• Ian Gibbs

Exam Tip #2: The Best Time To Begin

There is an old Chinese saying: ‘The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.’

When is the best time to begin preparing for your exams? The answer is ‘as soon as you’ve started your course’.

But assuming you have already passed that moment, the next best answer is ‘today’.


You might be thinking I’m mad.

No. I’m not mad.

And neither am I suggesting you do an extra three hours of studying this evening (unless your exams really are just around the corner.)

A few weeks before your exams, three hours a day will seem like a short amount of time to be revising per day, but if your exams are further away, you don’t need to spend hours every day preparing for your exams.

Instead, you should be spending just a small amount of time every day, even if it’s just 10 minutes.

For 10 minutes a day, you could start going through your notes from the beginning of the course. Summarise a lesson. Make a few revision cards. Or you could draw up a revision plan, get hold of some past papers or read the Examiner’s Report. (We’ll be covering all of these and more in future blogs). It doesn’t matter what you do so long as you do something because, simply put, something is better than nothing.

What’s more, a lot of little somethings add up to quite a lot.

There are two big advantages to doing a little every day.

Firstly, it’s easy to put off revision until tomorrow or maybe next week. And the more you postpone revising, the easier it becomes to postpone it some more.

This continues day after day until you realise your exams are ‘suddenly’ upon you and it’s time to panic.

If you do just a tiny bit of revision every day, you’ll find you get into the habit.

You’ll have familiarised yourself with most of the course material before some of your classmates have even started to draw up their revision schedule.

While they are panicking, you can sit back with the quiet satisfaction of knowing that you’ve got it all under control.

Secondly, your brain doesn’t like having to learn lots of stuff in long, late-night sessions. Your brain is like a muscle—it gets tired quickly.

Strain it for more than 30 minutes and it starts to go ‘fuzzy’.

I’m sure you know exactly what I’m talking about here.

It’s a universal experience for students: staring at a page and yet none of it is sinking in.

Doing a little, often, solves this problem. It only requires a little effort on your brain’s behalf. And so it’s an easier and more efficient way of revising.

Thus, doing a little preparation for your exams, even though they seem far away, makes sense. It’s the most efficient way to work.

It helps you achieve a lot gradually over time without overdoing it.

Think about it.

What little thing(s) could you do today to help you prepare that little bit for your exams?

When are you going to do them?

You can never start preparing for exams too early. The sooner you start, the more you’ll get done and the easier it’ll be to get a better grade.

Tip 2: The best time to start preparing for your exams is today.