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  • Writer's pictureAlex

ENGLISH: Exams, revision, and self-care

Updated: Sep 1, 2023

Build up to exams are on the way. Many of my students have already sat or are sitting mock exams.

Now alongside exams come a high level of stress often. Our lives at times may seem like endless to do-lists, exam timetables, revision classes, setting aside time for revision. The question of how do I revise? May have entered our heads at one time or another I know it has for me in the past.

Well, I thought I would write this blog in two halves. The first half with the idea of giving top tips for revision based around English and the second half talking about the need to deal with the stress of exams in a healthy way.

Be Prepared

Yes, this may seem obvious but it’s alarming how many students leave their revision too late. You do not want to be the one who leaves revision to the last minute. This will just cause you to freak out and as a result probably spend more time worrying than studying. Make a revision timetable and make sure you stick to it. Most studies show that we are only able to take in information for 40 minutes at a time effectively. If you are someone who will struggle with this amount of time set yourself little goals. Start working for 20 minutes then have a 5-minute break and then another 20 minutes. Trust me. Little and often is the goal here. Mix it up do 40 minutes of English, have a break, then 40 minutes of Maths. Who says you have to have a one subject day?

Variety is the spice of life, right?

Know your texts

For those of you who are studying English Literature this advice is for you. Know your text. Know your characters, author, context. Read the text more than once. Many of you will be going in to a close text exam so this is vital. Pick out key quotes from each chapter or each plot point and make little revision cards. Make it fun have your family or friends devise a quiz to test you. Do not be afraid to highlight and annotate your text. The more you get to know it the better and the more easier you will find the exam.


The best way to improve your reading and writing is to read. It does not have to be ‘War and Peace’ by Leo Tolstoy that you read. It can be a magazine, a blog, a fanfiction even. But read, read and read some more. This will have a positive result on your spelling, grammar, imagination, written work, reading age and level as well as your vocabulary. Trust me it is time well spent.

Buy revision books and use them!

Sadly, I do not know of anyone who has successfully put a book under their pillow a night before an exam and through the power of osmosis managed to retain and recall any knowledge. CGP, Collins, York Notes, AQA revision guides, Edexcel revision guides are all great guides. Take your pick. They can be really useful and can be more engaging than sitting there learning by rote.

Past Exam Papers

This is my top tip! Completing past exam papers is a great way of building your confidences, getting feedback from your tutor, and developing your academic writing skills. Which is not only useful at GCSE but also if you go on to further studies or in the workplace. Tutors and teachers are usually quite happy to mark an extra few exam papers for you. It also will give you an idea of what sort of questions will appear and what is expected of you. Not to mention potentially raising your grades.

Take a moment for you!

Now I have hopefully given some useful pointers time for the second part of this blog. The need to control that element of stress or feeling of being overwhelmed. Yes, that’s right the need to take time for you! To do something just for yourself. It’s something that as we get older, I feel like we forget to do and it’s easy to do. Life can and does take over at times. But it is important to take that rest bite. That moment, that minute, those couple of minutes, an hour, a few hours, hell maybe a whole day to yourself to refuel and recover from the weeks demands.

I thought I would share a few ways and a few thoughts that I find helpful in unwinding (not fully mind you I’m not that unrealistic :p) but just that little bit to give ourselves that breather and breathing space that sometimes we may not know we need. Walking for me has always been a stress relief, a reset, a refocus. It’s not only great for your mental state of mind but it’s also great exercise. I love exploring new places especially if they are on my doorstep.

The Norwegian have a word for it friluftsliv (pronounced free-loofts-leev). It means to be in nature no matter what. No matter the weather (that’s what warm clothes, hot showers and cosy fires are for), no matter whether you think you can do it - just take one step at a time and before you know it you have discovered a new place, or something new about yourself. Replaced some self-doubt maybe? The idea is just to be in the moment and enjoy the nature around you.

Here are a few pictures of a recent walk I went on that I thought I would share to get you inspired.

Don’t have the time, energy, or inclination to leave your house? Then don’t. Don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself. Play a board game, draw, read, have a bath, light a candle, play an instrument that refocuses your attention somewhere else. Whatever makes you happy do it but do it for you! So, at the risk of rambling or not being concise enough my challenge to you SAT community is this take a moment for yourself this week. Appreciate the small things, the small glimmer of beauty in our lives and do one thing truly for yourself.

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