12th May 2022 Alicia Peacock

Striking the Balance: How to Manage a Busy Revision Schedule with Positive Wellbeing

Revision may feel like it should be top of the priority list for the forthcoming assessment week and external examinations for our GCSE, AS and A-Level students, but it is also essential we encourage young people to find the right balance of focused revision with their own wellbeing. It is completely normal that there will be some worries about aspects of examinations and these might feel challenging, stressful or even distressing. It is therefore important that we equip students with a toolkit to manage these and to provide a level of control for them in order to obtain a healthy mindset towards the exam period.

Part of a positive approach to how we cope with examinations is the technique of reframing perceptions of anxiety. As The University of Oxford highlight, lessons from Sports Psychology teach us to frame anxiety as anticipatory excitement. When we learn to recognise and accept that our body is a phenomenal machine and the anxious feelings are its way of mobilising us to perform in a situation that really matters to us, we can acknowledge that anxiety actually facilitates us to perform and is normal, and in fact needed, when framed in a positive way.[1]

In addition to positive mental attitudes, we also need positive physical care. Put simply, the key factors to exam success must include all the biological necessities for a healthy mind: relaxation, exercise, regular hydration, a healthy diet and plenty of sleep. If we have a healthy mind we are more likely to have a lower sense of anxiety that induces stress.

Ollie Welsby, Senior Mental Health lead for BrightCore Consultancy, spoke remotely to parents from across the Warwick Independent School Foundation this week about mental health in young people and recent cultural changes. A key message of his seminar included the need to actively find time for relaxation.

Relaxation is not a luxury, it is a biological necessity. Ollie Welsby

Just as subjects will be prioritised in revision timetables it is a ‘necessity’ to timetable in relaxation too. If the relaxation is ‘screen-free’ all the better.

A balanced timetable of revision and relaxation should chunk the revision into 30 minute sessions. If students are using ‘retrieval practice’ techniques as advocated by The Learning Scientists, interleaving topics every 30 minutes with regular 30 minute relaxation sessions timetabled in, should optimise learning.[2]

So, how do we help young people to revise effectively? Tell them to go for a walk, listen to music, chat with family members, enjoy a healthy snack, have a nap! These will all have a positive impact on overall achievement when coupled with active revision techniques.

Further resources

  1. Pre-exam preparation by Bright Knowledge
    This resource provides tips for each phase of exam preparation and exam taking. Help-seeking during preparation is emphasised, but also comes with suggestions for on the day of the exam, during the exam, and after the exam.
  2. Exam preparation: Ten study tips by Top Universities, @TopUnis
    A handy list of 10 tips that include concrete study strategies.
  3. Exam Wellbeing and Preparation, The University of Oxford, @UniofOxford
    This resource takes you through different steps to support your studying for exams. It highlights that besides the right study tools, physical care is important, too.

[1] https://www.ox.ac.uk/students/academic/exams/wellbeing
[2] https://www.learningscientists.org/blog/2016/8/11-1


Mrs A Alton | Head of English