Welcome to the Exam Study Expert, where we’re DETERMINED to help you get the best possible grades.
If you’re a student looking to ace their studies, you’re in the right place!
(Teachers and parents looking to help their students welcome to stick around and join the family too!)
What to expect from The Exam Study Expert
Get ready for quick study tips that go way beyond the ordinary stuff you hear, backed by the latest tricks and techniques from science, that are hard to find anywhere else.
I’m not just going to tell you for the 402nd time how to write a revision plan, or suggest you use mind-maps and flashcards as if you’d never heard of them before.
We’re going far deeper than that, getting right under the skin of the building blocks of exceptional study performance, with advice that I PROMISE will get you working smarter and more effectively than you ever thought possible.
Expect Exam Study Expert will bring you actionable advice that makes a genuine difference to your performance. We put a huge amount of research and thought into every article to make sure they are absolutely bursting with fantastic advice.
Top Tip: To make sure you don’t miss more tips that could make the difference between hitting and missing the grades of your dreams, sign up to our mailing list (no spam, just brilliant study advice every 1-2 weeks).
The three pillars of great grades, filled with 15 fast study tips to get you going
I believe there are three things you need to master to do brilliantly in your studies: how to work well, how to study smart, and how to deliver when it matters the most.
And here they are, with a couple of my favourite fast study tips to get you started with each pillar.
These quick tips barely scratch the surface of how I want to transform your learning and how you study: there is SO MUCH more where these came from – take this as a taster of what’s to come.
Pillar 1 – The art of study: how to work well
Here are some of the most useful study tips I’ve found to get your study head on, get you motivated quickly and working productively:
1. Ability. Talent. Whatever name you give it, it’s not fixed: it’s in your power to change!
The brain can literally remodel itself with sustained, quality practice.
Not a math person? What you really mean is you’re not a math person YET!
That feeling of finding problems hard? It’s the feeling of your brain growing. Fantastic!
2. Unleash the power of habit with a killer routine:
Find a schedule that works and stick to it. That’s the key to a great study routine.
No more willpower needed to get back to your desk: make your chosen study times a habit, and it becomes your default mode. Tough for the first few days, but stick with it and it will get easier, I promise.
3. Struggling to find motivation for your new study routine? Get ACCOUNTABLE
Finding the motivation to study every day can be hard.
So why not share your intentions with a friend or parent and make yourself answerable to them every day. A friendly nudge in the right direction. Or if you really need to raise the stakes, commit to giving money to charity every time you miss your goals.
4. Meditation for students: a great way to stay focused
What do Steve Jobs, Madonna, Schwarzenegger, Oprah Winfrey (and probably half of the Forbes Rich List) have in common? They meditate. To find focus, control stress, and be healthier in mind and body.
Strikes me that more students should be meditating too. Seems science agrees too.
Top Tip: New to meditation? I got my start with the great little app from Headspace, which I am now firmly recommending to parents, teachers and students alike.*
5. Break up your studies into a series of sprints
Some call it the “Pomodoro Study Method”, I call it the best thing that ever happened to productivity and focus.
The idea is that you set a timer while you’re working, for a fixed burst of concentration – usually somewhere between 25-45 minutes, depending on how long you can stay in the zone for. Between bursts, you give yourself a 5-10 minute break, and after 3 or so of these cycles, have a longer break.
There’s something irresistible about the urge to keep pumping out the work while the clock is ticking…
6. Smash the temptation to procrastinate:
Need some tough medicine to kick the procrastination habit?
Win the war right now and expunge the culprit apps from your phone, uninstall the offending games from your P.C., put the Xbox in the loft and retake control of your day.
Trust me, it will be worth it!
And don’t forget to look after yourself:
It might not be obvious, but taking care of your mind and body is key for academic success! Use this quick study tips to get a head start:
7. The one thing I wish I’d done better as a student: exercise
It makes SUCH a difference to your energy levels and ability to focus, boosts your immune system, and improves long-term health.
It’s a win-win-win.
8. The magic of sleep
You may have heard that we consolidate our memories while we sleep, and it’s true.
Make sure you get a good night while you’re studying – if you’re having trouble nodding off, make sure you stop working at least an hour or two before bedtime and find a relaxing bedtime routine, maybe involving a warm bath and a comforting book.
9. Your secret allies in study success: your friends and family
It’s easy to see friends as competitors and family as interfering.
But these can be some of your most powerful allies: they can be accountability partners, human alarm clocks, “test me” buddies, and most of all, someone to offload your study woes onto. Take care of those relationships and they will take care of you.
Pillar 2 – The science of memory and learning: how to study smart
Most students don’t know how to study effectively. Here are a few quick and juicy study tips to help you raise your game, fast.
10. Library learning lubricates your exam hall memory
The more similar the place we learn something is to the place we try to remember it, the easier it is to remember. (Check out the original study on this cool phenomenon if you’re interested).
So find a quiet, studious place (like a library) that “feels” as much like an exam hall as possible to maximise the amount of stuff you’ll actually remember on the day.
11. Use questions to plough the fields of your memory, ready to plant with information:
Read some real, genuine exam questions before you start studying that topic, and feel the transformative effect on your motivation and focus, and on how you start targeting the “high yield” things to learn.
12. Spend less time pushing information in, spend more time pulling it out:
Trying to remember stuff (even if you don’t remember it all perfectly) is the BEST way to lock information away into long-term memory. (Backed up by decades of research on real students).
Psst: It’s called retrieval practice – one of my all-time favourite learning techniques!
Using flash-cards well is one way to do that. It takes more effort than just reading or note-taking, but stick with it and you’ll be rewarded in spades!
13. Give it some space:
Everyone says “don’t leave it all to the night before”, but equally, don’t do it all 2 months before the exam and expect to remember it all!
Refresh your memory (ideally by trying to remember what you learned) that night, the next morning, in a week’s time – and FEEL the difference! It’s called spaced learning, and I love it.
14. Stop blocking and chop it up:
It’s official: you’ll do better if you mix it up, and “interleave” different topics.
Switch between practising different kinds of problems, don’t allow yourself to “get into a rhythm” with any one type of problem. It makes it a bit harder, but that feeling is the feeling of you learning faster and better.
Pillar 3 – How to deliver when it matters
If you’re writing an assignment (in an exam or not), it doesn’t matter whether you’re a scientist or a historian, you’ll want to write well to show off your knowledge and analytical skills in their best light.
My final fast study tip is sure to help you deliver top-grade assignments:
15. Spend at least 25% of your essay-writing time planning and structuring:
Most of us have to write exam essays of some sort: there’s a real temptation to dive straight into writing without planning properly first.
Spend at least 25% of the available time planning – so for an essay of 40 minutes, spend 10 minutes on your plan. And do all your plans first, while you’re still fresh: so if you’re doing three 40-minute essays, that means you’re spending at least the first half hour of the paper planning.
Feels scary first time you do it, but you’ll thank me!
The Capstone: the final piece of this pillar-based structure is exam technique
If you’ve got exams coming up, you’ll want to know all the tricks of the trade to deliver on the day in the exam hall.
I’ve complied what I think is the most comprehensive guide to exam technique ever produced, and distilled it down to a super-handy eBook which you can grab from Amazon right now. Click this link if you want to get access to Outsmart Your Exams right now.
So, who is the Exam Study Expert?
My name’s William Wadsworth and I’m obsessed with getting brilliant academic results – at one time for myself, and now for others.
The content I teach comes from three places:
1. Personal experience
I was a successful student, with a clean sweep of 10 A*s at GCSE and 6 As at A-level in a British high school (the highest possible grades for both sets of exams). I went on to take a place at Cambridge University, graduating with First Class Hons four years later.
Sure, I was a strong student, but never the fastest on the uptake, never the one with the best memory. I succeeded in school through hard but not especially smart work, but that wasn’t enough at Cambridge – there was just too much to learn. I had to raise my revision game to “ninja” level – fast. Keep following the blog to learn how.
I’m a psychologist by academic training, and fascinated by the sciences of the mind, the memory and performance.
Trust me, there is SO MUCH that recent discoveries can do to help – there effectively exists a whole suite of tools and techniques you can apply that have been proven to boost performance of real students by whole grades (or more!).
And the really surprising thing is very little of this science is practised by students, or even advised by their teachers: turn to the textbooks they give trainee teachers at college, and you find very little mention of these killer tricks. But don’t worry – the Exam Study Expert is here to reveal all.
3. Helping others
For the past seven years, I’ve been employed as a private tutor to help students through their exams. I’ve seen first-hand what works and what doesn’t: and now I want to share those secrets with you.
So, what do you think?
So, which of these 15 quick study tips are you going to try first? What do you MOST want help with in your studies? Let me know in the comments.
Until next time – work well, study smart, and wishing you every success my friends.
I want to do everything I can to help you achieve your study dreams …
… but I can’t do that alone – I’m going to need your help.
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*I may get compensated if you use Headspace, but this has no bearing on my decision to recommend it to you. In fact, I had been personally using and enthusiastically recommending Headspace for 3-4 years before we started our commercial partnership.
students master a topic at the start of the lesson and then struggle when we revisit it at the end and in this way they work hard and they got their at the end. So, the first step is to start when you start something you will feel like that you don’t know anything after doing it repeatedly you will be able understands the things much better ways.
Hi, I love reading your blogs, I am following you since a long time…Well this was my first comment. Keep blogging 🙂
Thanks for sharing informative article. I was looking for such kind of information as my sister is planning to do Biotechnology course from Chandigarh Group of Colleges Landran. This article will be helpful to her and clear her all doubts.
Sticking this up in the form room tomorrow!
Awesome – hope they find it helpful!
I really like the tip about practising “getting information out” as well as putting it in! Sounds like it’s super valuable for exam revision and other activities where memorisation is required, like the Performing Arts. So simple when you say it! Looking forward to putting more emphasis on that technique and encouraging others to do the same.
Really interesting to think about the performing arts applications. Out of curiosity, I went to see if I could find any research: found a couple of different examples of studies which underlined the importance of practising retrieval in learning (memorising) music. http://mp.ucpress.edu/content/24/4/377
Really keen to hear more about the essay planning vs. Writing balance. I always emphasise this this to my students but under the pressure of the exam they often rush through the plan. Keen to hear your tips to help with that!
I think it all comes down to coming up with your gameplan in advance (how long you’re going to spend on each activity, what order you’ll do things in), practising it, and sticking to it on the day… I remember 3-hour / 3-essay papers in my university days where my “gameplan” involved spending the first 45 minutes of the exam planning all 3 essays. It’s pretty terrifying the first time you do it – some students have almost finished their first essay by the time you’re just starting yours! – but I think the rewards are worth it, in terms of the quality of your structure, the depth and breadth of content you capture, and the side benefit that your brain is subconsciously ticking away on the details of essays #2 and #3 as you write up essay #1, often resulting in helpful factoids springing into your mind at unpredictable but welcome moments. Not to mention alleviation of performance anxiety: once you’ve got 3 strong plans to hand, it’s great comfort to know all you need is write them up.
“Switch between practising different kinds of problems, don’t allow yourself to “get into a rhythm” with any one type of problem. It makes it a bit harder, but that feeling is the feeling of you learning faster and better.”
Such a good tip, and one I always forget. It means progress seems slower at first, but every cements so much better by the end of the process. So often I have students master a topic at the start of the lesson and then struggle when we revisit it at the end (having looked at other things in between) and they treat it like a failure, but really it’s a positive as they get to work through it all over again and really give their brains a workout!
Definitely. Learning psychologists talk about the concept of “desirable difficulty” – breaking more of a (mental) sweat today so it feels easier tomorrow!
Excellent achievement Will! I’ve just made my daughter sign up – currently Year 9 with GCSEs coming soon. Can’t wait to see the tips and tricks.
Brilliant! Look forward to hearing how it goes.