In this series, I’m looking at the ways get the most from mock exams, with practical steps to help you dial back the stress.
- Know your goals.
- Create a revision timetable
- 10 revision tips
- A good revision space (this post)
- What to do during mocks
- Review, reflect, repeat
A good revision space is important. You’re trying to do difficult things, and you need somewhere that you can focus. This post is about what that looks and feels like.
Let’s start straight off by saying that this post is about ideal spaces. It won’t be practical for everybody, especially if you share a room or if you don’t have a desk. BUT everybody can create something that approaches this space if you get a bit creative with it, and I’ll give you some suggestions throughout. There are a few suggestions of things to use, but they’re just that – suggestions and ideas, to show you what I mean*.
- Use a desk
- Have your materials nearby
- Get the lighting right
- Sound to focus the mind
- Regular breaks
- Tidy up
1.Use a desk
Don’t revise on your bed. Desks say to your brain “I’m working now,”, beds say “I’m relaxing now.” Your brain needs to understand this is important and needs remembering. Use a table/ chair that are comfortable heights. Your feet should be flat on the floor but your hips at 90 degrees, and you shouldn’t have to bend down to the desk. If you have poor posture you’ll feel stiff and uncomfortable.
If you don’t have one, this Ikea desk is £16 and has removable adjustable legs, so you could always store it under your bed when it’s not in use! If you can’t fit it in, take over any table you can find in the house. It’s an important time, and carving out some space you can work will really help. If you absolutely can’t work at home, then you need to find a space in the school where you can make the most of the time there.
2.Have your materials nearby
If you have your desk, it’s ideal. BUT don’t have them out all the time. A small basic storage box for books and stationery which keeps them all together can be kept under the desk.
You don’t need loads. My ideal is a set of highlighters which i use to identify things I’ve missed in my look, cover, write, check (because I like marking with pretty colours – the colours don’t help, it’s the process!), coloured pens – again, I just sometimes find it more interesting writing in colours, sticky notes to flag things for later review, and masses of A4 paper for mind-maps. Index cards are useful but it’s cheaper to just cut A4 paper in half. If you’re in a situation where you can’t afford any of this, it’s a really important thing to ask someone at school that you feel comfortable with – we often have packs that we can let students have if we know that they need it.
3.Get the lighting right
You might need a brighter overhead bulb. A desk lamp that you can point / move is also a great idea. You can get this teal desk lamp for £10 from Dunelm, and I’ve seen similar for around £5. The useful thing is to be able to move it so you can focus it on your work. If you don’t have one, then just try to make sure you’re not casting a shadow from the overhead light!
4.Sound to focus the mind
People vary as to what they can have on in the background. I can have music on – because after about 10 minutes, when it’s going well, I often enter a flow state and it’s not really something I’m consciously aware of. My husband, though, can’t do it – he’s the first to say he gets totally distracted by lyrics, and if the radio’s on it’s impossible for him to work while people are talking. Be honest with yourself. Are you really focusing on it?
White noise is also a great way to shut out other things and aim for flow. There’s tons on YouTube – rain videos are often good too. Stick on some headphones and metaphorically lock yourself away. If you’re working in a busy environment this is also a really good thing to do.
In your timetable, you created schedules by the hour. Within that hour, try to work for 25 minutes, break for 5, then work for 25. If you’re doing a 2-hour session, your middle break should be 10 minutes.
It keeps you fresh, prompts you to change topics, and gives you a chance to move around. GET UP in your breaks! A wander around the house or outside is ideal. Try not to pick up your phone, partly because it’ll almost certainly stretch the 5 minutes into 15, but also because it’s a mental distraction of a different kind: you’re trying to clear your head not fill it with something else.
Get out what you need at the beginning, and put it away at the end. Your desk should start and end the session tidy and appealing. The only thing you should leave out is your schedule, and updated topics list. That’s not to say you can’t have stuff around that inspires you either – if you have your own space then photos, posters or a memo board where you can pin stuff you like gives the space positive associations.
Most importantly: revise
Like I said at the start, the above is an ideal space. You may be able to do some of this, you may not. If you can’t, then find somewhere to work where you feel focused, calm and safe so you can do your work. It might be an empty classroom before and after school. It might be the local library, or a local cafe that’s friendly at quiet times.