Revising for exams can feel a huge and hopeless task – so here are 8 of the best revision techniques.
1 – Draw up a revision timetable
Firstly, the way our brains work mean that 1 hour of revision a day for 8 days is much better than 1 day of 8 hours’ revision. This is because forgetting and re-learning actively improves our ability to recall facts and information. So space out your revision instead of cramming, and make sure that you move between subjects and topics as well.
2 – Revise in short spells
The results of a lot of different research shows that we learn best in concentrated spells of 20 – 30 minutes. This allows us to keep our concentration at peak level. It also means that we need to take short 5 minute maximum breaks between these 20 -30 minute spells. You’ll need one longer break in the middle of the day as well but be strict about sticking to the 5 minute maximum otherwise if you want to get the most out of the time you’re devoting to revising.
3 – Revise somewhere quiet
You might think that listening to music helps you to revise. It might distract you from a struggle to retain information but rotating topics and using short spells will help with a lot of that. In fact studies show that students who study in a quiet environment can actively recall more information than those who have music or the TV on.
4 – You really don’t need your phone
Thinking of making your 5 minute break a chance to check social media? Then make sure that your phone isn’t to hand while you’re revising. In fact, make sure it isn’t even in your line of sight. Research has shown that simply being able to see their phone reduces peoples’ ability to concentrate and focus. If it can derail a conversation over a drink then imagine what it can do to your revision – so just put your phone away.
5 – You really don’t need your highlighters either
For some people, nothing says time spent revising quite like textbooks or essays with key facts and phrases highlighted. In fact, highlighting items you want to remember like this is actually counter-productive. It isolates facts and ideas, and prevents you from seeing how they relate to the overall topic and each other.
6 – Don’t just read your notes
Instead of highlighting or simply reading make notes about what you’re revising. Writing them by hand rather than typing will help you to retain the information more easily. In the same way using different coloured pens rather than one colour, and writing in capitals, will also make them more memorable. You can also experiment with mind-maps and diagrams, but don’t get sidetracked with too many colours or making your notes and pictures as perfect as possible. They’re revision aids for you, not work that you’re being marked on.
7 – Test yourself
Testing yourself at the end of revision sessions is one of the most effective revision techniques. Don’t just make it a quiz about facts or dates. Wherever possible make it about causes, relationships, or consequences. Just as not highlighting facts stops them becoming isolated, asking questions like this helps you have a much rounder and robust memory of the subject.
8 – Teach someone else
If you’re going to get a revision ‘buddy’ don’t just make them someone who’ll help you to stop finishing early, or taking longer breaks. Expand testing yourself to teaching them, and make that part of your revision. Teaching someone else makes you organize your knowledge in a structured way, which helps you to recall it more easily. But the conversation that you have when you’re teaching, and the answers you have to give, make it one of the most powerful revision techniques.
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