Top tips for studying for exams at UK boarding school

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Top tips for studying for exams at UK boarding school

Studying for exams can be stressful, but don’t panic!  There are lots of things you can do to get the most from your revision time. We’ve put together our top tips for studying at your British boarding school, as well as pointers to ensure you do as well as possible on the day of the exam, whichever UK qualification you are studying for – A level, GCSE, IB, BTEC, Higher or Advanced Higher. It’s important to do your best in your exams because success at a British boarding school can help you get into university in the UK.

Study tips for boarding school exams

Take regular breaks

When you have exams coming up it’s easy to panic and think that you need to study for hours on end every day. In reality, studying for the full day without taking breaks will just make you tired and more stressed! Create your study schedule with regular breaks – whether 20 minutes to eat a snack or a few hours to meet your friends in the boarding school common room, having some time away from the textbooks will benefit you in the long run.

 How do you learn most effectively?

Everyone learns differently and understanding how you learn will help you when revising. You may be a visual, auditory or physical learner. Perhaps you learn best by working in a group, or maybe you prefer solo study.  If you choose to study with others, read our blog about how to get the most out of group revision at boarding school. If you aren’t sure what kind of learner you are, you can speak to your Tutor or another teacher at boarding school and they can help you understand the different methods of studying. You should focus your revision plan on your most effective ways of learning. If you’re a visual learner you might find it helpful to colour code your notes, or draw diagrams and images to help you remember important information. Highlighting key facts and figures can help you identify the most crucial information and stop you feeling overwhelmed by large sections of text. If you are an auditory learner, a good way to revise is by reciting short pieces of information – you could even make up some songs to help you remember things!

Flash cards

Flash cards are excellent when you’re trying to learn and remember information for exams. On one side of your card write a prompt or question on one side of the card and the answer or more detailed information on the other side. Now you can test yourself to see how much you can remember when you don’t have the information in front of you. Flash card revision can be fun with a friend, taking turns to quiz each other.

Past papers

One of the best ways to prepare for exams is by completing exam papers from previous years. All the UK exam boards (such as the SQA, AQA and IB exam boards) publish the exam papers from previous years so you are able to practise before your first UK exam. This will give you a good idea of how the exam will be structured and what kind of questions might be asked. It can also be helpful to do these papers under exam conditions – set yourself a time limit like you would have in the real exam and turn your phone off to make sure you won’t have any interruptions or distractions. Doing this will help you feel well prepared and calm on exam day.

Set SMART goals

Setting goals is a fantastic way of keeping yourself accountable and working towards targets. However, it’s important to make sure your goals are SMART goals. This means they should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timed. For example, setting a goal to complete one past paper before lunch is a better goal than aiming to memorise months of information in one day.

Find a good study space

Do you work better in a silent environment or do you like a bit of background noise? Another top tip for studying and exams is to study in your preferred environment and ideally separate from where you relax and socialise. Make sure your space is organised and not too messy – you want to feel as calm as possible and working in a disorganised space can be stressful! In your boarding school, this might mean revising at your desk and relaxing in your boarding house common room. Some UK boarding schools have large libraries or designated study spaces as well as other facilities such as sports pitches or spacious grounds where you can spend time with friends.

Teach someone else

It might sound odd, but teaching someone else the information that you’re trying to learn can be very helpful. It means that you’ll have to understand it fully and be able to explain it clearly and concisely. It’s also a great way to figure out what you don’t know well enough yet.

Exam day

Hopefully, you will feel calm and prepared and can apply the knowledge you have gained during your revision time. We’ve got some top tips to make sure all your studying pays off on exam day at your boarding school.

Take your time

Don’t rush into the exam paper thinking you might run out of time. Write down the exam end time so you don’t lose track then read all the questions taking note of the marks for each question. Now prioritise the questions you are confident about and also those that carry lots of marks. Nobody said you have to answer the questions in the order they are written but score them off so you can be sure you do answer them all! When you’ve finished each question check you’ve written enough points for all the marks. Don’t spend too long on questions with fewer marks just because you know lots on the topic – remember only to answer the question! If you have time at the end read over your answers checking you’ve made enough points for the marks.

Don’t compare yourself to other students

When you’re sitting in a big exam hall with lots of other students, it’s easy to get distracted by what others are doing. Some students will finish before others – not everyone works at the same pace. This neither means anything nor affects you – stay focused on answering your exam and ignore everyone else.

Focus on what you know

If you come across a question that you don’t know the answer to, don’t panic. Stay calm and find a question that you can answer. You can always come back to the tricky ones at the end.

Stay calm and breathe

If you find it all a bit much then close your eyes and focus on your breathing until you feel calm again then return to your paper and start on a question you can answer.  When you’re calm and positive the questions don’t look so challenging!


Make the most of our top tips for studying and exams this exam season. Good luck.

This article appears in the following categories  Courses & Exams, Students

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