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Academic expert’s top tips for students facing mock exams

Look after yourself, be organised and find the revision method that works best for you. These are some of the top tips from University of Derby experts for students as they prepare for their mock A-level exams over the coming weeks.

The exams act as good preparation for students ahead of their final papers in the summer, providing an opportunity to experience exam conditions and identify areas that require more work.

Dr Thomas Hunt, Associate Professor in Psychology at the University of Derby, advises:

“It is important students take their mock exams seriously as they are a really good indicator of how things will go in the summer exams. At the same time, it’s important not to be too anxious – losing sleep over them, for example, will affect your concentration.”

Dr Hunt advises the following:

  • Try not to compare yourself with others – find what works for you and stick with it
  • Be organised – that will help you to feel in control. Use an app or conventional diary to help plan your study time
  • To help remember large amounts of information, try breaking it down into bullet points. Then find ways to visualise that information, using colours, diagrams or tables
  • There are lots of different ways of learning so find out which one works best for you. Try revising out loud – repeating information back to yourself. It’s a good way to work out what you know really well and what you need to focus on. Or you may find that listening to information helps you to remember it, so you could record yourself reading your notes and listen back, or listen to revision podcasts
  • Make use of past papers so you know what to expect, but bear in mind any advice from your teachers/tutors about what might have changed this year
  • Make your own mock exam conditions at home to practise
  • Don’t be afraid to reach out to your teachers/tutors if you have any questions

Kate Wood manages the University’s Work Health Hub, which provides wellbeing support to businesses. She advises getting into good habits that will help students concentrate as well as reducing stress:

  • Take frequent breaks. Psychologists say we can only concentrate properly for 30-45 minutes. You could use a technique like Pomodoro, which helps you to take regular breaks. When you do take a break make sure you don’t stay at your desk; you could go for a walk or even just make a cup of tea!
  • Keep a good blood sugar level to avoid highs and lows of energy, by eating slow-release foods like sourdough or multi-grain bread, oat porridge, nuts (and nut butters) and vegetables
  • Drink lots of water. People often underestimate how much hydration helps!
  • Think about when and where you work best. There’s no one best place or time to work – it’s about what works for you
  • Keep active. Even a short walk will do. Fresh air will clear your head and perk you up
  • Try to get about eight hours’ sleep a night
  • Find activities that help you relax. Maybe it’s a hot bath, watching a TV show, or a creative activity. Schedule this down-time into your timetable

Kate says:

“Above all, keep things in perspective, and make sure you’re talking over any concerns with someone you can trust – whether that’s your parents, siblings, friends or a teacher. If you are feeling stressed and don’t know where to get help, there are various organisations with experts available to support you. Young Minds, for example, provides lots of advice for young people, their parents, and those who work with them.”

Discover more support for exam time on the University of Derby’s website here.

There is still time to visit the University of Derby before the UCAS application deadline on 31 January. The University is holding an Open Day on Saturday 20 January at its Derby Campus, where students can explore its facilities, speak to staff and students, and tour accommodation. Find out more and book here.

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