A-Level students... hello! I'm assuming that you've clicked on the link to this blog post because you're about to sit your A level mocks, or you're preparing to sit your AS or A2 exams this summer. If you're not an A-level student, you can sit and read this feeling very smug, because those exams are not a piece of cake.

I'm now at university but this time last year I was fretting about the fact that my final A level exams were only four months away, and I had a couple of mocks at this time too. Having completed them and getting fairly good grades, I thought it would be useful to you all if I shared a few tips about how to deal with the exam stress, how to prepare properly and ways to be successful. I must point out now that A levels are not the be all and end all to life and nobody is defined by a grade, but most of us have to sit them and they're not fun so I hope these pieces of advice will help you along the way.

1. Do practice papers
This is my number one piece of advice about the best way to revise. Doing practice papers works better for some subjects than others (e.g it's absolutely essential for revising Biology but doesn't work so great for English) but whatever subject you're revising, it will be hugely beneficial to you to do at least 4 different practice papers for each subject, and do them at least twice. I promise you it'll help you get to know the style of the paper and what the examiners expect from you. I found that with Biology, doing many practice papers over and over again helped me learn so many answers (there's only so much they can test you on). Remember to mark the papers against the mark schemes too (BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF) or ask a teacher if they have time to mark them for you.

2. Use revision guides
Revision guides are absolutely great and I would definitely recommend using them for revision as they summarise everything quite nicely. But don't solely rely on them because they probably won't contain all the detail that you need to know for the exam. I always read through every page of my revision guides and highlighted as I went along. Consider buying two or three different ones for each subject, if available, to increase understanding.

3. Memorise
After several years of working out the best ways to revise, I came to the conclusion in my final two weeks of A level exams last summer that memorising really does do the trick. At the end of Year 12, I was on a B in Philosophy & Ethics and knew I was capable of doing better than that, so in the last few days before my A2 exams, I spent hours and hours memorising everything I needed to know from about 20 pages of A4 paper. It was an absolute killer, I'm not going to pretend it wasn't. But I got an A* so it must have worked somehow. Memorising just before an exam sometimes really does pay off (as long as you understand what you're memorising!)

4. Be creative - try different methods
As I just mentioned, I always struggled to find a revision method that worked for me so in the end I just tried different methods, and I continued to revise this way. Start off by making notes, then do some mindmaps, then put those notes into a powerpoint, transfer them to flashcards and quizzes and do practice papers. It may work for you to revise in different, creative ways to prevent boredom and to increase your understanding.

5. Teach someone else
This is something I found really helped me to know if I understood a topic or not. I would try and tell my parents or my sister or one of my friends about what I was revising. By explaining what one of my philosophers thought about such-and-such, it helped me to understand it too, and to remember it to teach to someone else.

6. Get someone to test you

A word of warning: when I say 'get someone to test you', this probably does not mean parents and I'm going by rather hilarious experiences here. I asked my mum to test me on my philosophy and ethics last summer and bless her, she did try, but she didn't understand much of it and I spent most of my time frustratingly correcting her than being tested. So unless your parents have a good understanding of your subject, I'd ask someone else to test you. Probably a friend who's doing the same subject would be the best idea. But testing is a great way to realise what you do and don't know and to learn at the same time. Plus it's fun!! Ish.

7. Summarise
I found that condensing my notes into smaller chunks, or even down to bullet points, really helped me remember stuff. If you take the time just once to whittle all your notes down into manageable amounts, you'll be forever thankful to yourself any time you go to revise that topic from then on.

8. Colour code
Highlighters saved my life in year 13. I had about 6 different coloured highlighters which I used to colour code different types of information. I can still remember them now! Blue = names, Yellow = quotes, Green = key points, Orange = examples, Pink = arguments and Purple = references (dates and books). It made it so much easier to pick out the information I needed from my notes or revision guides.

9. Make a timetable and STICK TO IT - include breaks
Everyone says this, don't they? I'm sure your teachers and tutor and heads of year have suggested making a revision timetable and you're probably getting sick of hearing it, but they really do help to force you to sit down and do some revision (providing you stick to it, that is). If you don't plan it, you're less likely to do it, in most cases. So give it a go! Remember to include breaks such as a walk, food breaks, and a little socialising time.

10. Eat blueberries
Bit of a random one here. If you don't like blueberries, you may as well skip this point. If you haven't tried them, try them and if you like them, you're just a winner. I ate so many blueberries when I was revising for my A levels. I found that they helped keep me refreshed, they were a great snack to munch on and they actually improve your memory. If that's not a reason to eat them during revision time, I don't know what is.

11. Address other problems in your life
Hopefully you'll be reading this and be perfectly happy with your life, but for most people, that's not the case. During my A2 year at sixth form, I was suffering badly with depression and I know it affected my ability to revise. If there's anything else troubling you, whether it's a relationship problem, a mental health issue, issues with friendship or parents or anything else, please please please go and get some help from someone who knows what they're talking about. This should be the case for any point in your life but is even more important in such a crucial year of your education. The happier you are, the more able you are to focus on your exams.

12. Stop making excuses
Seriously, you've got to stop with the procrastinating. You won't pass your A levels if you don't revise. Simple.

13. Delete social media
"WHAT?! DELETE YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA?! You've got to be JOKING Steph!" Nah. I'm not joking. Delete your social media apps off your phone when you need to have a power revision day, because otherwise you'll be endlessly scrolling instead of endlessly learning. It really does make a difference.

14. Believe in yourself
This is absolutely one of the hardest things for a human being to do, but it's really important. Not just for doing well in your exams but in anything you do in life. If you believe you can do something, you probably can. If you don't think you can do it, you have no hope of being able to. Trust yourself that you can do well and make it happen, don't just sit back and expect anything.

15. Respect your teachers
Before I say anything else, don't roll your eyes. I could never be a teacher. I wouldn't have the patience - and I always respected my teachers massively for having it. It's a really tough job and they are always dedicated to helping you all (well they should be anyway!). If you respect them, they'll be more willing to help you, and no offence, you're going to need all the help you can get with these exams. Aside from that, you should respect them anyway because they're people and, well that's that.

16. Take responsibility
Hopefully you will all have teachers, parents, friends and other family members who are there for you, support you and want you to do well. If you do, be eternally grateful to them. If you don't, you need to take responsibility for your own learning. Even if you do have support, you need to do this too. At the end of the day, you're the only person who can get your grades for you so unfortunately you need to just stand up and take it, work hard and do what you need to do for you.

17. Go to revision sessions
If your teachers hold revision sessions close to exam time, make an effort to attend them. You never know what might finally 'click' after having it explained to you again. And if there's something you're really unsure about, sessions with your teacher are a great time to ask for some extra help.

18. If you're not sure, ask
Following on from the point above, please ask a teacher or friend if you're unsure about something because they WILL help you. There's absolutely no reason why you should be embarrassed or scared or too lazy to do so.

19. Revise at the time best for you
I've been told a few times to get up early and revise in the mornings and to avoid revising late at night but actually that didn't always work for me. Everyone has a time of the day in which they're productive, so do your biggest chunk of revision at that time.

20. Enjoy it
This is almost a joke, I know. But you're doing the subjects you're doing because they're subjects that interest you, so there has to be an element of them that you enjoy learning about. When you're revising, or planning on revising, tell yourself that you enjoy it. Make it fun, make yourself want to know what's in your specification. It doesn't have to be boring, it's what you make of it.


  1. Thank you for reminding all those 'rules', it's totally usefull atm.
    I hate those comebacks to school after a longer break, I feel so tired and I can't believe in myself then. + there is no possible for me to buy fresh blueberries now, but (!) I'm buying iced ones and adding some other fruit to them and making a smoothie out of it! x

    Thank you one more time,
    feel free to visit my blog x


    1. You're welcome, I hope it helped point you in the right direction! The smoothie sounds like a great idea - totally refreshing and healthy which is what you need during tedious revision sessions!! I hope your exams go well :-) Steph x