What to do when revision isn’t going to plan

What To Do When Revision Isn't Going To PlanYou've spent hours and hours making a revision plan. You've tried your absolute best to stick to it. But, for whatever reason, your revision just isn't going to plan.

This is something my readers experience time and time again (and it's something I experienced, too, when I was at school).

One reader wrote to me saying:

I have a revision plan however, I am finding it hard to complete everything on my plan. I think I'm spending too much time reading my notes [rather] than doing questions or the information is just not ‘sticking'. This then leads to me spending too much time on a topic.
What advice would you give regarding this?

And one of my long-term study skills coaching clients sent me an email as she was experiencing a similar problem:

I don't know whether to cross stuff off or not, because I've done the time, but the actual content is sometimes unfinished when I look back at the end of the hour and review it, and that's really the whole point of this revision season of the year – to iron out all the creases. So I can't cross stuff off just because I've worked for an hour. I like it that way, but it is causing me problems.
(This client works from a list of strengths and weaknesses, as I show you how to do in my book, The Ten Step Guide to Acing Every Exam You Ever Take and bases her revision technique around revision power hours).
In this post, I'm going to show you what to do when revision isn't going to plan.

What to do when revision isn't going to plan

1. Acknowledge it

When you acknowledge that things aren't going to plan, both to yourself and your parents, you're taking the first step to putting things right. Whatever you do, don't bury your head in the sand and try to carry on regardless.

2. Forgive yourself

You're not going to make any significant progress if you're beating yourself up for ‘falling off the wagon' as far as your revision timetable is concerned. Or, worse, not forgiving yourself when you've been giving it your all and things still aren't going to plan.

3. Look forwards

Once you've forgiven yourself you need to look forwards and start thinking about what you can do to get your revision back on track in the time you've got left. Successful people don't dwell on the past – they focus on making the future a success.

Successful people don't swell on the past - they focus on making the future a success. Share on X

4. Identify what went wrong

Were you trying to do too much? Had you not recognised just how long it takes to revise each topic? Were you using the wrong revision techniques so things weren't just sticking in your head? Did you build in contingency time just in case things didn't go to plan?

Once you know what you've done wrong you can make a better plan going forwards.

5. Make a new plan

When you make your new plan, don't just try to replan the old way and promise you'll somehow force yourself to stick to it this time. In a lot of ways it does take mental grit and will power to stick to a revision plan. However, if you're trying to force yourself to study for 13 hours per day it's no wonder that you're not sticking to it. Be reasonable with yourself and what you're asking of yourself. There's only so much you can do in a day or a week.

6. Keep yourself accountable

If you were struggling to stick to your old plan make yourself accountable to someone else. Tell them what you're aiming to achieve each day, or each week, and they will hold you accountable. This is one of the key things I do for my long-term coaching clients: I keep them accountable and I keep them on track to reach their goals.

7. Use power hours

The single most effective revision technique that I know is using revision power hours. I bang on about them all the time – simply because they are so flippin' effective. If you do nothing else to prepare for your exams, do one power hour per day and you'll make the biggest difference to your overall grade with the smallest amount of effort possible.

Plans are made to be broken

One of the things that I tell my clients all the time is that plans are made to be broken. They're a starting point, giving you a path to work towards success. However, if you plan in too much detail you're undoubtedly wasting your time. Things change as you work your way towards exams, unexpected things happen. So, don't beat yourself up if you can't stick to your plan or it becomes obsolete for whatever reason. Create a new plan to get yourself started again and keep moving forward.

Plans are made to be broken. They're a starting point, giving you a path to work towards success. Share on X

Need more help?

If you're floundering in the middle of exam season feeling like you're so far off track you don't know how to get re-started, I can help. Join The Extraordinaries Club, my online hub for families where I teach my signature study skills course, and come along to one of our weekly coaching calls. I'll soon get you sorted and back on track with your revision.


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