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Chalk Talk: The '10-minute rule' can make all the difference to exam prep


Getting started with revision is the most difficult part of exam preparation for most people, and many of us could win prizes for avoiding things we don't want to do. But the 10-minute rule could make a difference.

Ditch those three-hour sessions with good intentions, where only 10 minutes of productive work is done. Instead, start with just 10 minutes of productive work. Anyone can do that. Even you. Then have a 10-minute break. Bet you can do that, too.

Great, but it doesn't end there. Do a further 10 minutes of productive work, then have another 10-minute break. So now you have started, doubled the time you normally work in a session and had a 10-minute break, all within the first half hour. Increase the working periods to 30 or 40 minutes and keep the breaks at 10 or less. When working, work, and when relaxing, relax. The two don't mix. Remember that.

Now, ease in an extra half hour of work a day at least, by getting up earlier or taking less time over lunch. Over five days that will give you a minimum of two-and-a-half hours of quality study time. You can now have an evening out with a clear conscience. Cover two or three subjects in the one session. Start with the one you dislike most.

Being calm and thoughtful will help you to get the most out of your preparation. But it is up to you now to make a difference in how you perform – no one else is to blame. And remember: the only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary.

George Turnbull, known as the 'exams doctor', is with the Chartered Institute of Educational Assessors (CIEA)