How I Revise: University Edition

It’s exam season! This is now my sixth official exam season of my life, from GCSEs upwards, so over the years I’ve had plenty of experience withย revising. That dreaded word.

University exams are, or at least they have been in my experience, very different to GCSE and A Level exams. For one, they make way more sense (I can only speak for English and History exams here as that’s the course I study), but there’s a stark difference in that you tend to only revise for a couple of weeks rather than a good couple of months.

This can make university exams better and worse. A lot of people I know get really stressed out by the short revision period compared to what they’re used to, but personally I like to treat it the same as old Key Assessments back in the day. Essentially, that’s what they are – a test at the end of a module to see what you’ve learned. I make this distinction because that’s very far removed from GCSE and A Level exams, which for all intents and purposes these days are designed to align with government statistics and desires.

Personally, when I was at school, our teachers used to turn to us and inform us that we’d be having a test in four days’ time, or maybe in one week’s time. So alongside all the regular work for other subjects, we’d have to revise whatever module this test was on. And this was a regular occurrence for me, so to be at university with up to three weeks to revise properly for exams is actually fairly reasonable. You have no lectures, and you can devote as much time to revision as you like.

Plus, there’s the added bonus that, boring as revision may be, it’s a brief stint – you can go back to doing interesting things in a relatively short amount of time. That’s actually something I love about it.

Here’s a few ways I revise for university exams:

1: Rewatch lectures.

Obviously this only works for lectures that have been recorded in the first place, but when it is an option, it’s so beneficial. I like to put them on and fill in the original notes I took with the detail I missed the first time around. It both refreshes your memory and allows you to finetune your work.

2: Create index cards.

This goes for all exams, really – you just can’t go wrong with index/flash cards. I try to squash them down to what’s definitely important to know, so it’s not like writing out the entire course notes again. That would just be a bit pointless.

3: Annotate. Annotate. Annotate.

I study English Literature modules, so there’s usually a lot of material to know inside out. Right now I’m revising for a Shakespeare exam, and annotating the collection is one of the best things alongside rereading the plays. I like to use little coloured post-it stickers to mark important sections, quotes, and whatever else. Injecting a little colour into anything brightens the day!

4: Find that friend who you can work with.

Revising with friends can be risky or rewarding. You can either end up distracting each other completely, have one person be a constant distraction, or work well together. By exam time you should be aware of who you work best around, so set up camp somewhere with them and get going on revision. I like being around people I know I can work with, because being completely isolated when revising is thoroughly demoralising, while being around people who don’t take the work as seriously as you do is stressful.

5: When in doubt, give a lecturer a shout.

Most of the time, lecturers are readily available, whether by email or by office hours. With some of my exams, we can have fairly free license on what we revise – for one of my English exams, we can essentially choose whichever English texts we like, whether on the module or not, so it’s always a good call to just check in and see if something’s alright.

6: Look at any exam resources you’ve been given.

The final week of each semester’s teaching for me has been where the lecturers and tutors provide exam advice.ย Even if they don’t tell you particularly what will be in the exam, I’ve been so happy to find that they’re genuinely not trying to catch you out. A lot of what will be on the exam paper will have been in past exams for that module, and they’ll be readily available for your perusal.

If there’s anything to be taken away from my experience of university exams so far, it’s this: the university staff actually care about the education of their students, and most of the time they really hope the students can bring something new or interesting to the table. It’s much more about the material, and not at all about however many students are “allowed” an A* by the government this year. So don’t stress too much.

Katy x

5 Simple Activities to De-Stress

Hello again! Today I want to talk about five simple things I do that I find really calming, often therapeutic, and which just generally help me de-stress. I have done all of these in recent weeks!

1) Play catch

Find a friend, find a ball (tennis, stress, rugby or other), and a place outside. The rules are simple: talk about whatever you like, while throwing the ball between you. I specify talking because it’s one of those strange situations where you’re not entirely concentrating on the conversation, because you’ve got to keep watch for the ball, and this tends to make it great for venting.

2) Have a picnic

I think this is another great one – I actually had a really impromptu picnic with a friend recently in the evening. We walked out of the library at 6pm and the square outside was so sunny, now that the days are significantly longer, so instead of heading home we bought a load of food from Tesco and stayed there until we got too cold as the sun went down. Again, just about taking time out, and particularly time away from screens – my lifestyle means I spend an enormous amount of time stuck inside working on computers.

The site of many picnics & spots of relaxation

3) Do a face mask

Again, something I did recently for the first time in MONTHS. I honestly haven’t done a face mask the entire time I’ve been at uni, which is awful of me, but I decided it was finally time. It’s just nice to take care of your face, especially if you wear makeup a lot. Plus they always look a bit ridiculous, and who doesn’t need a laugh?

4) Cook something healthy

Putting effort into your food can easily be something we neglect to do, so occasionally it’s really nice to just take your time, start from scratch and make something nutritious. You can’t beat a good homemade meal, and the process can be really calming.

5) Take one thing you’ve been putting off because it’s not a top priority, and do it.

From painting your nails to mowing the lawn (not that I actually have any grass to mow, but you get me), the background jobs and treats can be just as important as the big things, and getting them done is a huge stress reliever.

Let me know if you do any of these, or if you’ve got any other things you do to help de-stress! Another thing I would say, if you’re a student, is to take advantage of anything your school/uni/institution runs! Liv Uni just had Wellbeing Week, and I went to the falconry display they had on Tuesday. They even had a puppy room on Monday. Best uni ever.

Katy x

A Comment on Body Image

On Saturday morning, I went to the gym as per usual. When I came back, I looked in the mirror and was pleased with what I saw. My stomach muscles were showing definition, and seeing my arms with anything resembling muscle is still something I’m not used to.

On Sunday evening, I went to Tesco and bought a pizza. It’s been a long few weeks, and I felt I deserved it. Looking in the mirror afterwards, I looked like I could be in my third month of pregnancy. (I’m not, by the way.)

Point being, bodies tend to do what they please. On an empty stomach just after a workout, of course I’ll look defined. Right after demolishing a margherita pizza with feta on top, probably not. And in all honesty, even if I have a healthy dinner of salmon, greens and rice, I still get a huge food baby because I’m thin and stomachs expand when they’re full.

Between bloating (girls, you feel me here), food babies (I’m hardly going to stop eating any time soon), and a dozen other things that impact our appearance on a day to day basis, this stuff is really not worth all the worries it’s given.

I initially started going to the gym because I was tired of being a hypermobile weakling. Nine months later, I’m still hypermobile but with way better muscle tone, which means I’m roughly 5-7lbs heavier than I was in September and the heaviest I’ve ever been.

Also, my cramps at ~that time of the month~ which used to get so horrendous I would be screaming into pillows, tears streaming down my face, have completely disappeared. HUGE PERK.

But a quick little note for any out there who may not know: MUSCLE ROLLS. Before I started working out, if I really slouched I might get one stomach crease. I am thin, but at this point I had no real stomach definition. Now that I do (when I haven’t just scarfed a pizza), I get a fair few stomach creases when I slouch. And it’s all perfectly normal.

So weight isn’t the thing you ought to be concerned with. Stomach creases when you slouch aren’t the thing you ought to be concerned with. The food baby you get when you occasionally treat yourself isn’t the thing you ought to be concerned with. Eat healthily, treat yourself sometimes. Exercise regularly, where you can (honestly it’s the best decision I’ve ever made in terms of my day to day life). Don’t criticise what’s completely natural.

Katy x