‘There is no correlation between the amount of time you revise and the results you get,’ Ben said. ‘What we’ve found is it’s actually the type of revision you are doing.’
So instead of spending endless hours cramming for an exam, take a smarter approach to revision.
Ben suggests students test themselves in the days leading up to an exam. Note down the key points on a topic and then put the piece of paper away and see how many you can recall.
With a string of modules to tick off, it is common for students to allocate an entire day to a particular subject.
But this approach be counter-productive when it comes to actually absorbing the information.
‘Students tend to spend a whole day on one topic but “spaced” learning is better,’ Ben explained. ‘That means maybe doing biology in the morning, followed by English annotations, then testing yourself on biology modules after lunch.’
This works as it gives the student time to ‘forget’ what they have learnt, which is key.
Ben added: ‘The bit the students hate is the frustration of forgetting an answer but this is important when it comes to exams.’
It might sound obvious but students should take extra care to look after themselves on the morning of an exam.
If it is an afternoon exam, Ben advises sleeping in a little longer in the morning before tucking into a good breakfast.
This doesn’t necessarily mean their favourite. It means something with plenty of fibre and slow releasing energy, like porridge topped with chopped bananas.
Parents desperate to help can find themselves bombarding their child with questions on the morning of an exam.
‘Parents want to feel useful but they’ll often have a negative impact,’ Ben explained.
Instead anxious mothers and fathers should use any chats before to reinforce their child’s confidence.
Ben continued: ‘Wish them luck, tell them how proud you are of them, let them know you are proud of their best efforts.
It can also be a good idea to talk to the child about something other than exams – whether it is their own plans for the day or what was on TV the night before – as students in that situation would often rather listen rather than talk.
A student can condition their brain to work its best during exams, just as an athlete can condition their body ahead of a race.
One trick is to associate a trigger object or sensation with a positive mood that can then be tapped into on the day itself.
Try sniffing a lemon while doing a favourite activity – whether that’s watching a favourite TV show, thinking about holidays, or scrolling through an album – in the weeks leading up to the exam.
This will send signals to the hippocampus, which plays a role in emotions and memory.
Then before walking into the exam hall, sniff the lemon to invoke the same positive emotions that you have associated with it.
If sniffing a lemon feels a little fussy, something as simple as massaging the ears can have the same effect.
Ben noted visualising the exam room has also been shown to help a student’s performance.