With May Half Term approaching many GCSE Students will be about to depart from school for exam leave prior to sitting their final GCSE Examinations. Exams at any stage of life can be a stressful event, possibly more so with GCSE’s as your future direction of study or work is dependent on their outcome and resits can delay your future plans. In this blog post, we hope to share a few tips for exam success and in particular the role that sleep has to play in doing well in your final exams.
Plan your study
Leaving it to the last minute to start preparing for an exam is never a good idea. Planning your study time will help you keep your stress levels under control and revise effectively.
If you don’t already have one, get a wall planner or calendar and start by marking out the dates of your exams. If you’d prefer a digital version of your study planner visit MyStudyLife.com where you can set up a mobile study planner that you can carry with you on your smartphone.
It might be necessary to skip any clubs or other social activities that you would usually attend during the few weeks that your exams take place – add any events that cannot be put off to the calendar. You will now be able to add study and revision time to the calendar before your exams – treat them as being as important as the exam themselves and don’t be tempted to skip them.
Don’t study all night before an exam
When the exam pressure begins to build it can be tempting to think that every moment should be turned to study – including all-night study sessions. The facts are that during the night we need to sleep in order to be ready to function properly the next day. In fact, memory recall ability and concentration levels are greatly increased in people who have had a good night’s rest.
Cutting down on the hours of sleep will make us less effective at any given task the next day. Revising when extremely tired is likely to be pretty ineffective too.
Get a good night’s sleep
During an 8 hour sleep, we go through around 6 cycles of sleep – each lasting about 90 minutes or so. In these sleep cycles, we consolidate our activities of the day – our brains are mapping the memory and learning that we have undertaken in the day time. It’s essential therefore to make sure we get the recommended amount of sleep to help our revision time sink in.
Using your smartphone’s voice recorder, make recordings of important facts, dates, formulae or anything you’re struggling to recall. Listen to these recordings as you settle down to sleep. To avoid wearing headphones which will probably stop you from sleeping, use the speaker on your smartphone or try a Sound Asleep Pillow – a pillow that has a speaker built into its base that only the person sleeping on it can hear.
The best time to study
Our bodies are governed by Circadian rhythms – which is effectively an activity cycle that lasts 24 hours during which time we will be more or less active at certain times of the day and night. Studies have shown that we are less receptive to learning in the afternoon at between 3 and 5 pm and have a peak of brain function between 6 and 8 pm. Planning your revision and study time around the peak time of brain activity will allow you to take in information more readily.
We would like to wish everyone who is about to set off on study leave the very best of luck with their exams. If you have a tip for exam prep that we haven’t mentioned here, why not add it as a comment.