The Ultimate Guide To Staying Motivated For Exams

So in an ironic turn of events, I am writing this whilst procrastinating revision for my exams.  This girl’s gotta have a break, right?

I always root around for ways to improve what I already do, but there’s so much stuff lying around on the internet so I decided to compile everything into one ultimate list of things you can do to keep motivated.

WARNING: It’s very long, so brace yourselves…

exam-ruler-pen-in-hands

These come from various sources, which I’ll list at the bottom.  I find that having motivation comes with feeling like you’ve got things under control, which is why there are a few study tips here.  If you get more done, you’ll feel better about yourself!

How to Use This List

This list is done by time before the exam, but switch it around if you like, they’re only a guide.  If you haven’t started revising, better late than never, right?

It’s probably best to incorporate as many of these as you can, but I find that it’s best if you take on each of these one at a time, so that you can slowly improve your existing revision system.  Also it means that you don’t burn out your motivation too quickly…

If you have any extra tips that I missed out, or want me to do a study skills/revision technique post to accompany this one, let me know in the comments below!

Let’s dive in 🙂

Briefly:

  • Prepare well
    • Create a focussed space
    • Plan your revision
  • Stay fit and healthy
    • Sleep well
    • Look after yourself
  • Keep your end goals in mind
    • Your ultimate motivation reason
    • The motivation quadrant
  • Hold yourself accountable
    • Get someone else to check up on you
    • Chunk up your revision
    • Get revising!
    • Celebrate ️🎉

6-8 Weeks Before the Exams

Make a Revision Timetable

I recommend using The Student Room’s revision planner, it’s a free resource and even blocks out 1-hour revision sessions for you!

Even if you’re closer than 6 weeks before the exams, it’s never too late to make one.  The problem is how to stick to it?

Making It Sustainable

  1. Start by writing in your exam times.  Then block out commitments like time to do other work, any sports/music/other commitments you have and other non-negotiables.
  2. Here is where the key to sustainability lies.  Block out time that you don’t want to revise.  This includes time to go meet up with friends, time for gaming/browsing the internet, heck, even time to blog/watch YouTube.

You’re going to procrastinate anyway, so give yourself some room to manoeuvre 😉 you won’t feel so guilty for doing it!

Schedule In That Sleep

To be at your most effective, you’ll need to be properly rested each day.  Set yourself a reward for getting to bed on time, or set an alarm to remind yourself to get to bed early!


Prepping Your Desk For Revision

Trust me, if you come to an attractive desk, it will make revision slightly more bearable.

  1. Clear off anything you don’t need, putting them in a drawer or somewhere out of the way.  Then keep your essential stationery (like pens, pencils, rulers, rubbers/erasers for you Americans, calculators etc.) to hand in a tidy box.
  2. Remove your phone – put your phone on charge in a different room so that you won’t be tempted to scroll through Instagram and by the time you’re done revising, it should be fully juiced up!
  3. If possible, get rid of your laptop/computer too.  Do as much of your revision without a computer – be honest, you’ll probably end up on Facebook or blogging if it’s close by 😉
  4. Log out of your social media, switch off notifications for email etc. and deactivate your gaming accounts.  This acts as a double-whammy – you can reward yourself by reaccessing them after doing your revision!
  5. Also, don’t forget about your revision planner!

 

desk-do-more-motivation-mac

Goals

Put Your Motivation Where You Can See It

This is one of my favourites – vamping up your study space!  This task is probably best left for when you’re feeling super demotivated, maybe a couple of weeks in.

I made a post before about creating a vision board, but there are so many other ways you can make one.  Here are just a few suggestions:

  • Find some pictures of what you’re working towards, whether that’s a yacht, your dream university, a Lamborghini, a trip you’re excited for or your dream job.  You can find these on Google, Pinterest or magazines.
  • Some motivational quotes also do the trick.  My friend Doni has some great ones over on her blog!  I suggest checking out Canva where you can create personalised designs.
  • Print and stick them onto a wooden/cork board.  I like to put a polaroid frame around it using PicMonkey but do whatever you like and go wild!
  • Find a nice picture of yourself and put it right in the middle.  Remind yourself that you’re doing this for you.
  • Set these pictures as your phone/desktop background or screensaver – better yet, make the background change every so often so that you get a fresh spark of motivation!

ASAP: Get Revising

Even if you’ve got ages before your exams, just look over your notes from the day or the week to make sure that you haven’t forgotten stuff already.

Even better, use the Spaced Repetition technique (check out this video by College Info Geek that explains it super well) to help you learn stuff in fewer hours.

Always Start

You are scientifically more likely to finish what you’ve started.  There’s nothing more annoying than having a half-finished piece of work!

Chunking It Up

  • Split up your revision into bite-sized chunks.  Your revision planner should already have these mapped out for you.
  • I generally find that I can cover a whole topic (e.g. redox reactions in Chemistry) in about 2.5 hours, so that’s 5 lots of half hour slots that I dedicate to a topic.  Find out what works for you!
  • If you want somewhere to start, try the Pomodoro technique where you do 25 minutes of work then take a 5-minute break.

Take Breaks…

  • Linking on from above, it’s so important that you take breaks so that you don’t burn yourself out.
  • They’re also an opportunity to reward yourself for getting sh*t done – and they don’t have to cost much!  Check out my list of ways to treat yourself for free.

 

But Not Too Many!

  • Be strict with yourself when taking breaks – you don’t want it to become an excuse for procrastination.
  • Get someone to check in on you to make sure you’re only spending your allotted time to chill, and no longer.
  • Also don’t feel obliged to take breaks – if you’re feeling productive, just carry on through the break and you can get the stuff done sooner!

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Holding Yourself Accountable

Treat your revision as a game, for example by colouring in a bar until you’ve mastered a topic.

Try giving yourself (or getting someone else to give you) rewards and punishments and stick to them!

Getting Others To Hold You Accountable

  • One way is to use the ‘ransom technique’, where you get someone to take away your phone/laptop until you’ve done all your revision.
  • Another is to have them check up on you.  You can do this by asking them to ask you if you’ve done what you intended to do, or by asking them if you can explain the revised topic to them.
  • By teaching someone and explaining the material in simpler terms, it makes sure that you actually understand what you’re learning as explained in my post about the Feynman Technique.
  • They can physically enter your room, or what I prefer is to ring up a friend, ask them what they’re doing and suggest that you call back in an hour to check up on each other.

Celebrate!

Reward yourself for following your plan and for getting stuff done – positive reinforcement is the key to building good revision habits.

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Weekly

Celebrate reaching your revision milestones each week with whatever makes you feel good but you can only do sparingly, e.g. going shopping, meeting up with friends, playing games, watching Netflix, cooking a nice meal/going out, etc.

Daily

I suggest scheduling in all your revision in the morning and afternoon, and leaving your evenings free to do whatever you like.

That means that you get time to do stuff you like but also if you haven’t been as productive as you’d planned you have some buffer time to get it done before the end of the day!

Once you’re done for the day, go for a walk, meet up with friends, have a change of scenery, do some exercise…  Oh who am I kidding?  Let yourself back onto social media and YouTube 😉


Short-Term Tips For An Instant Motivation Boost

These are only really effective if used sparingly and one at a time – if it doesn’t work, just sit down and do your work anyway 😛

  1. Do 10 press-ups – getting your blood pumping is a great way to feel more energised as more oxygen gets to the brain!
  2. Look at the seating plan if it’s up.  Do something that is a concrete reminder of what it’s like to be sitting in that exam hall.  Scare yourself into doing things!
  3. Drink some water and get some healthy snacks (unhealthy ones will just make you feel more lethargic) and maybe some tea.  Avoid coffee – the crash is not worth it.
  4. Write up a revision plan for the day/week in 15 minutes – no more or you’ll procrastinate.  Seeing what I have to do always makes me more determined to do it!
  5. Imagine yourself on results day.  What are you feeling when you walk in?  If it’s fear, you should use that to fuel your revision; if it’s calm, think of all the happy faces around you and act on your wish to make people happy!
  6. Ring up a friend and hold each other accountable, as explained above.
  7. If it’s late, just sleep.  There’s no point in staying up trying to revise but having nothing go in – you’ll feel better in the morning when you’ve had a decent night’s kip.
  8. Promise yourself a treat after 25 minutes of work that takes no longer than 5 minutes to do e.g. having some chocolate/tea/other food bribe, quick scroll through Instagram, a quick walk etc.

If you have any other tips, tricks and techniques, let me know in the comments below!  I’d love to hear any ideas that I haven’t heard of before 🙂

References

What do top students do differently? | Douglas Barton | TEDxYouth@Tallinn accessed 1 May 2017

Psychology Today: Motivation: The Drive to Change accessed 1 May 2017

The Student Room: How to stay motivated while revising? TIPS! accessed 1 May 2017

More Student Room posts here and here, accessed 2 May 2017

AQA Student Support: Revision accessed 1 May 2017

wikiHow to Get Motivated to Study accessed 1 May 2017

Life More Extraordinary: The Ultimate Guide to Getting Motivated to Study, accessed 2 May 2017

East Lake Academy and Sixth Form resource, accessed 2 May 2017

My own and others’ experience…

I hope this was useful!  Good luck to all of you who have exams coming up 🙂 If you have any extra tips that I missed out, or want me to do a study skills/revision technique post to accompany this one, I’d love to hear in the comments below!

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36 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide To Staying Motivated For Exams

  1. Best thing I found as an undergrad was to attend every lecture and tute. Do the reading. Exams were then an opportunity to show off.

    Liked by 5 people

      • I think a few friends have exams on with Chinese medicine. I have this weekend off from local footy. Full moon phase right now. Got to get my knee X rayed this week. Staggers me how people on the street will push in when they know they will collide. They make no eye contact nor do they communicate. I am not exactly thin. In fact my body has natural armour and I have shifting my weight through it since I was young. I am a gentleman but a 60kg coward brought up by a billy goat is sort tempting physics and geometry

        Liked by 1 person

      • At training now. Got the bulk of the work done. The boys are out on the track. Always health appointments. Next one tomorrow afternoon then over to the Bard. Our club is on track.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I like the ‘get others to hold you accountable’ tip, but I also think it’s a good idea to recognise yourself that you’re accountable for your own grades. You fuck up, that’s on you and no one else 🙂 Nice post, as always Jess

    Liked by 4 people

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