Helping You With Revision And Exam Success

Oxford Graduate  and Cardiff & Vale tutor, Barney Iley, shares his top tips on how to use your holiday time wisely to prepare for your upcoming Mock examinations.

Barney is an experienced tutor in preparing pupils for A level and Oxbridge exams . He shares his advice to help you focus on what’s required for exam success. All our tutors can help you use these top tips in tuition sessions.

There are few things more daunting than the silence of an exam hall, the hushed moment before the invigilator, who looms at the front, invariably tall and bespectacled, like a Dickensian villain, booms out: “You may begin!”


For most of us, the above scene is the stuff of nightmares. The fact is, exams are a skill. They’re not all the same, of course, and they’re never exactly straightforward. Being good or bad at exams isn’t just something you’re born with. It’s something you can cultivate.


The reason many independent schools produce good results and send pupils to the best universities is a lot to do with exam technique and practice. The brightest student in the world can still stumble if they haven’t prepared for exams.


The most crucial aspect of exam preparation is a word that strikes dread in the hearts of students the world over, and still makes my own shoulders tense: revision.


The challenges of effective revision can best be broken down into these four categories. Let’s examine them – sorry, I mean take a look at them! – and see how having help from a Cardiff & Vale private tutor can be the difference between a nightmare and a dream come true:


  1. Planning. Because revision usually requires a student to reassess large amounts of material, starting can often feel like standing at the bottom of an impossibly huge mountain. The power of a good plan is its ability to turn a big mountain into lots of molehills. A private tutor can bring an impartial eye to the situation and an outsider’s voice – something essential in order not to get lost in a labyrinth of notes and deadlines.
  2. Discipline. I know from my own exam history that this can be a real hurdle. Impending exams often signal the end of normal school procedures – especially at A-Level and GCSE – so maintaining focus becomes especially hard. Very often the most influential role a tutor can play is simply being a figure of authority and calm, able to guide and help a student maintain their focus on the task at hand.
  3. Task-management. A good plan is like a route on a map; good task-management is like comfortable shoes and a sensible coat. Revision often requires different kinds of work from usual learning. Old knowledge has to be reawakened, untidy notes made sense of. And more than this, it requires a keen eye to know what type of task is going to be most effective for each challenge. What type of learning are we doing – memorising, practising, expanding? what area needs the most work? and what kind of work will be most helpful? These are the questions a tutor can ask, and help a student to answer.
  4. Morale. In some ways I think this is the most important challenge of all. Like a sporting event or a performance, doing well in an exam means being mentally healthy and happy. Helping with the emotional roller-coaster of revision – wherein we might want to quit, or get too bored to focus, or decide it’s a waste of time – means having a tutor who knows when and how to encourage extra effort, reward work, and when to take a well-earned break!


Exams can be the most stressful part of our education, but with dedicated supervision from Cardiff & Vale Tutors revising can be extremely rewarding and – dare I say it? – great fun. Understanding the nature of the challenge that exams present means that instead of panicking at the blank page in front of us, and watching the invigilators clock tick on, a well prepared student can dive in with the enthusiasm and confidence necessary to realise their potential.