Studying for exams at Surrey

When the exam season is upon us, the University is on a bit of a shutdown. The library is packed, there are coffee cups everywhere and the launderette is totally empty.

I wanted to write to share my experience of revising during this important time, because there’s a lot less structure to your days than when you were revising for A levels for example. At Uni, you are left totally to your own devises and this can mean procrastination levels going through the roof. Although you may have the odd (non-compulsory) revision session, the day is pretty much yours to do as you please. It’s very easy to sleep in, watch a couple films, become distracted by flat mates, all the while ignoring that big pile of revision or lecture notes that you need to go through before the end of the week. So in this blog post I have brought together a few of my revision tips that have really helped me to study for exams whilst at Surrey…

The Library.

This is where the majority of students go to revise during the exam period because it’s the most practical place to get stuff done. All of your textbooks are in one place, there are computers everywhere and also the support services are always on hand. These services aren’t as widely utilised as you might think but very useful should you need advice from anything on your essay writing technique to problem solving in maths. There are also areas of silent study, which are great if this is the best atmosphere for you to study in!

My top tips for studying in the library…

  • Get there early. The seats fill up fast and you don’t want to spend the first half an hour of your revision period trying to find somewhere to sit.
  • Usually, the higher up you are, the quieter the study space. A lot of people cannot be bothered to walk all the way to level 5 and you’ll find lots of spare seats so you can sit down and concentrate properly. This is useful if all the silent study spaces are taken up.
  • Take your charger with you. Simple enough, but if you can’t find a computer, it’s handy to have your own to hand. The library does also now have spare laptops that are available to use if you don’t have one though.
  • Revision snacks are key. Stock up in Simply Fresh (the onsite campus supermarket) and buy food to help you keep up your energy levels throughout the day. Alternatively, bring food in from home. (Although, there are some areas in the library that don’t allow you to eat food though so be aware of this)
  • Avoid sitting near the toilets. Trust me.

Alternative revision methods.

Some people already know how to revise and what works/doesn’t work when it comes to learning information. If you don’t then try as many different methods of revision as possible to try and get those facts to stick!

For example you could write flash cards, mind maps, or your lecture notes again in short hand. You could try active testing, group studying, Q&A questions and past papers, or memorizing symbols and shapes to associate with certain key words or ideas. Whatever works for you! The more alternative methods of studying that you use, the more you will activate different parts of your brain. It’ll mean that revising will be a little bit more bearable rather than an impending boredom phase.

In addition to this tip, you might also want to alter the materials you are using to revise from. Sometimes this cannot be helped, but different stimuli can help you absorb information easier as we are all different learners.

Can you be using something other than your textbooks to revise from? For example, Youtube videos, audio podcasts or your own online/offline research? Each material may have a different way of explaining things to you which may make you think or consider the point from a different perspective. However, this is obviously subject dependent.


Planning is fundamental to:

  1. Structuring your day/avoid wasting time.
  2. Making sure you’ve gone through everything you need for the exam so you don’t miss out anything important.
  3. Keeping calm and organised throughout the exam period.

It’s so easy to become lost in mountains of work or stressed out because you have so much going on at once. Plan a revision timetable for both the day and the week. Make sure to schedule time for yourself such as chilling with friends or exercising. Having start and end times to your revision is also essential as this will increase your motivation to continue working consistently. It’s better to revise in short bursts rather than long interrupted hours. Most people can only effectively concentrate for roughly 20 minutes. Everyone is different but taking small 10 minute breaks in between whole hours of revising is advisable for maintaining good concentration levels.

Where? When?

I am personally one of those people that cannot study in their rooms. I like to have separate areas to where I work and where I sleep. Sometimes I go to coffee shops, order something, plug my earphones in for a couple hours and it’s amazing how much a change of scenery can improve your concentration. It’s a psychological thing. If you actively go somewhere to study, just like you actively go somewhere to work, you will find your motivation to work will increase. There are some great places on campus to do this.

Surrey’s Coffee Cart on PATs field is a pop up tent decked out with bean bags and portable heaters. Starbuck’s is close to the library and full of comfy sofas. Hillside restaurant is a big, bright vibrate area to study and normally pretty quiet during the day pre and post lunch. Surrey Sports Park also has a Starbucks and Bench bar area that could be used for studying. There are also numerous coffee shops in Guilford too!

Everyone is different but usually the mornings and during the day are the best times to complete your revision. The evenings are for winding down and taking time for yourself. Staying up until the early hours the night before an exam is not good practice. You need sleep to help all of that revised information stay in your brain.

Exercise and Hydrate. 

How many times have you heard this tip? Are you bored of it yet? Do you actually take it seriously? Being properly hydrated and eating well can significantly affect your concentration levels and your ability to retain information. It would also be advisory to avoid drinking excessive (if any) alcohol during the exam period…

So these are my best tips when it comes to revising for exams, whether you’re at University or still at school. Everyone will have their own ways of studying and finding what works best for you now is important practice for when it really matters in your final years. I hope this post helps you!

By Amelia Lunnon.