UMASS Blog

Top tips for smashing assignments and nailing revision…

Hello and Happy New Year! So Having just finished my last exam today, (and celebrating by finally going to see The Imitation Game with my housemate- it’s really good btw) I am now able to crawl out from under my rock and resume my life, so here I am! This month, I’m giving you my take on time management and I’ll pass on some of my top tips for defeating procrastination, and smashing revision and assignments.

As a rule, university is pretty intense. I personally have between 8 and 10 hours of lectures per week as well as 3-6 hours of labs plus tutorials. This doesn’t sound like that much, but learning is way more condensed at university. I found even in first year, that in one hour-long lecture, they’d pack in about three or four A-level lesson’s worth of content! My subject is quite heavy on the exams (which I’ll get to) but there is still a decent amount of coursework to keep me busy. All this does add up to a fair bit of self-study time (don’t freak out, it steps up gradually so you have time to adjust!)

As much as you hear it and may roll your eyes (I still do) the key to everything is organisation, and that means not just having a plan, but sticking to it. If you plan on getting the first draft of your lab report done by the end of the day, then getting distracted by Big Brother for three hours is going to set you back. So, in light of the exams I have just emerged from (they weren’t that bad really), I have compiled a list of my top tips for revision and assignments, hopefully employing some of these strategies will help you with your A-level revision and coursework

My top tips for exam revision/assignments:

  • Don’t spend hours writing a timetable. There is no point writing out an hour-by-hour timetable for revision, which you are 99% likely to not stick to. It is a good idea to plan what you will do each day though, so that you have daily goals and you can make sure you have time to get everything done before the exam- which leads me nicely on…
  • Set achievable daily goals. For example, ‘by the end of today, I need to have written notes for pages 45-50 in the revision guide.’ The beauty of a good A-level revision guide is that they tell you exactly what you need to cover, so you can use them as a guideline. The same applies to coursework, set a daily target. Make sure you don’t underestimate the timings though- be realistic! Once you’ve set a goal, STICK TO IT. This is so important because not finishing everything you plan to do means the work will pile up as you get closer to the exam or deadline. Save yourself the stress, trust me, and stick to your daily goals.
  • Find a space, and establish a routine. Whether it be your parents study or the local university library, find a study space and make it ‘yours’ (during A-levels me and my friends would go to our local university library, which was near our school, and they’d let us work there). Having a space like this can help maintain a routine and keep you productive, as when you’re in that space, it’s ‘working time’. Similarly, keep other spaces (e.g. your bedroom) for ‘relaxing time’ and keep them separate if you can. The key here is to establish rules for your study space. You need to make it a FACEBOOK-FREE zone. Ideally, don’t take your phone in, or leave it switched off in your bag, this will minimise distractions and maximise productivity. You can then leave your study space when you’re done for the day and go relax elsewhere.
  • Take breaks, but don’t be too generous. Yes it’s important to take breaks, during which make sure you rest your eyes and do some stretches (it’s likely your revising posture isn’t good, so this will stop you getting trapped nerves which can be really painful) and get yourself a cup of tea or a snack. However, if you’ve done two hours work, don’t then give yourself an hour-long break. You’ll likely find yourself getting distracted and thrown totally off task if you do this. For me, I find it better to choose a time period (for example, start revision at 9am-6pm) and I go full on during this window, taking only short breaks. This means I get everything done and then take the rest of the evening off. This may not be for you, you need to find a routine that works for you, but make sure it’s productive!
  • Take time to switch off. Revising/assignment writing is hard work on the brain, and you can find yourself dreaming about your chemistry notes (and in my experience simultaneously panicking) if you don’t switch off from revising at the end of the day. Even if you are a night owl, and finish revising a 2am, still take half an hour down-time before bed; have a shower, listen to some relaxing music or do something creative. Things like going outside for a walk or run, or playing a musical instrument also help.
    Stay healthy. Get enough sleep. Eat right. Still take time to do some exercise or at least get outside. A healthy body makes for a healthy and productive mind.
  • Don’t panic! We’ve all been there, the ‘Oh my God I don’t know anything!’ moments of panic. These can be both unproductive and demoralising. For me, I find it best to just take a break, have some food (because I’m usually perpetuating the stress by being hungry!) maybe go outside, have a walk or go talk to someone, then go back to your work with a fresh mind.  When it comes to your deadline or exam don’t panic or stress! If you’ve been organised and stuck to your goals, you should be in a place where you’ve given yourself enough time to get everything covered.

Hope these tips help, but ultimately you need to find a flow that works for you. If that’s reams of paper and coloured felt tips, excellent. If it’s making big posters for your wall, fantastic. If it’s making little videos of yourself explaining the concepts, brilliant. Try stuff out and see what works best.

Hope the mocks/actual exams and coursework is all going well, next month I’ll be back talking about ‘the decisions’. Which course? Which Uni? … Stay tuned!