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THE UK: Once you arrive

‘Open the books and start revising’: How to find your best study schedule

International student and blogger Emilia shares some study tips to help you through this Spring’s vital exam period

Revision desk

While there's much fun to be had while studying in a new country, ultimately you'll need to get your head down to study when it matters. Emilia offers some tips from her own time as an international student in the UK...


‘The library is a critical part of university geography. At Bristol, the Arts and Social Sciences library — not so affectionately dubbed ‘the ASS’ — merges a central 24/7 library with Faculty-specific books. Come exam season, this means certain students all but move in, leaving others to walk around in vain searching for a seat. In an ideal world having the library open all day would decrease the stress on resources. Students with all day lectures would arrive in the evening and leave sometime in the night or early morning. Others with less contact hours would take up residence during the day. No one would save seats, no one would eat tuna with pasta in the silent student space and no one would take out the book you need. 


This isn’t a perfect world. Welcome to university.


Bristol’s library situation is different from that of many other UK universities. Each faculty has their own library.  All the engineering books are in the engineering library, geography books in the geography library, medical books in medical library and so on. This system might work well if all the libraries had the same opening hours. They don’t. Only the library for the arts and social sciences faculties has continuous opening hours. Consequently, the students with the least amount of contact hours have the hardest time accessing the resources they need.


Especially when it comes to the dreaded exam season.


Each department has a different way of organizing exams, but nearly all require some end of year assessment. Courses may require as little as a single exam — this usually happens only in first year — and as many as a seemingly uncountable number. Learning to revise for them and approach them with a clear mind is essential for success.


It’s clear from the students camped out at the library that everyone has a different revision strategy. There are those who arm themselves with a bag of Haribo, looking for the coca –cola flavoured sweet at the end of every chapter. Some take the immersive approach, focusing solely on exams from May to June. A few students level-headedly revise bit-by-bit throughout the year (how I wish I was one of them!). There’s the ubiquitous study group whose members quiz each other about what they may or may not have learnt throughout the year. Some of these revision methods may seem strange, others may make perfect sense. That’s the point: everyone has a revision method that works for them and discovering it is the key for first class marks.


But how do you discover the process that works best for you?  I wish I had a perfect answer.  It’s a process of trial and error.  Try waking up early one day to get the library before lectures start and see how that feels.  Go ahead and pack yourself some dinner so you can have a late night at the library.  Maybe you are one of the people who work better in their room, or maybe going to a café helps you focus.  Since there’s no single way to study, there’s no single way to figure out how you revise best.  Listen to what sounds good and you’ll learn how to make exam time the least stressful as possible.


Some days I doubt that I’ve found the method that works best for me, and other times I feel confident that I know how I revise best. The best revision strategy, I think, is to be flexible.  Most days, I get up early and to work on other non-university projects before breakfast. Once I’m feeling accomplished — my favourite motivation — I head to a university study space (other than the library) to start revising. There are days when I need to have music playing softly in the background and days when I need silence. If I’m writing an essay, I always bring my computer so I don’t have to worry about jostling for a slow university one. If I’m reading, I look for the comfiest chair or a table at which I can take notes effectively. And on the weekends, I throw this schedule away and work in my room, replenishing my mug of tea as soon as it approaches empty.


Revising is never an easy task and rarely a fun one. High marks will only arrive when you get over the dread of sitting down with your books and start enjoying your subject. There’s a reason you chose to study your subject! So get those pencils sharpened, highlighters in a line and open up those books!’


Learn more about the University of Bristol


How do you think you would tackle your revision period abroad? Browse courses in the UK now and get on the way to finding out!


Read more:

'The alternative list of study methods'

'3 Fields to study in the UK'

Study in the UK


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