & Wellbeing Team.
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