Last Minute Revision?

The night before the English literature GCSE exam is rarely a pleasant one and very few year 11 students are so relaxed that they spend the evening kicking back with Netflix. On the contrary, that last evening is packed with frenzied revision as students pore over youtube and revision guides while the remaining hours run out as fast as they did for Scrooge. So how much value is there in this last minute revision? Does it make you or break you in terms of getting through that tough two hour exam?

Lightbulb Revision YouTube channel viewing statistics - 2018 exams



To a certain extent, yes. There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence about students who crammed on the bus the morning of the exam and got lucky. There’s always the possibility that the last thing you read from your revision guide will be the question set that year. And it’s better to revise than to simply give up and turn to the PS4. But it’s a risky strategy if that’s your only strategy. 

Cramming on a last minute mindset is asking an awful lot of your brain. Lightbulb Revision saw a dramatic surge in people watching the videos in the 24 hours leading up to the exams. Sure, a final cram can stuff in a few extra facts or quotes but it’s not nearly as effective as a slow steady approach.

Science does support this. Ebbinghaus forgetting curve (below) shows just how quickly information is forgotten; if you really want to be well-prepared for the GCSE exams, you need to make sure that you plan your revision time very carefully.


Revising from the beginning of Year 11- or even, dare we say it, from the beginning of Year 10- will bring you rewards. It really will. Small, bite-sized chunks of revision are much easier to digest and will leave you in a healthy state for the exam rather than a whopping enormous feast the night before the exam which leaves you bloated and overwhelmed and performing badly. Revising little and often allows your brain to absorb the information gradually and thoroughly.  

So start early. Every half-term you’ll finish a text so spend a couple of hours in the holidays going through your notes and revision guides, creating those flashcards and start learning quotations. Then every week spend 30 minutes or so revising these. It’s not wasted time; it’s time that you can bank so that by the time you reach your exams, you will have a secure knowledge base from which to tackle your exams. It will save you frantically scouring the internet at the very last moment . Who knows, you might be so well-prepared, you can spend the night before your exam watching Netflix- as long as it’s a version of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ or ‘A Christmas Carol’!

Next: how to revise quotations