How do I prepare for an exam after not studying for a while?

If you’re about to take an exam but haven’t picked up a textbook in a long time, fear not. We look at the dos and don’ts of tackling revision a second time around.

The pandemic has been something of a game-changer for many people who thought they’d left education long behind. Being trapped indoors during the lockdowns saw many former students reflect on their lives and want to return to education. Meanwhile, financial concerns and furlough saw others want to upskill or retrain. Returning to studying after a long gap can be daunting, but there are steps you can take to make it easier. 


Be willing to learn 

There are two things that can turbo-boost your revision, says Bradley Busch, chartered psychologist and director of mindset coaching company InnerDrive. The first is “developing a mindset of curiosity and wanting to learn”. And the second? “Knowing how to learn – some revision strategies are more effective than others,” says Bradley. 

Find a balance 

Returning students often have a zillion other responsibilities such as part-time jobs or family duties. Negotiate time and space with the people you live with, perhaps finding a designated study area or tackling revision when the kids have gone to bed. Study plans, calendars, to-do lists and a daily routine all help here too. 

Use technology 

Did your last exam experience involve textbooks streaked with lots of yellow highlighter? Revision has changed a lot in the last 10 years. It’s worth exploring some more modern revision tools out there. AAT has some amazing e-learning tools, such as its Learning Pod podcasts and online Green Light tests. Also, check out apps such as Evernote, StudyBlue and Focus Booster. 

Remind yourself how brilliant you are 

Been in a job where you’ve supervised others? Raised a family where time management skills are essential? If that’s the case, you’re likely to be a multi-tasking superhero who can easily nail a revision schedule. Remember, during your years of working or raising a family, you’ve acquired many skills that younger students would take years to pick up. 


Attempt to go it alone 

Education has advanced massively in the last 20 years. Students don’t just have amazing technology and revision apps at their disposal – the world of learning has become a nicer place too. Today, training providers have a duty to safeguard the welfare of their students, such as looking after their mental health. If it all gets a bit too much, have a chat with them. 

Compare yourself to others 

Many returning students may find themselves succumbing to something called the “spotlight effect”. Bradley explains: “You might be looking at other classmates, thinking, ‘Oh, they look calm and confident.’ This can feel like a spotlight shining on you and that you’re the only one that feels nervous.” Don’t be fooled by this, says Bradley. Despite their apparent carefree attitude to revision, these students will be sweating just as much as everybody else once the exam date approaches. 

Be afraid of brain rot 

The idea that our brains get slower as we get older is a myth. A recent study by Harvard University’s Project Implicit used data from more than 1 million people to show that our mental processing speed actually remains the same until we’re 60 years old.   

Further reading:

The content team are the owners of AAT Comment.

Related articles