With exams approaching, it’s time we found effective ways of revising. There’s lots of really useful techniques that we’ve all heard about but don’t apply. So here are a few practical tips to revise smart!
It’s the final run up towards exams…we all know that feeling! Although there is no secret trick to acing exams, there are a few techniques that we mostly know about but don’t apply. Here are a few proven ways that will make your revision more effective;
Firstly, practice makes perfect! We all know this to be true and yet often we don’t factor it into our revision. Endless studies have shown that repetition of information massively improves our recollection and reduces the amount we forget in between. In addition to this, spaced repetition is better than repetition over a short interval…*in student speak* long term repetition is better than cramming!
Make a timetable. I made one every exam season…and then never followed it. So, make a realistic timetable with, for example, goals for each week rather than a rigid plan. Often we wake up and feel like doing a different subject to what we planned, and that’s fine – you’ll be far more productive if you’re studying what you feel like studying instead of forcing yourself to do something you’re not in the mood for. Also, incorporate ‘spaced repetition’ into your timetable. For example, aim to repeat a topic after a week, then again after two weeks.
Find ways of learning that work for you. Learning by organising information is far more effective than passively reading a block of text. Organise information into mind maps, tables, essay plans – whatever you prefer. Many studies have shown that organising information like this greatly improves retrieval. Furthermore, it’s much easier to revise from these sorts of notes in the final run up to exams rather than having to re-read a textbook the night before your exam.
Test yourself. One of the best ways to remember is retrieval. In other words, test yourself regularly. My recommendation and what works for me is to organise a few past papers into topics. Then each time you’ve revised a topic, use past questions to test yourself. This will also allow you to identify the areas you need to re-revise in more detail perhaps. Of course, save a few complete past papers to do nearer to the exam.
Back to the dark ages! Isolate yourself from anything that will distract you. Fair enough – we generally need computers during revision. But leave your phone in another room, self-impose a Facebook/YouTube ban! Not only will you not be distracted, but you’ll have a clear distinction between revision and breaks. During your break you can check all your Whatsapp messages and Facebook notifications – but save it for the break! It’s kind of sad that that that’s what I look forward to doing in my breaks…you should probably organise more exciting things to do! Another question people always have is should I listen to music? To be honest, I don’t think there’s a right answer. If we go with the literature, silence is best, followed by non-lyrical music and then lastly lyrical music. So I guess it’s better not to, but if you find it does help you then go for it. Like I said earlier, it’s all about finding what works for you.
Finally, don’t lose out on sleep. While we sleep, it’s a proven fact that we consolidate what we’ve learnt, so there’s no benefit in pulling all-nighters! (Save those for uni :p). Also, find out what time of day (or night, for the owls among us) is your most productive. For me it was between breakfast and lunch but you might well find you work best later on in the day.
Hopefully some of these techniques will be useful during your revision. They’re nothing novel, you’ve probably heard it all before, and yet we fail to apply it in practice. Revision doesn’t have to be a dreaded chore. Although it’s never going to be hugely exciting, if you make it effective, you’ll be able to get more out of fewer hours and in turn have more time for other things.