How To Prepare for January Exams

students preparing for exams in the library
January 2024 by


Your January exams are likely the first big set of important exams you’ll come across in the academic year. Even if you’re completing your 2nd or 3rd year of university, preparing for January assessments can still seem particularly overwhelming, especially since the revision period is based largely over Christmas!

However, even if you spent your Christmas holidays stuffing yourself with too much turkey and chocolate to even think about opening a book, all hope is not lost. It’s still possible to ace your January exams and secure a great grade for the academic year as a whole.

This blog will outline some handy tips for preparing for the upcoming university January exam period, including tricks for worthwhile study and how to ensure you’re looking after your general well-being during this time, too. 

When should I start revising for January exams?

When and how you should start preparing for the January period of assessments will highly depend on how well you’ve already taken notes.

If you’ve meticulously written down everything you’ve been taught in semester one and regularly refresh your memory by reading over them, you’ll likely be fine revising two weeks before January exams commence. However, this time frame still largely depends on the quality of your revision. As they always say, quality over quantity!

Is one month enough to revise for exams?

One month of solid high-quality revision is enough to make a serious dent in most university subjects. In fact, you’ll likely find that by the end of one month of continuous studying, you might have forgotten what you learned at the start! 

An easy way to prevent this is by reframing this month as three weeks + one week, rather than thirty continuous days. What does this mean? Well, for three weeks you approach your revision like a true scholar who is trying to fully understand your subject in its entirety. For the other week – you study hard just like someone who has an important university exam in seven days. 

Is one day enough to revise for an exam?

While leaving yourself just 24 hours to solidly revise for an upcoming exam isn’t recommended, we also understand that unforeseen circumstances might leave you with a little less time than you would have liked to prepare for the January exam season. 

If you’re stuck with only a day to revise, we recommend doing the following:

  • Remind yourself that a standard working day is 8 hours – or 10 at a push! Sticking to this timeframe for your revision and using the other time to sleep and eat will help you properly prepare your mind and body for the exam hall.
  • Switch your phone off. You only have 24 hours to revise – everyone else can wait!
  • With an hour before your study timeframe is up, go over the essential facts one more time. Write them down neatly so you can read over them again the following day.
  • Don’t forget to familiarise yourself with the exam by looking at and practising past papers. The majority of the time, it’s not how much knowledge you can remember, but how you apply it in the exam itself. 

How do you revise 2 days before an exam?

Giving yourself just two days to revise for an upcoming exam is doable, but will be very tough! If you put in 8-10 hours each day, that’s 20 hours of revision. We recommended going to a library or quiet spot that’s completely away from distractions to keep your head down, taking breaks little and often. 

Active revision techniques are also essential in just 48 hours. This means speaking the information out loud as you read it from your notes, rather than just reading it inside your head. 

Study tips for January exams

  • Don’t procrastinate

    Procrastination is one of the most common reasons students perform poorly during university exams. Instead, students who prioritise a thorough study period by putting the work in like a normal full-time employee working 9-5 – rather than putting it off until the last minute – are more likely to succeed when the sticks are down.

  • Study with others

    Sitting alone in the corner of the library studying late into the night isn’t good for anyone. However, by finding others to study with and working as a group to cover tricky points you just can’t seem to grasp, you can make studying much more efficient – and a lot more fun. When establishing your study group, try to choose others who are serious and committed to doing as well as you are, too.

  • Take advantage of study apps

    While writing up your notes from semester one is a great way to discover what’s stuck and what you need to teach yourself again, we also know that everyone learns differently. For example, many students find online tools and mobile apps great for revising and creating study resources. There are lots of study apps out there you can take advantage of, in particular apps that help you make digital flashcards to test yourself on the go.  

  • Study everywhere and anywhere

    Talking about revising on the go, making the most of every spare minute and studying whenever you can will be far more beneficial than exhausting yourself with a long revision session and overwhelming yourself with every single fact. Going over flashcards on public transport, getting coursemates to quickly quiz you before and after lectures, or listening to a recording of your notes in the line at the shops are all great ideas. 

  • Get up early

    It sounds simple, but the sooner you start studying in the day, the sooner you can finish. By getting up early and heading straight to the library, you can look forward to a few hours of wind down in the evening. Remembering also comes from over-learning, so getting your brain in gear first thing when it’s not cluttered with other things will help you quickly memorise what you need to know. 

  • Work out where you’re most productive

    Everyone has that one place where they study best. For some, this might be a room so quiet you can hear your own heartbeat and are completely free from any external distractions. For others, a little background noise actually works in their favour and they don’t enjoy studying in total silence. By working out where you’re most productive, you can ensure any time you put into revising for your January exams will be time well spent. 

  • Q is for Quizmaster…

    No, we’re not playing Ring of Fire! However, using your study content to design revision quizzes can be a great way to revise. Imagine you’re in the shoes of your strictest professor and you need to come up with some of the most difficult questions you can think of. Take this exam, and then retake it – again and again. If you’re studying with course friends or housemates, get them to quiz you with your questions, as well.

  • … and D is for Detective

    Find the Watson to your Holmes and play detective for the day. This means digging out copies of old past papers, scouring the internet for sample questions you might be faced with, and asking your professor for any old revision tools they’ve kept from the many years teaching this course. Like we said earlier, half of revising for January exams is working out how you’re going to apply this knowledge, as well as memorising it. 

  • Forget what you know (for now)

    If you’ve left yourself with less time than you would have liked to study for the January exam period, it’s not worth wasting hours reviewing what you already know. It’s much better to dedicate your time to information you know but sometimes forget or confuse, and anything that you really aren’t familiar with! It’s all about finding your weaknesses before the examiner does. 

5 wellbeing tips for university exam periods 

  • Try and stay healthy

    Most students will likely spend their Christmas holidays splurging on treats and staying in a mostly horizontal position. This means it’s sometimes a little tough to get back in your studies and you’ll probably feel lethargic and overwhelmed when suddenly faced with a big stack of exam materials. Prioritising your health by eating green homecooked foods, hitting the gym doing regular exercise, and drinking plenty of water will help improve your mental ability and encourage your body to snap back into life before the festive period.

  • Get enough sleep

    Sleep is another key factor in managing your well-being over January exams. Getting your seven or eight hours of good rest a night has several great benefits; sleep helps you manage stress, process and sort all the information you’ve studied that day, and will keep you fit and healthy overall. 

  • Stay away from the pub

    Have you ever tried to study on a hangover? We don’t recommend it. It might be hard to stay away from drinking with your university mates for a few weeks while you keep your head down, but the results will more than make up for it – not to mention the first trip back after exams are finished will be something to look forward to! At this time of the year, the pubs are mostly empty as many other students are quick to realise just how hard it is to complete a past paper when your head is still spinning. 

  • Come off social media

    Scrolling through TikTok and replying to people on Snapchat can suck up massive amounts of your time. You’re not the first person who’s opened their phone to Google something and then accidentally spent forty minutes browsing their socials! By coming off social media completely (or at least considerably limiting the time you spend online) you can instead use these hours to hit the books. Everything will be there for you when exams finish, and there’s not much happening online in January anyway!

  • Seek help if you need it

    Sometimes no matter how hard you try, the stress of preparing for January exams can end up completely overcoming students. Not to mention, everything seems especially heightened if you’re struggling to deal with the January blues, too. If you do find yourself really struggling with anxiety, depression or fear for the upcoming exam period, there are plenty of services on hand to help. Universities are very aware of what you’re going through and can help you through this difficult time if you just reach out and let them know you’re finding it tough.

Good luck! You’ve got this. 

No matter how many times you’ve gone through a January exam period, sitting important assessments right after your Christmas break can be tricky for any student! With the above study tricks and general tips for looking after your well-being, you can make sure you get the grade you deserve from your exams – and come out the other side ready to properly enjoy semester two. 



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