How and where to revise

6 April 2016

Revision is something you simply can't avoid if you are serious about doing as well as you possibly can in your exams. It's also something that only a very few people actually enjoy!

You'll find plenty of advice about the dos and don'ts, online and from teachers. The key thing to remember is that revision is actually a very personal thing. What works really well for one person won't work at all for another.

The first thing that is crucial is to try to establish what does and doesn't work for you and use that as your starting point. Below are some tips for you to consider:

Be prepared

You may have heard the saying: 'failure to prepare is preparing to fail' and revision is the most important part of preparation for exams - but preparing for revision is really important too.

If you're doing something that you don't particularly like doing (revision) and it's all leading to something that you could be anxious or worried about (exams), getting on track and staying on track can be difficult.

It's really easy to lose focus, to get distracted and to lose valuable time. So, being prepared by getting together all the things you could need for a revision session and having them all handy in one place is a really good idea.

Things like notebooks and textbooks, pens and highlighters, and anything that might be useful for specific subjects. For example, a calculator - It's all about being organised so that you don't have to stop unnecessarily and lose concentration as a result. Make sure you've got food and drink with you too.

Find the right environment

This will depend on your personal circumstances. Sitting at a desk or a table is probably best, if possible. Space is important too as it can be useful to spread books and work out in front of you.

You need to be in a quiet environment. If you've got younger brothers and sisters at home this can be difficult, but asking those around you to be quiet is important.

Don't listen to music or have the TV on in the background when you are trying to revise. You might think that listening to music helps you concentrate and focus (and it might be a way of blocking out other noises around the house), but ideally you want to be in a similar environment to the exam environment. And, in an exam, it will be silent.

This is all down to what's called context dependent memory. If the environment of the exam is similar to the revision environment, it makes it easier to remember information. And having the TV on in the background just means you are likely to get easily distracted.

Earplugs are a great idea to block out sounds around the home - or you could choose to work in a naturally quiet place, such as a library.

Take a break

Cramming is very unlikely to be helpful. Your brain can only process so much information at any one time. People are different, but generally you shouldn't try to revise for more than an hour at a time and make sure you give yourself regular breaks.

Keep them short (15-20 minutes). Use this time to have something to eat and drink. This is the time to go on social media, put some music on and relax. But make sure those distractions are well away from you when you start revising again!

Be active, not passive

Once you've got yourself prepared and organised, you then need to think about the methods to use - How you actually revise. This is a very personal thing and it needs to be what genuinely seems to work for you - not just what other people are doing.

The most important thing to do is to actually do something with your revision material, whether they be notes, podcasts or textbooks, other than simply reading it or in the case of podcasts, listening to it! For the vast majority of people, just reading something over and over won't help.

Some people find making notes from other notes helpful - breaking down the information into bullet points or headings and chunking down the content. For example you can listen to one of the podcast and make notes, put down bullet points etc.

Others find flash cards, mindmaps or charts useful. The trick is to try a few different things until you've found the methods that are winners for you.

At some point, you need to try and recreate the exam you are about to face, so doing practice exam questions, in silence and in the time period you will have to do them in during the real thing. Knowing your stuff (the content) is one thing: being able to write it down in the format required for the exam is what brings you success.

And finally...

Although revision is something that people do in the lead up to exams, revising throughout a course is the best way of doing it. You don't need to wait for the test or exam to revise something. Spend 15 minutes a day (or a bit of time each weekend) looking through all your notes and everything you've covered in the last few lessons. Or, make sure you catch up with one of our audio lessons.

Make some quick notes about the topics you are studying and if there's anything you are unsure about, write it down and ask a friend or a teacher about it the next chance you get.

This way, you are gradually building up and consolidating your knowledge. This will make things far easier in the long run.



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