Exams are close! Top tips for cramming

May 3, 2017 by Minerva Tutors,

We get it. Revision is hard. It takes ages, there’s loads of it, and no one could possibly expect you to have done it all on time, even if you made a revision timetable, or downloaded some super useful apps. 

Sometimes, cramming is the only answer. 

Exams are now just around the corner – maybe you’ve even reached the corner, peeked round and are now staring your first exam full in the face. It’s ugly. It’s got horns and it smells bad. But don’t fear! We’ve put together some strategies for making last-minute cramming as effective as possible.


  1. Teach your classmates


You have one day before an exam and you’re only comfortable with half the course. More fool you. One great strategy is to spend the morning revising the stuff you’re not happy with. Don’t just read over notes (this is about the least effective revision strategy), but actively write and condense notes or make mind maps – crucially, make sure you’re writing stuff down. Then in the afternoon, meet up with a revision group, and try and teach them the stuff you are less comfortable with. Explaining material this way is one of the best ways to help you better understand it, and if you’re less sure about something, someone from your group who knows it better can help you out. Likewise, when one of your classmates is teaching the bit you’re more comfortable with, you can help them out if they struggle!





This is more of a not-cramming piece of advice than a cramming piece of advice, but is still pretty important. If you only got two hours sleep the night before an exam (or even exams) it is IMPOSSIBLE for you to do your best. You’ll be tired, your focus will be off and you won’t even do as well on the bits you do know. So don’t do it. If the words are swimming and you can barely keep your eyes open, you are not ‘revising.’ You’re torturing yourself. At a certain point you need to switch off, go to bed, and know that the extra sleep will benefit you more than the extra ineffective revision.



  1. Do practice questions


Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t. If there’s an area of the exam you’re not happy with, do some last-minute practice questions on it. Face your fears, and realise that even if it’s not your strongest area, you can still have a go, and don’t need to freak out or freeze up if it comes up in the real thing. Also – practice is always good (obviously).



  1. Revise ACTIVELY


As we said, just reading over your notes is as passive and useless as revision gets. Whether you’ve got a week, a day or an hour to prepare for an exam, try and keep the revision as active as possible (short of just reading notes outside the exam hall…we’ve all been there). That might mean making and condensing notes, making flashcards, doing practice questions, drawing spider diagrams, testing yourself, teaching others or even using videos or audio files. Different techniques will work better for different types of learner, but all are more effective than just reading over notes, or letting yourself stress out.



  1. Look at past papers!


As many as you can get your hands on! On the one hand, you should NEVER try and second-guess what will be in the exam. On the other, the more familiar you are with the format, type of question, and what you’re likely to be asked about the more prepared you can be. It can also stop you from psyching yourself out about getting an impossibly difficult or obscure question which is, let’s be honest, quite rare.



  1. Move around and take breaks


Even if you feel like you’re running out of time, and need to spend as much time as possible on revising RIGHT NOW, you still need to take breaks. If you try and do the same thing for too long, you’ll lose focus, and what you’re trying to revise won’t be going on. Taking a short break every 20-45 minutes (depending on how well focused you are naturally!) and changing scene – whether that’s changing room, or going to the library, can effectively reset your focus, and mean you get more done, even if the exam’s tomorrow.


If you are looking for an expert tutor to help out with any last minute GCSE or A Level revision, get in touch with the Temple of Minerva on 0208 819 3276 or send us an email at hello@minervatutors.com.


By David Bard


David is a Minerva Pro Tutor who specialises in humanities subjects at A Level and is a trained expert in the 7 + and 11 + exams. Outside of tutoring, David writes blogs about everything that’s trending in education. He has crammed for quite a few exams over the years, with varying degrees of success.

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