Alright, who here had the joyous experience of waiting to study until their exam was only two hours away? And the culprit, a severe form of procrastination, a shitload of other work, or that nightly adventure with your friends?

Whatever the reason – we all start stuff too late; but some quick preparation can help save our grades.

Time Pressure: Rocket before takeoff

Let’s get going so you don’t waste any precious time:

Step #1: Challenge negative assumptions

It’s easy to fall for the idea that it’s too late to change, after all what could you do with only an hour to prepare?

So we think what difference does it make and avoid studying altogether.  But starting late isn’t a free pass for slacking off.

In fact, we need to know that we can get a lot of revision done in an hour. And before other exams, we rarely study more.

Yes, if we count the marathon sessions of textbook reading, periodically interrupted by YouTube videos and responding to text messages, we track more minutes on the clock. But the productive time is roughly the same.

So forget the idea that you can’t do much, because you truly achieve good results despite starting late (though I wouldn’t rely on this before every exam; it’s quite stressful).

So get over the idea that your effort won’t amount to much, because can get outstanding results.

Step #2: Stop feeling guilty

Matter of fact, you started late. But you can’t change the past, so there’s no point in feeling guilty.

Stop looking back, and blaming yourself. Say no to phrases like “I should have started earlier” and “If only I had worked before, then I wouldn’t be so overwhelmed“.

As you voice your concerns and regret, you’re wasting valuable study time; and I’ve started to ponder whether these sentences are caused by the desire to avoid work, and thus trigger procrastination.

Anyway, it’s best to look forward and see your hour as an opportunity to improve your understanding and maximise your test scores. Yet how do you go about it?

Step 3: Follow my full-blast revision formula

You don’t want to waste a slice of your time, so proceed as follows:

Injured teddy bear
Identify pain points and heal them!
  • Identify pain points (2 minutes)

The big wins for your grade don’t come from polishing what you already know, but relentlessly tackling the most challenging concepts. But before you start, draw up a quick list of your pain points, or the areas you struggle with most. This ensures that you don’t miss something really important.

  • Clarify core concepts related to pain points (43 minutes)

Focus on understanding the key concepts for each pain point.This means no details: no quotes, stats and figures unless you know specifically which ones will be tested.

Instead try to grasp the main argument from each point. For a geography quiz you might need to remember that:

“Population growth is affected by the difference between birth and death rates, each of which are caused by a variety factors, including available technology, the social outlook in a country and the environment.”

To extract ideas like these quickly:

1. Read through the relevant sections of your textbook

2. Clarify any doubts immediately (reread passages and do a quick Google search)

3. Summarise the ideas out loud without looking at the information.

4. Repeat steps 1-3 for each topic.

  • Practise sample questions (10 minutes)

If you’ve got access to past paper questions, that’s great. If not, use the questions in your textbook. Solve 1-2 easy ones to boost your confidence and then try to tackle one challenging one. Finally check the solutions in the mark scheme or the  back of your book to fill up any gaps.

  • Wind down (5 minutes)

Use this time to give your brain a break and calm your nerves before you enter the exam hall. You want to be well rested – considering the circumstances – so you can perform to the best of your abilities.

Are you worried you’ll end up in the same situation next time? Check out this handy manual to create a revision timetable in under 20 minutes and avoid undue pressure before your exams.