When To Start Revising For University Exams

Stressing about uni exams? We’ve got you.

Unfortunately, university isn’t all about fun and socialising and when it comes down to it, exams and revision can be pretty stressful. University exams, just like GCSEs and A-Levels require concentration and hard work but once they’re done then you can breathe a sigh of relief and celebrate.

Remember that you’re in uni to get a degree and that with a little bit of motivation and focus uni exams can easily be tackled. Here’s everything you need to know about revising for university exams and when you should start.

When are university exams?


This depends on your uni and your course, but most universities normally have two exams periods; one in January right after the Christmas break and one in the summer which will be just before the summer break. Depending on your uni your summer exams might start in April or May, or might not be until June.

Some degree courses will only have exams once a year, or some might have exams twice a year during both exam periods, or you might just have one in the summer or at Christmas. You can check your university website to find out exactly when your exam periods are, as this may change yearly and will depend on your course and modules.

When to start revising


You should always aim to try and start revising as early as possible to help you get ahead, but not too early that you’re not going to remember what you’ve learnt by the time the exam actually comes around. Once you’ve worked out exactly when your exams are, you’ll have a clearer picture on what should take a priority, and how much you’ll need to be learning.

When it comes to revision, everyone has their own individual ways of studying that works best for them. While some people are visual learners and love mind maps and flashcards, other people prefer just to make notes and study them instead. If you are a visual learner, it’s never too early to start making flashcards as you can carry these around with you or put them up in your room to familiarise yourself with the exam topic.

It’s probably best to start preparing around about a month in advance, as this gives you plenty of time to take breaks, not cram stuff in, but also get on top of things too. For January exams, most students will start revision in December and over the Christmas break (but there’s no reason why you have to give up fun things over the holidays, you just need to find that balance) and continue this into the new year. For summer exams, it’s best to have exams on your mind after the Easter break and to start thinking about what you’re going to need to do to prepare.

How to start


Trust us, starting is always the hardest part. It can seem super overwhelming but once you’ve made a start you’ll feel so much better.

Once you’ve got an idea of when your exams are and what topics you’ll need to cover, you can slowly start by doing a little bit each day. If you’ve left yourself enough time, starting with small study sessions of 1-2 hours a day can help ease you in slowly. Make lists of what you want to achieve each day and try and stick to it, but don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t manage everything you had set out for the day every day, revision can be hard!

If you’re struggling to find a good study method, make sure to check out our article on the best revision techniques. Here we look at everything from flash cards to mind-mapping, to help you find the right method for you.

With a good revision timetable and plan in place, starting won’t seem so daunting, and once you’ve started all you have to do is carry on doing little bits each day until your exams get closer and you feel confident with the material that’s going to come up.

Don’t forget to do your research on what type of exam you’ll be having, some exams are open book, some are multiple-choice and some might only be an hour long. University exams can differ greatly from the format of GCSEs and A-Levels, you might even be in a computer lab for some. So, make sure you know exactly what to expect and don’t go in with the mindset that it’s multiple choice and you can always fall back on guessing if your exam isn’t multiple choice at all!

How to put together a revision timetable


The key to a successful study period is a good revision timetable. Whether you choose to do this the old fashioned way by hand, or online (a Google search will show you that there are plenty of good planning websites out there), your timetable should lay out exactly when your exams are and what you need to revise.

Try and be realistic, as much as you may think you’ll be able to get up at 9mam every day and smash out a morning of revision, let’s face it, that’s probably not going to happen every day. If you know you like to procrastinate, or your work best later on in the day, schedule your revision time for the evenings or later on in the day rather than first thing in the morning.

Make sure that you leave time in your schedule for the other things you enjoy doing, like going to the gym, doing your weekly food shop, going for a coffee with friends etc. If you still have lectures running in the weeks before your exams, make it your top priority to go as they can really help you to recap and catch up on anything you’re unsure of.

Where to revise


A successful revision session is only going to happen if you’re super focused and away from any distractions, so where you choose to revise is really important. Some people don’t like to revise in their room as it makes it hard to separate revision time and chill time (and there is always the temptation to get back into bed), however, some people really enjoy working in the comfort of their own space.

However, working away from your room can also come with the same issues. While the library might seem like an obvious place to camp out in the weeks prior to your exams, this actually might not always be the best idea due to the distractions you may face, especially if you’re going with your friends. Many university libraries will have quiet zones and private booths and rooms you can book to do some serious revision, which might be a good option if you find it really hard to stay focused. Likewise, coffee shops and cafes are also a good option to get out of your house to do some revision, but the noisy background can also be a bit of a distraction.

If you are going to be studying with your friends, you can help each other out, motivate each other and enjoy breaks together, but be wary that a group trip to the library might prove less productive than you might think and for a serious revision session you may want to go alone.

How to stay focused


Ok, so you’ve made your revision timetable, you’ve got your perfect revision set up in a quiet zone of the library but you just cannot get anything done? Yep, that sounds familiar. Unfortunately, motivating yourself to actually do the revision is one of the hardest parts and isn’t always easy even if you eliminate distractions.

One of the biggest distractions of all? Your phone and social media. Now, there’s a good chance you’re probably using your laptop to help you work, and you might want to use your phone to listen to music but the temptation to start scrolling through Instagram and TikTok is going to be pretty high, especially if your group chat keeps going off and you feel like you have to keep stopping to reply.

The best way to revise successfully is to try and eliminate these distractions entirely, and reward yourself with them once you’ve actually done your work. You can put your phone on do not disturb so you won’t receive notifications and there are even apps you can download to your phone or laptop that block certain websites from being used, so you won’t even be tempted to have a look.

How to take breaks


Taking breaks is the most important part of revising successfully and to make sure you don’t feel burnt out and exhausted. How often you should take breaks can vary based on how well you find it to stay focused, some people don’t like to take breaks too frequently once they’ve started revising as it can interrupt their flow but other people like to take regular breaks and can easily get back to what they were doing afterwards.

If you’ve been avoiding your phone, you can take 20-30 minute breaks after a successful revision period to catch up on what you’ve been missing out on, or perhaps going for a quick walk around the library or to the cafe can help you to clear your head. If you did go to the library with friends, it can be a good idea to all plan when you’re going to take your break together. Plus, if you’ve all planned when to study, take a break and get back to studying, there’s a good chance one person in the group will hold you accountable for getting back to work once your break is over.

How to find balance


This is the tricky part, as exams can feel really overwhelming especially during the January exam period when it’s the end of the year and you want to get involved with festive celebrations.

Remember that uni exams are important, but they shouldn’t be taking over your life. With a good revision timetable and starting in plenty of time, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy spending time with your family and friends and relaxing during a busy exam period too. The chances are, most of your friends will be feeling the same pressure, meaning the regular social activities you tend to do will probably be on hold and you won’t be going out as frequently. Try and make time for yourself instead, and schedule time each day to do something you enjoy such as going for a walk for a coffee, exercising, binge-watching your fave Netflix show, reading, playing video games or any other hobbies you enjoy.

Just remember that exams are stressful but you’re not alone! You can always talk to your friends about it as they’ll be feeling exactly the same, and once your exams are done that’s it they’re done! The post-exam relief is seriously real, and you’ll have plenty of time to celebrate and relax with your friends once the exams are completely out of the way.