Improve Exam Performance and Reduce Stress

Lisa Gupta
Independent Educational Psychologist


  • Look at exam format/timing
  • Check syllabus
  • Make of list of topics/tick sheet
  • Make a timetable (4 weeks) 
  • Make a timetable for the week
  • Make a timetable for each day               

From now till the first exam

  • Time: 2 to 3 hours per night, 5 hours on Saturday and Sunday 
  • Make a list of outstanding topics
  • Finish all notes a.s.a.p.
  • Spend time learning the notes 
  • Do as many exam questions as you can
  • Try to do at least 2 past papers per subject under exam conditions
  • Leave the night before the exam free to just look over notes and prepare stationary etc.

“It’s less stressful to actually do some revision that it is to think about doing it”

Lisa Gupta


9.00-9.50 – learn biology

9.50-10.00 – break

10.00-11.30 – past paper biology

11.30-12.30 – lunch break

12.30-1.20 – mark biology and add information to notes

1.20-1.30 – break

1.30-3.00 – past paper chemistry

3.00-5.00 – play sport/see a friend

5.00-5.50 – mark chemistry paper and add information to notes

5.50-6.00 – break

6.00-6.50 – review physics and do questions from revision guide



  • Take regular breaks
  • Turn music/Facebook etc. off
  • Make your learning time active
  • Make notes/highlight key points
  • Reduce notes to keywords
  • Draw a mind map/poster/diagram 
  • Create a picture in your imagination
  • Say key ideas out loud
  • Record key ideas/vocab
  • Tell key ideas to another person
  • Go back over your notes every other day and brainstorm what you have remembered (topic explosion)
  • Simplify and reduce the information – highlight keywords, don’t just copy out chunks 
  • Organise – use sub-headings, colour and number points

EXAMPLE: Animal cells

  1. Nucleus – control centre, genetic activity
  2. Cytoplasm – chemicals, reactions
  3. Cell membrane – outside of a cell, barrier, controls the transfer of materials
  • Use letters for main points (Animal NCC)
  • Make up a silly sentence linking the points “animals never come when they are called” 


  • Check the timing, length and structure of the paper
  • Practice under exam conditions in a distraction-free environment. Complete at least 2 papers per subject under exam conditions
  • Mark the papers yourself
  • Analyse your weak areas
  • Revise weak areas and add any missing information to your notes
  • Know the mark scheme and how much detail is needed in your answers


  • Take regular breaks every 50 minutes 
  • Rewards – plan to do activities you enjoy and take your mind off 
  • Take regular exercise 
  • Eat well
  • Sleep well and don’t work past 9 pm
  • Think positively
  • Try relaxation if you feel nervous 
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