How To Revise Effectively: The Ultimate Guide

How to review effectively: The ultimate guide. The run-up to an exam is a pretty stressful time, especially if you need certain grades to get into your favourite university. And while it's not usually fun, revision is the only way to get the grades you deserve. To help you perfect your own revision approach, we've put together this definitive guide offering top tips.

Author: Adi Sen

Table of Contents

How To Revise Effectively: The Ultimate Guide

The run-up to an exam period is a pretty stressful time, especially if you need certain grades to get into your first-choice uni, start your dream job, or achieve another goal. And you know as well as we do, that, while it’s rarely fun, revision is the only way to get the marks you deserve. However, the process isn’t always straightforward. Every person has their own way of learning and this needs to align with their revision techniques. So, to help you hone your own revision approach, we’ve created this ultimate guide offering the very best tips.

When Is the best time to start revising?

Start revising as soon as you can. The earlier you begin, the more time you have to practise revision techniques and spot gaps in your knowledge. You’ll be less likely to cram everything in at the last minute too.

 

If you have December exams, begin revising by around October, as this gives you enough time to start the school year and know what you need to learn. While for summer testing, Easter break is a great time to get your head down.

How much revision should you do a day?

This depends on the amount of time you have. For instance, you might only get a few hours in the evening to revise after a day at your place of learning. However, for your revision to be effective, it needs to be done consistently, rather than an hour here and there. Aim for around 15-20 hours a week, but make sure that’s achievable! Use your holiday time and weekends too to try and squeeze in a few more hours (we know you don’t want to but it will help).

Note your exams dates and topics

Organisation is key to effective revision. Before you jump in, note your exam dates and figure out how long you have to revise for each. Then write a detailed list of all the topics you need to cover for every test, colour-coding each according to how much work you need to do. For example, red would mean you don’t understand the topic at all, orange signifies you need to learn some more, and green means you’re confident about the subject. We recommended starting with the trickiest topics first, then once you’ve conquered those, moving onto the easy ones.

studying student

Make a revision timetable

You can find plenty of free revision templates online. List all the days you’ll have time to revise — remembering to give yourself breaks and days off — and split these into hourly slots. Add your subjects to the timetable, and if possible, divide topics into subtopics to make revision more manageable. For example, chemistry could be separated into organic, physical, and inorganic chemistry, and so on. You will also want to space subjects out to avoid revising the same content every day. This will add some variety and keep you engaged.

 

It’s also crucial to tailor your timetable to when you’re most productive, whether that’s morning, afternoon or evening. It doesn’t matter when you revise, as long as you get it done! Remember to be realistic too. For example, planning to spend 8-10 hours a day at the weekend studying isn’t going to make you feel good.

 

You can find various timetables online to suit your needs or you can always create your own – the important thing is to keep yourself organised!

Create a distraction-free revision Space

Once your timetable is ready, create a suitable distraction-free space for revision. Go back to the dark ages and leave your smartphone in another room so you don’t waste time scrolling through social media or texting your friends. Ideally, you want somewhere quiet with enough space for your textbooks, notes, and pen and paper. You don’t have to work at home though or even at your school or college —  revise wherever you’re most productive. This might be a cosy coffee shop or your local library, for instance. A change of scenery works wonders sometimes.

Looking for help with your admission test?

At UniAdmissions, we specialise in admission tests and have tutors who performed incredibly well in their tests. We can help you prepare and give you all the support you need in order to get the very best score. 

The best revision techniques

Everyone learns in different ways so one revision technique might work perfectly for your friend but not for you. We recommend trying out multiple methods to help you find the best one. It might be a game of trial and error at the beginning but stick with it because it’ll be advantageous once you get started with revision.

But if you happen to be struggling, don’t fret. At UniAdmissions, we have support programmes for university admission exams specifically, helping to guide you through the testing process. Delivered by expert tutors, we can help you get ahead of your peers.

Here are some of the best ways to revise:

Write down all key points from your revision and create flashcards

Flashcards are easy to read and can be kept with you at all times, making for super convenient revision when travelling. They help test your memory and force you to condense information into digestible bite-size chunks. A great way to help you memorise the information on them is to stick the flashcards in places you regularly look, like the fridge, kitchen cupboards, and computer screens.

Revise multiple topics a day

The longer you spend on one topic, the more likely you are to feel bored and disengaged, so it’s best to break your day up with different subjects. This enables you to better balance your workload and keep you on track with your schedule. In fact, spreading out your learning gives your mind the time to process information properly. If you spend all day revising one subject, you’ll likely confuse facts when you move onto the next topic and your brain will burn out faster.

Test Yourself

Nothing beats replicating the exam in terms of preparing for the real thing. Past papers can test your knowledge under timed conditions and get you set for the types of questions that may come up in the exam. It also helps improve memory and retention as having to retrieve information from your brain leads to better long-term recall than simply studying. Testing yourself allows you to identify what you do and don’t know too.

 

Our best advice is to organise a few past papers into topics, then after revising each subject, use them to test yourself. This is an effective revision technique as you test your knowledge, explain it in your own words and then review what you have written in reference to the mark scheme.

Practice with Educational videos

You may find video content more engaging and digestible than reading, so seek out any videos on your exam topics and actively take notes. Studies have found that short video clips allow for more efficient processing and memory recall due to the visual and auditory nature of the content. Video can be incredibly beneficial for complex topics which include step-by-step procedures, problem-solving, or science and math formulas, for instance. What’s more, these clips can be paused and replayed whenever you want, increasing knowledge retention.

Draw tables and diagrams

You could do this for a variety of subjects, such as mathematics and science. This might be an easy way for visual learners in particular to retain information. For example, drawing a mind map or a graph can help identify connections between ideas, acting as a visual picture of your revision notes. In fact, your brain can more quickly process information in these types of formats than linear notes.

how to prepare for essay-based questions

Writing essays is an important exam skill for many subjects, and the last thing you want is to enter an exam hall without knowing how to answer the questions properly. Begin preparing by finding out what kinds have appeared in past papers and identifying common themes and ideas. Make sure you know your topic inside out so you’ll be ready no matter what question hits you. Testing yourself frequently will help you discover blind spots in your knowledge that you need to work on.

 

You also need to practise writing essays within a specific time frame so you’re able to use your time effectively when the real thing comes around. The last thing you want is for the exam to end before you’ve finished your answer.  It’s best to write essays in both timed and untimed conditions though. An untimed practice can help you get the content down and structured, while a timed one can help refine your essay-writing process.

 

Remember to respond to the question specifically and avoid going off-topic. You can do this by highlighting keywords and sections to break down the question and identify how these relate to what is being asked. This will help you write an answer that actually answers the question. You need to make a strong logical argument and back it up with evidence using your knowledge.

how to keep yourself motivated while revising

What do you do when you’ve got no motivation to revise? We’ve all been there, especially if you feel overwhelmed by the amount of content you need to cover. The hardest part of revising is actually starting though. Once you sit down with your textbooks, you’ve already jumped the first hurdle. Here are a few excellent ways to stay motivated:

Follow a routine

A consistent routine will make revising feel more natural as you’ll start to establish good habits that you’ll likely want to maintain — especially when you know how beneficial revision can be in the long-run. This is much more advantageous than consciously deciding to revise on the off chance you feel motivated to do so.

Revise in a nice environment

Ensure your desk is tidy and comfortable to work at. Any space that is cluttered will impact your brain’s ability to focus and process information, which definitely doesn’t bode well for your revision timetable. Something as simple as using your favourite stationery can be a mood-booster too.

Mix up your revision

Experiment with different revision techniques to ensure every revision day is a little bit different. Variety will keep you motivated. You’ll get bored quite quickly if all you do is use flashcards. Find out which revision methods work best for you and mix it up throughout the day. For instance, you could dedicate an hour to looking over your flashcards but then listen to a relevant podcast while cooking your dinner. You don’t always have to be sitting at your desk to absorb information.

Reward Yourself

Rewards are a great incentive. For example, if you do X amount of hours revision a week, your reward could be a takeaway at the weekend or a coffee from your favourite coffee shop. Individuals are typically pulled towards behaviours that lead to rewards and pushed away from anything that will lead to negative consequences — known as the incentive theory — so it’s an effective system for revision.

Stay healthy

To get the most out of revision, it’s vital you stay healthy, which involves getting enough sleep for starters. All-nighters are not the way to go if you want to remember what you have learned as a lack of sleep can impact your cognitive performance. Cramming information in like this only activates your short-term memory which means facts can disappear as quickly as a few minutes later. Staying hydrated and fueling yourself with energy-boosting snacks are also important measures, but avoid sugary food that might make you sluggish. Exercise is important to keeping your brain fresh and functioning too and is a great way of having a break from revision.

Take a break

Talking of taking breaks: make sure revision doesn’t take over your life. Failing to relax risks jeopardising your mental and physical health, so we strongly advise not revising flat-out. The Pomodoro technique can be effective here — a 25 minute study session then a five minute break, and repeat. After four cycles, take a longer break of an hour and do something a little more fun. You could make a meal, exercise, watch a TED talk, play the guitar, or read! Having some revision-free days off is also vital to recharging your batteries and improving your focus. Otherwise, all the hard work you’ve been putting into revising will be for nothing.

 

After reading this guide, we hope you feel better prepared to revise and have discovered some useful techniques. Remember that there isn’t a set way of revising, so find the one that suits you best and get stuck in. And don’t forget to organise something fun for when your exams are over — you will have earnt it, after all!

As a last note...

After reading this guide, we hope you feel better prepared to revise and have discovered some useful techniques. Remember that there isn’t a set way of revising, so find the one that suits you best and get stuck in. And don’t forget to organise something fun for when your exams are over — you will have earnt it, after all!

Looking for help with your admission test?

At UniAdmissions, we specialise in admission tests and only work with tutors who scored in the top 10% on their admission test. We can help you prepare and give you all the support you need in order to get the very best score. Enroll in one of our programmes and triple your changes of success now!

Book An Expert Application Consultation