Revision – it’s a dirty word and probably one that no student wants to hear as the new year barely gets going, but actually, there’s no better time to start thinking about what lies ahead and how to improve your revision techniques before the exam season.
We’ve all done revision badly – starting too late, not working in the best environment, being disorganised, not concentrating properly and, in the end, panicking.
So, how should it be done?
There are three essentials: Being organised, finding support and being imaginative.
First and foremost, find a good place to work. There’s absolutely no point perching in front of the TV and watching your favourite soaps while you try to get to grips with the causes of the economic crash. Turn off your social media devices as well and find somewhere quiet, without distractions – anywhere that works well for you, whether it’s your bedroom, the dining table or a library.
Have a plan, a written tick list or even better, a timetable, of what you need to do and by when. Keep to it and it should help you achieve goals and relieve anxiety.
Set targets but make sure they are realistic ones. Starting to revise at the eleventh hour will be counter-productive and come with large doses of anxiety. Ideally, revise throughout the year, making frequent brief notes, and use those notes to help with your revision nearer the exam dates.
Ask your tutors, family, friends and classmates to help you. Tutors are invaluable as they understand what you need to know and can guide you. Family and friends can also give you their time by testing you and asking questions. Perhaps one of the best ways to get support is to revise with your fellow students – testing each other, solving problems and gaining understanding together can be fun and productive.
Of course, you could simply read through your notes and text books again and again until you have learnt what you need to know, but that would be boring, disheartening and laborious. There are much better ways to revise; all you need is a little imagination.
- Make question and answer cards.
- Draw mind maps. Sketches and diagrams can also help if you tend to learn visually.
- Look at past papers.
- Make summary notes.
- Use flashcards.
- Use mnemonics to jog your memory. The website, Student UK, suggests My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas as a way of remembering the nine planets in order of distance from the sun (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto). You can think up your own.
- Use websites sometimes – there are some good ones out there.
- Get someone who knows nothing about your subject and explain it to them in your own words – a sure way of making certain that you understand what you’re talking about. They are bound to ask you some awkward questions and if you can’t answer them, you can go back to your notes to find out more.
- Take regular breaks. Revising when you are tired is pointless so intervals are important. Watching your favourite TV programme or taking exercise can revitalise your mind and your body.
These revision techniques are, of course, vitally important, but the golden rule must be to start revising in plenty of time so you don’t end up panicking.