The amount of exams and essays that you have to complete, or revise for, heavily depends on your subject of degree. For example, English Literature is very heavily based in essays throughout the three years however there are still a couple of exams in the first and second year. If your subject demands that you complete both, then you have to be that extra bit organised in order to deal with the two separate disciplines.
Luckily, in my experience the deadline for the essays is the week before the first exam. This isn’t a big time gap but it means that, if you’re organised, you can give yourself plenty of time to separate the two out. I would do this by starting your essays early; choose the question, know what you’re writing about, and start writing as soon as you’ve covered the material that you need to in class. If you manage to keep on top of your essays through planning and personal deadlines then you achieve two massive benefits. You don’t have so much stress when it gets closer to the deadline because the majority of the work will be out of the way, and if you complete them with time to spare then you have more time and a less stressful experience revising for your exams.
I believe that finishing your essays first, if the dates allow you to, is vital for keeping the stress of exams under wraps because this way you know exactly what to focus on at any one time.
This next tip really depends on the schedule of your exams. Not all exam timetables will allow you to do this for a whole day or week’s worth of revision but it’s still true for even short bursts of revision. You need to focus on the one topic or subject which you are revising at the time. For example, you are not doing yourself any favours by thinking and worrying about Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales when you are looking at, and supposed to be revising, your notes on Shakespeare’s As You Like It. If you want to get some really good revision in then you have to really focus on it, even if it’s just for a couple of hours. A couple of hours of solid focused revision is a lot more beneficial than a whole day’s worth of revision worrying about something else entirely.
My next few tips could be helpful with your actual revision. I know that everyone has their own ways to revise but here are a few things which help me.
Knowing the layout of your exams, in terms of what the question is going to ask you to do is absolutely vital. This is crucial to revision as you need to know what to revise for which bit of the exam and you also don’t want any nasty surprises when you get in the exam hall. It’s always best to be prepared. In my experience, this tip can also help you if you have a large amount of texts and need to help yourself destress by knowing which ones to revise for one style of writing and which ones to put towards something completely different.
This point also goes into my next. If you can, then plan. If you have a list of themes and you know that a selection of about five of them could come up for an essay question, then plan a few answers that could fit a couple of the themes. I think this is an absolutely amazing thing to help destress about the sheer amount of material to revise, especially if you don’t want the daunting task of memorising an entire book in the hopes that you’ll remember that one tiny quote when you need it. By using a plan you know, what plays you want to use for each theme, what you’re going to talk about, what quotes you’re going to use and what order, I find that even if you only remember the very basic structure and manage to note it down at the top of your answer page, it can be a huge help if your mind draws a blank halfway through. Planning a few essays which can cover the big themes that could randomly come up is a life saver and it can be really engaging.
This tip goes with planning but I also find that writing helps me to revise better than just sitting there staring at a page hoping some of the information sinks in. Yes, reading is obviously a vital part of revision but if you can write down what you remember in bullet points or a mind map, then you’re not doing any harm at all, you’re actually doing a heck of a lot more good! Even if it’s as simple as re-writing your notes from class in order to colour code important bits, you are engaging with the material and then you’ll have a better chance of remembering it either when it comes to hard-core revision or the actual exam.
I hope that these tips have been helpful, and good luck to anybody sitting their exams!