Student Counselling Service

Six-week Action Plan for Exam Success

Remember the facts and revise your answers

Revise all your subjects using this easily mastered Key-Card method.  That way you?ll enjoy rapid retention and accurate recall of all those vital facts- even under exam pressure.  Here?s how to do it step by step

You?ll need: several dozen plain cards, a large storage box, coloured pens:

  1. Select revision subject.  Identify major topics- use past papers, teacher?s advice, and texts to guide you
  2. Identify key facts within each topic. Be thorough- better too many than too few.  Write down one fact on one side only of each card
  3. Keep facts brief.  Use abbreviations, thumbnail sketches, symbols.  Write words in red, drawings in green, symbols, figures, formulae etc in blue.  These colours with help boost memory
  4. Sort facts into a logical sequence
  5. Place cards from a single topic (maximum 25 at a time) in a circle on table ? all but one face down.  Read that card then try recalling facts on either adjoining card.  Don?t strain to remember.  Stay relaxed.  Think of the first thing the fact you?ve just read brings to mind.  Check by turning over card.  Repeat until all cards have been recalled.
  6. Continue until memory is faultless.  Check by writing out facts from cards.  Focusing on symbols may help recall.
  7. After revision keep topic cards together in storage box.  Use dividers to identify subjects and topic areas.
  8. During exam recreate Key-Cards on scrap paper. Remembering any one fact will bring all the others to mind.  Use rough notes as blueprint for constructing a logical, well ?argued answer.
  9. Key-Cards can be used for most subjects, but are less useful for learning maths, chemistry and physics formulae or foreign languages.  These need to be clearly understood, then memorized by constant practice.

Banish Exam Nerves

If your heart starts beating rapidly, mouth goes dry and feel unable to cope ? don?t panic!

This relaxation exercise will banish needless anxiety and help keep exam nerves well under control

First, calm the body. Sit or lie down in a quiet place.  Remove shoes. Loosen tight clothing.  Tense your muscles like this: clench fists; try touching front of wrists to shoulders; hunch shoulders; frown hard; clench jaws; press tip of tongue to roof of mouth; take a deep breath; flatten stomach; stretch legs and point toes.  Notice the tension.  Hold for slow count to five.

Now just let go.  Flop out like a puppet whose strings have been cut.  Feel tension flowing freely away from your body.

Next relax your mind. Remain sitting or lying. Eyes closed. Breathe slowly and deeply.  Imagine being on a tropical island.  Blue sky and seas, warm sun, a golden sandy beach.  See yourself lying there, very quiet and peaceful.  Hold this image for 20 seconds ? or longer if you like.

Now open your eyes and go calmly about your work.

Do this relaxation exercise last thing at night to ensure a good night?s rest.


Detailed guide for the last seven days.

7 days to exam

  • Prepare day ?by ?day exam timetable to guide revision
  • Revise subjects in reverse order - last exam first
  • Take at least two relaxation sessions
  • Take at least 20 minutes exercise in fresh air
  • Practise answering past exam questions using Key-Cards


  • Burn the midnight oil - stop revising at least 30 minutes before bed
  • Drink lots of coffee while revising ? it impairs recall during exams
  • Listen to music while you?re revising ? study in quiet conditions

6 days to exam

  • Follow your revision timetable carefully
  • Take at least two relaxation sessions
  • Take at least 20 minutes exercise in fresh air
  • Rest between revision sessions


  • Revise for more than 20 minutes at a time
  • Panic about not having enough time ?revise steadily

5 days to exam

  • Check your timetable to stay on schedule
  • Work out how many hours are left to revise and reallocate if necessary
  • Take at least three relaxation sessions
  • Go for a walk lasting 20 minutes or more
  • Practise answering past questions


  • Eat junk food.  Include fresh fruit and fish in your diet
  • Think negatively.  If an unhelpful thought arises say stop firmly

4 days to exam

  • Revise actively by asking and answering questions
  •  Take four relaxation sessions.  Focus mind on relaxing image
  • Take some physical exercise
  • List what you?ll need, pen and spare; rubber; pencils; coloured pens; ruler; geometry and/or technical drawing instruments; calculator ? get fresh battery; watch; permitted books


  • Allow gloomy talk by other students to induce panic

3 days to exam

  • Revise first two subjects being examined
  • Summarise Key-Card facts on to just three or four summary cards
  • Take four relaxation sessions
  • Take exercise in fresh air
  • Get a good night?s sleep

2 days to exam

  • Revise first subject examined
  • Use summary cards ? but check against Key-Cards if stuck
  • Take four relaxation sessions
  • Pack what you?ll need for exam.  Compare with check list to ensure nothing gets forgotten
  • Take at least two hours off before bed.  Enjoy yourself.  Set out clothes for next day.

The big day

  • Eat a good breakfast, for instance, scrambled eggs, grilled bacon, toast and fruit juice.  Don?t drink more than two cups of tea or coffee
  • Leave home with plenty of time to spare.  Aim to arrive 30 minutes before the start of the exam
  • Avoid frantic last-minute revision.  Just read through summary cards to jog memory.  But don?t take these into exam room!
  • Relax immediately prior to exam ? a toilet provides privacy! Suck a glucose sweet or eat some raisins before exam
  • In the exam read every question carefully.  If stuck on a short answer question don?t ponder move straight to next.  Leave time to go back at the end
  • If you don?t know the answer to multiple choice questions a random guess is the best strategy
  • Allocate time for every question asked. You must finish them all.  Allow five minutes for reading each question and ten minutes for checking and correcting a the end.
  • Keep a very careful eye on time
  • After the exam, concentrate on relaxation, physical exercise and preparing for your next exam

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