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Exams and study skills

A list of study techniques and exam study skills, as well as how to access the support you may need.

Exams are stressful. There is a lot of pressure to try to show what you know in very specific circumstances and in a certain amount of time.

A little bit of stress is OK, and can even help you focus, but it is important to make sure it doesn’t get out of hand.  Starting early with exam arrangements, making a revision plan, getting to know your learning style, and signing up to a study skills course (perhaps one specifically for blind and partially sighted students), can all help make the process much easier.

At the start of your course

It is never too early to start preparing for your exam arrangements.

At the start of your course, speak to your tutor or teacher about what the exam requirements will be, this could be:

  • extra time
  • modified exam papers in alternative formats
  • support staff
  • physical arrangements for where the exam is going to take place.

Keep reminding your teacher (politely!) as the weeks go by.

You can find more information about exam arrangements in the Access to exams and tests page within our Education Professionals section.

Getting going with revision

There is no point sitting down the week before an exam, opening your file and hoping for the best. Planning is essential before you try to start studying for exams.

Make a revision plan

This does not need to be a fancy document, it can just be a list of the subjects that you are studying, sub-divided into topics. Put a star or symbol next to the topics that you find hard so that you know to allow yourself more time for those ones.

Whenever you have an evening, a day or a weekend set aside for revision, identify which topics you are going to cover and plan 10 minute breaks after each 45 minutes of study. Keep ticking off the topics you have covered so that you get a sense of achievement, but also so that you don't spend too long doing one area at the expense of the others.

Your learning style

Try and think of what helps you to learn things most effectively.

  • Are you more awake and receptive at certain times of day?
  • Are you better studying alone or with others?
  • Have you got a good place to work, free from distraction?
  • Does it help to recap at the end of a section or topic?
  • What helps you to switch off and relax in between study sessions?

Know what to expect

Make sure you know what the exam is going to be like.

  • Are you going to be doing lots of short questions or fewer long ones?
  • How long are you going to have for each question?
  • Are you allowed any kit (such as a calculator, set text, dictionary)?

Your teachers or tutors should go through this with your class, but if you think of any VI-related specifics that you aren't sure of, make sure you ask before the big day.

Go on a study skills course

Every year in the Easter holidays, New College Worcester, a leading residential secondary school for students with vision impairment, runs a revision course for pupils in year 10 and 11 preparing for their GCSEs. It is a residential four-day course, open to all pupils with a vision impairment who attend mainstream schools.For more information visit the New College website or email [email protected].

Meet up and quiz each other

Often talking with your classmates can be a great way to commit your subject information to memory, especially if trawling through books, papers or files is hard work and time-consuming in the format you use. Choose a study-buddy carefully though! Don't meet people who are going to baffle you with information or show off what they know!

Perhaps plan to do some essay plans together, or go through a topic to identify the main points so that you can go and revise them on your own. You can swap and share some revision - each of you prepares one topic, to "present" to the others, and vice-versa. It might save you time at the books on your own.

The big day!

You will not do your best if you are exhausted, and there comes a point where you run out of time to revise. Last-minute cramming will not help as much as a good night's sleep, so make sure you have a good rest and a decent breakfast. Take what you need for the day, with spares of anything (like batteries, thick black pens) that it would be a disaster to run out of. Don't go hungry or thirsty, have carb-y snacks and water with you, especially if your extra time means that this is going to be a long haul. Get there in plenty of time. You need a clear head to remember your facts, and if you are rushing or late the stress will get in the way.

And then relax! You've done your best and now you have to have some fun while you wait for the results.