Revision and Exams

Revision and planning

Exams can look truly daunting and their reputation is made worse by the experiences people talk about when they think they may have done badly in an exam. Most negative experiences in exam settings are not down to lack of ability on the student’s part, but on lack of adequate revision and planning strategies for what to expect and how to go about answering questions with only five or ten minutes of planning and no support from notes.

The essential starting point:

The Student Digital Champions have also created several resources to support students as they prepare for their exams:

Have trouble putting down your phone to revise?

Flora is a new way to stay focused, stay off your phone, clear to-do lists, and build positive, life-changing habits. Simply create a to-do item to revise a topic, set a reminder...and grow trees!

1. Select a focus duration, and then press Start to grow a tree.

2. If you leave the app for social media or games, the tree will die.

3. Discover new trees by completing focus sessions and tasks.

Available on Google Play and App Store.

Further information: Flora - Green Focus (

Revision techniques


Flashcards are a great way to practice summarising information and figure out what you need to work on. Here are a few ways you can use them:

  • Put key points on a card
  • Match terms with their definitions
  • Quiz yourself with questions and answers.

It's important to actually test yourself with flashcards instead of just reading them. Try covering up the answers and see how much you remember. Ask your friends to quiz you too. Adding colours/highlighting and pictures can help with memory, but don't get too caught up in making them look pretty.

Post-it notes

Post-it notes are a helpful tool for condensing information and retaining important details. Use various colours to categorise different topics and strategically place them in your workspace or home environment. Be sure to periodically relocate the notes to prevent becoming reliant on their specific placement.

Stories, songs and mnemonics

  • Use stories or songs by reciting what you're trying to learn in a simple rhyming tune. 
  • Try an accent!
  • Mnemonic devices like acronyms, where you turn the first letter of each word into a catchy sentence, can make it easier to remember information when you need it, especially for studying for exams.
    • For example: the order of the planets in the solar system
      • My Very Eager Mother Just Served Us Noodles”: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune.

Practice questions from past papers

You can access past exam papers online and on Level F of the Hugh Owen Library -  give them a go to see how much you know. Try answering without looking at your notes first, then use them to help plan out your answers. Make some lists to compare different points, and then try answering again without any notes. It's a good way to figure out what you need to focus on more.

Group study

Studying together with your friends can be very helpful! Try explaining things without looking at your notes to really test your memory and understanding. It's a fun way to quiz each other and learn together.

Mind maps

Mind maps are a great way for connecting ideas. Add some colours and pictures to help you remember the information better. Drawing diagrams can also be helpful for remembering processes or cycles.
But don't just make a mind map and leave it there. Put it to use! Test yourself on what you can remember. Try recreating it without looking at your notes. 

Online exams

Online exams

When it comes to online assessments and exams, you won't have to sit down with a pen and paper like a traditional exam, but you still need to study and revise. 

It is likely that you will have different deadlines and time between receiving an assessment and having to submit your response. Make sure you know how many examinations are online and what their format is. You need to know when they will be released and how long you have to complete them.

  • Check your technology
    • If you have an online exam, check all technologies beforehand:
      • Do you need to install any software?
      • Do you need to change any settings on your device?
      • Do you have a strong strong?
      • Do you know what to do if you have technological techniques?

If you need email help with your technology, contact Information Services.

  • Read the instructions
    • Do your research - check format, exam duration, start and end time etc. 
    • Make sure that you have clearly read the question and know what you need to answer. If the questions are divided into multiples, check whether you have to answer any or all of the sub-questions.

Writing in exams

Task words: what is the exam question asking me to do? - infographic (PDF)

Writing in exams is not the same as writing essays for course assignments. With assignments it is essential to consider all the details of writing a bibliography and associated referencing issues. In an exam you will not be able to do this unless it is an open book or seen exam, where you see the questions before the exam. In those cases is may be necessary to include additional material, but that will depend very much on the rules of the exam itself.

  • You need to consider a modified essay style for writing in exams
  • You don’t have time to consider all the details of a word-processed essay
  • You need to write with clarity, impact and immediacy
  • Start planning with the main body
  • Go back to plan a brief introductory statement
  • Don’t plan the conclusion, but remember:
    • complete your final paragraph when you have ten minutes left
    • write a closing statement when you have five minutes left

 Other things to note:

  • Write clearly and legibly.
  • Write on every other line of the answer booklet to avoid crowding the page with overlapping words.
  • Write within the limits of what you know.
  • Create a brief skeleton plan at the question at the beginning. This should take no more than three to five minutes. It will allow you to work to a plan and stay focused on the question.
  • In relation to the main theoretical points you have identified through module content and learning outcomes, think of a few points or situations that could be used as practical examples.

A good exam answer displays an overall understanding of the issues and how they work in practice

Things to include in an exam answer plan: use note form only and not full sentences: 


Main interpretation of question              

Specific focus 

Main body 

1) *topic (make sure it has a clear relationship with the issue)

3) *short, clear sentences to define and discuss the key points

4) *examples, if needed

This process should be repeated for each paragraph that is included

Do not plan a conclusion, but when you only have five minutes left, finish the paragraph you are writing and write a brief summarising statement to close. This will ensure you have a complete essay.

The twenty minute and counting challenge

  • Make sure you have identified a range of questions, including some you are familiar and comfortable with—and some you are not familiar and uncomfortable with.
  • Start with a familiar question and create a note form plan in about 20 minutes.
  • Move on to different questions and create plans in 15, 10 and 5 minutes consecutively.
  • Keep practicing until you are comfortable with creating essay plans on a range of main questions for a given module.
  • Make sure you do this with more difficult questions as well, so that you are prepared for all possibilities.
  • Check module content for the current year, in terms of aims, learning outcomes and actual content.

Different types of exam questions

Essay Style Exams

These exams usually offer a selection of questions, each requiring essay-style responses to demonstrate your knowledge and understanding. Support your points with evidence, structure your answers well, and communicate clearly and logically. Adhere to any word limits or instructions provided.

Short answer questions (SAQs)

Short answer questions, as the name implies, require concise written responses that typically range from a sentence to a couple of paragraphs. These questions are designed to assess your knowledge and understanding of a particular topic. Unlike multiple-choice questions that test recognition and recall, short answer questions demand more detailed, specific responses. They are often used to evaluate comprehension, the ability to apply knowledge, and critical thinking skills. In short answer exams, you will likely have a number of questions to answer. Allocate more time to questions with higher marks, making sure you provide enough detail.

Multiple Choice Exams (MCQs)

An MCQ is a form of assessment where you will need to choose the correct answer from a list.

  • Revise and study before your exam.
  • Read the instructions carefully.
  • Read through all the questions quickly, answering the ones you are confident about first, and leave the more difficult ones for later.
  • Try to think of the answer before looking at the options available.

Formulas and Equations

Write any calculations or calculations clearly and logically. If you run out of time and cannot complete the answers, write down the formulas you would have used to arrive at them.

Inclusive learning

Inclusive learning

If you have a long standing health condition or a specific learning difference we can offer you advice on enabling technology and individual examination arrangements so that you can reach your full potential and get the good results you deserve.

If you would like further information about our provision for students with disabilities or have specific questions, go to the Accessibility Service web page, contact us by:


Our team of accessibility advisers can advise you on the types of evidence you need to access specific provision within the University.

If you believe you have a learning difference such as dyslexia/dyscalculia we can also offer you a preliminary screening assessment. We will give you immediate advice and tell you whether we think you should go on to have a more formal Educational Psychologist Assessment.  We can help you to arrange this.

Students Union Exam Advice

Exam and assessment periods can often be a hectic period for many students with examinations and assessment deadlines a recipe for potential overload. 

We also want to make sure you get the support you need during the period, so don’t be afraid to check out the information at the end of this page to useful support services and tips. Good luck from everyone at AberSU!

More information: Aber Exam Destress