• Have you ever started something and wished you had been clearer about your objective and wished you had more time so you would not be so stressed?
  • Have you ever wondered why some students seem to achieve their goals with less stress and pain than others?
  • Are you envious of your friends who always seem to work less than you do but achieve better results?

Our expert tutor, Peter, has some very good news for you. Their success can be your success if you stop working as hard. Let us get a few things clear.


Let us assume you are beginning either your GCSE or A Level year. You have approximately 250 days before you sit your exams. Everything you do in the course of your studies leads to your ability to perform on the days of your examinations so find our immediately when these exams are going to take place. You can access these absolutely key dates on each examination board’s website.

Why you may well ask? Simple you need to work back from these dates.

Too many students only access the dates of their exams when the school gives them their exam timetable which can then generate a sense of panic. I bet you all know the date of your birthday and Christmas so you can plan ahead and the same mindset needs to apply to your exams. Planning will develop clarity and confidence.


It may be difficult to actually look forward to examinations but you must develop a positive mindset. You want to succeed.

Your success will give you rewards and choices. Exams are a challenge to be embraced rather than feared. You are competing with your classmates, your schoolmates and, ultimately, every candidate sitting the same exams as yourself. A positive mindset is a winning mindset. How can you best nurture your personal sense of ambition?


Your examination grade will be simply determined by the number of marks you score. You only need to be one mark above your target grade threshold to be successful.

From day one you need to be thinking positively as to how each piece of work you submit to your teachers can be one mark better than anything you have submitted before. A steady incline of improvement is much easier to achieve than a sudden panic to make a difference as the exams loom.

Be absolutely clear what skills your examiner will reward. Check out examples of past examination papers. Decide on your timings for each question as soon as you can.

How are you going to allow your examiners to give you the maximum marks for each answer you submit?

  • Check out the relevant examination websites for exemplar answers.
  • Read the examiners’ reports on each of your subjects so you know what to do and what to avoid.

This is vital, long term preparation because you need to be absolutely clear as the examination paper will give you the opportunity to show off your skills to gain that vital extra single mark on each question. ALL this information is there NOW.

Smart students will check, plan and gradually refine their skills accordingly. Be a smart student!


All your examiners are experienced teachers. The first thing they are taught by the examination boards is to reward NOT to penalise. They MUST give the highest mark they feel they can justify based on the answers the student provides. They MUST ALWAYS be positive.

In consequence the often-used teacher phrase ‘You will lose marks if…’ is ALWAYS factually wrong. Think positively. All students in every examination start with 0 marks.

Imagine you are visiting the supermarket. You start with an empty trolley. You place marks in your trolley according to the skills you demonstrate in the course of the exam. Your examiner is the checkout. They scan the contents of your (basket) examination paper and reward you with a total mark. So long as that total mark is the mark you need for your target grade you are dancing all the way out of the shop.

Demonstrate the relevant skills to the examiner and they will reward you with the grade you want but you MUST know which skills to demonstrate.


Every piece of work, test or mock exam is a rehearsal for the real exams. If you have any experience of sport, drama or music you will appreciate that you rehearse and practise in order to refine your skills for the actual game or performance itself.

Each rehearsal allows you to refine existing skills but most importantly should set you targets for improvement. The targets that will allow you to achieve the one extra mark which will guarantee the grade you need.

Rehearsal without targets is a waste of time as you should always want to improve your skills for the one performance which actually matters-the exams themselves.

Practise with clearly monitored targets is smart working. Some of you will have teachers who automatically follow this plan but some of you may need to be more proactive in making this happen as this is very obviously the best way to improve your marks


Share your revision plans with your friends. Tell them you will not ring text or mail them when they are working and they must respect the same disciplines for you. It is not the hours that you revise but how effectively you revise. Plan a celebration after the exams to look forward to.

As you approach the exams you should ease off on your work schedule. You are an intellectual athlete. You must arrive at the start line of each exam well rested, adequately hydrated and full of energy. NEVER underestimate the importance of sleep, nutrition and hydration. This is working smarter.


Students only underperform for 4 reasons:

  • They have inadequate knowledge or subject skills.
  • They have an inadequate understanding of how to impress the examiner.
  • They do something foolish which is entirely avoidable.
  • They are ill.

Reassuringly very few students are ill. You must have the subject knowledge or skills. A long term plan will give you an understanding of the examiner’s mindset so what else must be avoided. Here again you need smart thinking.

  • Check and recheck the examinations’ timings.
  • Anticipate any short term problems which might arise.
  • Create your own positive performance bubble. Absolute positivity as you relish the opportunity to perform to your very best.
  • Read all the questions carefully, plan your answers, keep to your time deadlines.

Very few things in life do not benefit from clarity. The above should clarify your exam objectives. Clarity stimulates confidence. Confident students succeed. You do not need luck but you do need planning.