Whenever it’s time to knuckle down to some serious studying for exams, it’s funny how the things you may not have found interesting before become your top priority. Suddenly it’s more important to do the washing up, water the garden or make a list of your top 10 cute cat videos than to take that important step of opening your revision books.

Even the most committed students find it difficult to concentrate on revising at some point or other. Unfortunately there’s no quick fix that will instantly inspire you to devote all your spare time to revising or to complete a project that you don’t find that appealing at the best of times. But there are a few things you can do to step your study motivation up a notch or two, including the following:

Set your goals

The first thing you should do is to set some goals, as they can help you to stay focused on the task ahead. Your big-picture goal may be something like to pass your exams and to get the qualifications you need. But to make it more achievable and realistic, this ultimate goal can be broken down into smaller goals or chunks.

Try to make sure your study goals are positive and specific. In other words, they should start with words like ‘I want to…’ rather than ‘I don’t want to…’. And avoid being general or vague (the more detail you can put into your goals, the better). Write your goals down and read them every day while you’re revising. Imagine what it will feel like when all your goals have been accomplished, and you’re sitting in the examination room feeling cool, calm and confident. 

For more information on personal goal setting, read Five things you should know about setting personal goals.

Create a schedule

Once you’ve set your goals, it’s time to create a schedule to help you achieve them. You may want to draw up a study timetable to help keep you on track – find out how by reading Study smart: your plan to get the most out of revising.

Alternatively you may want to make simple weekly or daily schedules, where you can break up long hours of study into smaller, more manageable sessions. Either way, help yourself to stick to your schedule by planning breaks and little rewards – such as five minutes of free time every hour to check your texts or Facebook messages and longer breaks where you can get outside for some fresh air or have something to eat or drink.

Remember to always take your breaks – even if you’re tempted to keep working through them – as they can help keep your brain refreshed and stop you from getting bored.

Avoid distractions

These days distractions are everywhere. But they’re also some of your worst enemies when you’re trying to revise. So try to create a study environment where distractions are at a minimum. Switch off anything that could take your mind off your revision, such as mobile phones, TV, radio and internet access, and try to tell your friends and family you don’t want to be disturbed.

Meanwhile, if music helps you to stay concentrated play something instrumental rather than tunes with vocals. Try listening to classical music; Mozart for example has often been linked with boosting children’s and babies’ intelligence (and who knows, it could be good for your brain too).

Stay positive

Studying may not exactly be at the top of many people’s list of fun things to do, but having a positive attitude can boost your chances of sticking to your revising schedule and performing well in your exams. After all, if you keep telling yourself you’ll never get through all the revising you need to do or that you’re not good enough to get good grades, you’re hardly going to do yourself any favours.

Keep trying to give yourself positive messages and remember all of the exams you’ve revised for – and passed – successfully before (make a list if it helps). And remember, you’ve done really well to get this far, and there’s every chance that you’ll keep succeeding.

Are you naturally more of a glass-half-empty person? Read our article Five ways to overcome negative thinking for more tips on staying positive.

Manage your stress levels

Getting stressed out about exams is something most people of all ages experience. But it isn’t going to help you get through your revision. The key to managing stress in the run-up to exams is to recognise when it’s getting the better of you, and then taking steps to release some of the pressure.

Having a chat with someone who knows what you’re going through may help, but avoid comparing yourself to others who are studying too (they may be further ahead in their revision, but it doesn’t mean they’ll perform any better than you when exam-time comes). Try to remember to eat as healthily as you can, even when you feel as if you don’t have time for proper meals, and to stay as active as possible (exercise is one of the best stress relievers there is). Also try to get the sleep you need, especially the night before an exam.

For more advice, read our Stress-busting tips for students.

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