Angel is currently studying for her A-levels (English, Sociology and Psychology) in the hopes of going to university next year.
Revision: the final frontier, and a student’s greatest nightmare. No matter how interesting the subject, sometimes revision is just plain dull. These tips and tricks will help you survive and thrive through the hard slog of note taking and memorising.
1. Avoid Distractions Whilst Revising
Before you begin your revision it is important to set up an environment where you will not get distracted - you can do this by:
- Not listening to music with lyrics
- Revising in a quiet area with enough space for your books
- Not revising in your bedroom because it is full of distractions and is associated with sleep
- Exercise between revision sessions
- Sleep and eat plenty to avoid fatigue
- Keep your phone in another room
Academics from Ohio University, Illinois State University and Nebraska University studied the effect of interrupting work to use a phone on educational success. The study, 'Mobile Phones in the Classroom' tested 145 undergraduates. They found a significantly better recall of information when participants didn't use phones than those that used them.
- Avoiding Distractions While Revising | SkillsYouNeed
Learn how to keep yourself focused on your revision, and avoid distractions during your revision sessions.
2. Give Yourself Plenty of Time to Revise
We’ve all been there - the last-minute rush to cram as much information in as you can. It’s stressful, and in the long term just doesn’t work. Of course, it is difficult to guess how much time you need - it depends on your own abilities and the type of exam you will be doing.
For example, GCSEs may need three months of revision because there are so many different subjects.
To calculate when you should start revising you must take into account:
- How many subjects you have
- How well you already know them
- How long it takes for you to write notes/memorise
Ultimately, it is up to you to decide on when you'll be starting preparation for exams, but if they are particularly important, it is suggested to begin at least a month in advance.
If, for example, you have given yourself two months to revise, the next step is to divide this time period into different revision sessions:
- Three weeks to write notes/posters/flashcards
- Three weeks to memorise
- One week for practice questions
- The final week for practice papers
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(This is just one example of how you could organise your revision time period)
3. Be Selective on Subjects to Revise
In an ideal world, we would be able to go through all the topics we have learned, but this isn’t always possible. It is important to spend more time on the subjects you don’t understand than the ones you already know. Using the traffic light system can help identify which topics need the most work, so you can spend your time effectively and efficiently.
Topics that you are confident with are marked green whereas more difficult ones are red. Topics that you understand but aren't confident with are orange. The red subjects you will revise the most so that eventually you understand it as well as the green topics.
This method is particularly useful for exams that cover many different subjects as there is less time to memorise, so instead, you'll have to prioritise.
4. Make an Exam Timetable
Organisation is the key to success, so an exam timetable is a must have. Here are some things you should include:
- Dates and times
- The subject, topic, and activity e.g. English, King Lear, memorising quotes
- Fun activities outside of revision e.g. social events, going to the gym, watching a movie
- Revision sessions should be between 40-60 minutes before taking a short break
- Colours/ pictures
Exam timetable templates are available online for free, you could make your own on the computer, or you could get creative and draw out your timetable on a chalkboard, whiteboard, or poster.
5. Notes, Writing, and Posters
Everyone learns differently, and the best way to take notes efficiently is to figure out your learner type. The seven learning styles include:
- Visual - pictures, images
- Aural - sound, music
- Verbal - words
- Physical - using your body ie. hand gestures
- Logical - logic, reasoning and systems
- Social - learning in groups
- Solitary - working alone
Your learning type will affect the usefulness of a particular method. Here are a few note-taking techniques:
- Post-it notes
- Turning your notes into songs
- Turning your notes into plays/ videos
- How to make revision notes - bullet journals - Exams and Revision | Birmingham City University
If you’re not sure where to begin with your revision and need help getting organised, we might just have the perfect solution for you!
6. Condense Revision Notes
If you have to remember a lot, chances are you’ll struggle to remember it all. Once you have some notes it’s a good idea to write them out again but on a smaller piece of paper- this forces you to pick out the most important information to memorise. Don’t be shy to use colours and pictures!
- Best way to Revise | Revise with Colour
Discover the best way to revise with colour. Scientifically proven to help recall- discover more about this revision technique here.
7. Memorise, Recall, and Learn
This is the stage many find difficult because it requires a lot of effort and focus. It is advised to not listen to music as your full attention will be required. The best way to remember something is to repeat it. Of course, repetition can become tedious, which is why a variety of methods should be used:
- Saying it aloud
- Writing it over and over
- Teach it to someone else
- Record yourself then you can listen to it whilst walking or doing chores
- Make associations - coming up with silly stories to remember words or phrases is the perfect method, the sillier the better!
8. Practice, Practice, Practice!
You know what they say: practice makes perfect. Most exam boards will provide old exam papers and their mark schemes freely available online. These provide insight into the kind of questions you’ll face and could even indicate what will and won’t be in the exam you do. Once you have the mock papers, it is best to gradually do them under exam conditions rather than just jumping in straight away:
- Do the papers open book and not timed
- Do them closed book but not timed
- Try to recreate exam conditions- closed book and timed
- Avoid distractions
- Give yourself plenty of time
- Be selective
- Create an organised exam timetable
- Write efficient notes
- Condense your information down
- Memorise through repetition and teaching others
- Do loads of practice papers
Not everyone revises in the same way, but organisation and practice will ensure success. However, the most important revision method is to look after your health and well-being. Don’t stay up till the early hours of the morning, don’t skip meals, and remember that it is ok to take a break. I wish you the best of luck with your revision and your exams.
© 2018 Angel Harper
Angel Harper (author) on September 26, 2018:
Emmanuel Dal Canto, thanks for reading and commenting! I hope it comes in handy : )
Jenny Dale on August 31, 2018:
Thanks, fab ! I will use this for my end of year exams
Kit on August 27, 2018:
Brill ! Very useful