The best way to increase revision and exam confidence

One of the reasons many students fail to get started with their revision is that they have little/zero confidence:

  • In how to revise – and that it will actually make a difference to their grades
  • About how to do well in exams

This lack of self belief stems from two places:

  • Not having had success in the past with revision and exams
  • Not having the study skills to create future success

This creates an identity for them of being a ‘bad student' or ‘not being academic' or ‘exams not being their thing.'

Let's think about how we can move from this place of failure, fear, lack of confidence and negative labelling to a place where you can take a chance on yourself, do the work, grow your confidence and perform when you're under pressure.

But, let's think about Harry Potter and how he learned to make a Patronus first.

Harry Potter and his Patronus

In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Professor Lupin sets about teaching Harry how to create a Patronus to help protect him against the Dementors. If you're not familiar with Harry Potter, Dementors are “soulless creatures… among the foulest beings on Earth”: a phantom species who, as their name suggests, gradually deprive human minds of happiness and intelligence. [Source: Wikipedia].

A Patronus is ‘a kind of Anti-Dementor – a guardian which acts as a shield between you and the Dementor.' [Source: Wizarding World].

Harry's teacher, Professor Lupin, sets about teaching Harry how to conjure his Patronus. Harry is really too young and inexperienced as a wizard to be expected to be able to do this, but it's seen as necessary for Harry to be able to protect himself against the Dementors.

Harry's first attempts at conjuring his Patronus fail. To make it work, he has to focus on a powerful, happy, memory. The first memories he chooses aren't right and it's not until he focuses on the right memory, which is deeper and more meaningful than the others he has tried, that he has any success.

But, he's still not consistent. He gets frustrated and doubts himself, but he keeps trying and practicing because he knows he has to in order to stay alive.

Ultimately, Harry's perserverance and willingness to take a chance on himself and his wizarding abilities pays off. When he's actually faced with the Dementors, he summons his most powerful Patronus yet, saving himself and his friends.

What's Harry Potter's Patronus got to do with revision and exams?

When I see young people who are struggling to get started with their revision it's like they're haunted by the dark stuff, the stuff of Dementors. The Dementors signify all that is bad in life. They're fear, evil, doubt. Everything that holds us back. These young people are scared of trying and failing and what that might mean, they're scared of doing what's uncomfortable, they're scared of facing reality.

However, the ones who decide to take a chance on themselves and have a go, are like Harry deciding to learn how to summon his Patronus. They tune into the positive, in it's deepest sense, their self-belief and inner strength. They take a chance on themselves and as they try, they learn what works and what doesn't, finding their path to success until they're faced with their greatest fear (the exam room) and they use what they've learned in their revision and preparation to fight off the doubts, panic and fear with confidence. They do themselves proud.

How to increase revision and exam confidence

Let's break this down into a few steps.

1) Stop expecting confidence to come from nowhere

You have to work hard to increase confidence. Some people are naturally born with greater confidence and abilities, but we all have to work to maintain and grow it.

If you just sit around waiting until you feel more confident, about anything, let alone revision and exams, you'll spend the rest of your life waiting.

The most important thing is to take a chance on yourself, believe that you've what it takes inside you, and having a go. That's what Harry Potter did with his Patronus.

2) What you need to do to increase revision and exam confidence

Basically, it means just getting started. With revision, this means making a few flashcards, learning them and testing yourself on them. With exams, it means doing the background work to know what you'll be faced with so that you're ready with the knowledge and know-how to do your best. You can join The Extraordinaries Club if you want to know how to do this properly.

Unlike summoning a Patronus, getting good at revision and exams doesn't have a magic ingredient. It's really about repetition, practice, correcting the problems and filling in the gaps. Anyone can do these things if they take a chance on themselves (and if you've ever learned to do anything in your life like learning to walk, talk or feed yourself, you've gone through this process already).

3) The six questions to ask to help yourself take a chance on you

Sometimes I hear about young people who truly have their heads in the sand about doing their revision and preparing for their exams. If you're one of those young people, or if you're just resisting really enaging with your revision I'd like you to answer these four questions.

  1. What's the worst thing that can happen if you carry on as you are?
  2. What's the best thing that can happen if you carry on as you are?
  3. What's the worst thing that can happen if you start properly engaging with your revision and exam preparation?
  4. What's the best thing that can happen if you start properly engaging with your revision and exam preparation?
  5. What's the most likely outcome if you carry on as you are?
  6. What's the most likely outcome if you start properly engaging with your revision and exam preparation?

I want you to really think deeply about this. It would help me to write it down and really push myself to come up with as much as possible. If writing isn't your thing you could talk it through with a friend or parent, who could write it down for you, or you could record your thoughts on a voice recording app. There's something about not just thinking things, but putting them out there into the world, that makes the process so much more powerful.

As you're doing this, you're aiming to get to your deepest darkest fears, the true reasons you're really resisting what you need to do. You're also aiming to access your brightest, happiest hopes.

Over to you

As Einstein is reputed to have said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

If you're just sitting around waiting for your confidence to increase around revision and exams, you're going to be waiting for a very long time.

Answer the questions I've posed above, then get brave and have a go. You can only get better from here.

P.S. If you need a little bit of help to set you on the right track as you start your revision, download this free chapter of my book, The Ten Step Guide to Acing Every Exam You Ever Take. It will show you how to break down and plan your revision so it's not overwhelming and it works for you.

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