Top 7 Tips for Exam Revision

7 Top Tips for ESOL Exam Revision

Revising for exams can be boring, but there are ways to make it easier, and yes – even fun. In today’s blog I’m giving you my  top 7  tips for exam studying that will make those long hours of revision more useful and productive, so let’s go!

The exam is your friend – get to know it

Make time to understand the structure of the exam you’re taking.

    • How many parts are there to the exam?
    • Are there multiple elements e.g. reading, writing, speaking and listening?
    • How long does it take to complete?
    • Look at past papers to find out how many questions you can expect per paper.
    • Are there specific task types? For example short answer questions, multiple choice, essay questions, gap fills etc.?
    • Read through past papers and make notes on the different question tasks you are expected to complete.

Allocate time to each question

Ensure you have enough time for each question.

    • Divide the time you are allowed for the whole exam by the number of questions you have. (Make sure you don’t include the time you take at the end to check through your answers).
    • Allow time at the end of the test to check what you have written.

Click the icon to see an example of a time allocation plan that I’ve developed for Functional Skills English, Level 2.

What does the examiner expect of you?

Think about what the examiner wants to see.

    • Find out which exam body is setting the exam and download the marking scheme. This will tell you what the examiner expects to see in each answer.
    • Read the marking scheme carefully and compare it with the questions on a past paper.  How would you answer the question to cover everything on the marking scheme? (You can usually download past papers from the examining body’s website).

Here’s a practice paper, marking scheme and Examiner’s report for Functional Skills English, Level 1, downloaded from the OCR website.

Answer every part of the question

Make sure the whole question is answered.

    • Make sure you read the question carefully and answer every element. For example, if the question asks you to include synonyms or linking phrases (like Entry 2, Functional Skills English), then make sure you add them.
    • When you complete a practice paper, tick off every part of the question as you answer it. This way, you can quickly check that you have answered every question.
    • If the exam paper gives you suggestions, make sure you follow them.

Don’t quote from the exam question

Put statements in your own words.

    • You can use language from the question in your own answer. However, don’t quote the question directly. The examiner will think this is lazy.
    • Paraphrase or use synonyms when you quote from the question to show the examiner that you have a wide vocabulary.

Practise makes perfect

The more practise you do, the better you will get.

    • Download and complete as many past papers as you can. You will then understand which questions and task types are difficult for you so you can allocate more time to them in the exam.
    • Practising will help you complete the papers more quickly and it will become easier to finish the exam in the time you are allowed.

Use revision techniques to make the learning fun

Remembering something is easier if you make it enjoyable.

There are many different revision techniques that make learning easier, especially if you need to learn specific things like abbreviations.

I’ve developed this pdf to give you a few ideas. You can adapt these games to help with other areas of revision.

Useful Links

Whichever exam you are going to do, practising is a must. There are a variety of examining body websites that let you download past papers – here some links.

Functional Skills

AQA (Assessment and Qualifications Alliance)


OCR (Oxford, Cambridge and RSA Examinations)




OET (Occupational English Test)

Want to learn more exam strategies? Why not visit some of my blogs below:

OET Corner

Listening Part A

Reading Part A

Nursing Writing Task

OET Speaking


IELTS Speaking

If you’d like a course tailored to your revision needs, let me know.

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