It is true, knowing the information in the end is what matters. And to many, being unorganised, figuring out what to study the days before the exam, leaning on friends for course content, and studying wherever is available and appealing at the time of pressure, seems to work.
However, if you speak to any A*/1:1/distinction student, they will have something in common. They have habits, routines, procedures, which may have started unconsciously but are now deliberate. Ways to study they know works for them, are efficient, and “get the job done”. Some people work better at night, once everyone is asleep, in a quiet room. Some like to wake up early and zone out alone at the library. Some prefer to study at a noisy café with headphones on. Some people prefer to summarise contents or highlight notes, make flashcards, quiz friends, or just do thousands of exercises and problem questions. Sure, it varies from exam to exam, from content to content, and they’ll adapt their habits and routines to fit a certain moment and syllabus. But it’s always there: a conscious decision to study in a certain way because they believe will help them learn the most in the shortest amount of time, in order to achieve excellence.
My advice to any A-level or undergraduate student, regardless of the field, is to find out what works for you, and stick with it. Don’t play it by ear, don’t wait until the days before the exam and just go with the flow, don’t study in groups if you think it will actually make you less productive. Don’t be afraid to not follow the crowd, as different methods work differently for each person, and you could be jeopardising yourself without even knowing. And don’t be afraid to experiment and allow yourself to find out what works best. No one knows right away what helps them concentrate, and it’s also OK if this changes along time. We are all human and there is no “study police” monitoring your methods. The most important thing is to critically analyse if in fact this method is being more efficient, and not letting comfort disguise itself as “being productive”. I.e. studying in bed may sound very comfortable when it’s cold out and you don’t want to leave your room and your desk is crowded with textbooks, but is it actually better? Or should you just make yourself clean your room, or leave your house, in order to fully concentrate?
A note on discipline is also important. Your parents won’t be around monitoring you forever. If you’re an A-level student, you might still have that, but pretty soon you’ll go off to uni and you’ll only depend on your own rules, and your parents most likely won’t be there to make you stay late revising. You should make yourself disciplined, follow your own study habits, in the face of any circumstance.
Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help! Not everyone knows what works best for them, for a certain course, or a certain time. Ask your peers, your family, your tutors what methods they believe are most efficient, and experiment. There is no right or wrong and it’s OK if it takes you a while to find out!