There is no ‘right way’ to revise, the best way for you will depend on your personal learning style. The important thing is to choose a method that enables you to gain a solid grasp of key facts and consolidate your knowledge. Some students are happy to read their course notes from start to finish, others prefer to simplify the information as much as possible, turning everything into skeleton notes, diagrams or mnemonics. In practice, many students use a mixture of approaches.
Tips for effective revision
- Turn your notes into revision tools.
- Write ideas and facts on to index cards to use as ‘prompts’.
- Create memory aids such as diagrams or mnemonics. These will help you remember key facts.
- Write key facts/notes out and display these around the house where you will see them.
- Read your notes on to audio tape and play them back while you relax.
- Study with a friend and test each other’s knowledge.
- Work through past question papers – and use a watch to time them so that you can practise timing your answers.
- If you find the way exam questions are worded confusing, ask your tutor to talk through one or two examples with you. This will help you to understand what the examiners are looking for and get to grips with the way questions are worded. Students sometimes say it feels a bit like learning a new language!
- Keep yourself more alert by changing revision methods during a session. For instance, try switching from note taking to memorising; from reading to asking someone to test you.
- Look after yourself – the more tired you are the less efficiently you’ll work. You need to rest as well as study, eat well, drink lots of water and make sure you pace yourself. Don’t rush, and equally don’t over-revise by doing too much too soon.
- Create a revision plan. This is probably the most important step of all. We recommend that you start your revision at least six weeks before your exams begin. It is helpful to look at your exam dates and work backwards to the first date you intend to start revising.
- List all your exams and the amount of time you think you will need to prepare for each one. It is unlikely that the amounts will be equal. Many people find it advisable to allocate more time to the subject or topics they find the most difficult.
- Draw up a revision plan for each week. Most students find that little and often is best.
- Fill in any regular commitments you have first and the dates of your examinations.
- Divide your time for each exam based on sections of the syllabus, and make sure you allow enough time for each one. Plan your time carefully, assigning more time to subjects and topics you find difficult.
- Revise little and often; try to do a little every day.
- Include time off on your plan. Take a 5 or 10 minute break every 40 minutes – 1hour and do some stretching exercises, go for a short walk or make a drink. Studies show that our concentration starts to drop off after 30 – 40 minutes, but taking a break will help you to come back refreshed and you will learn more.
- You may find it helpful to change from one subject to another at ‘break’ time. It helps to build in some variety and maintain your interest.
- Write up your plan and display it somewhere visible.
- Adjust your timetable if necessary and try to focus on your weakest topics and subjects.
- Don’t panic; think about what you can achieve, not what you can’t. Positive thinking is important!
Last-Minute Revision Tips
- Although time may be short, you can still make a difference to your grade. Try and prioritise; do what you can.
- Use your revision tools (prompts, diagrams etc.) to check final facts.
- Keep calm and consolidate your existing knowledge rather than trying to learn new topics at this late stage.
- Don’t stay up all night revising the night before; being overtired will not help you to do your best.
- It is natural to feel nervous before an examination, but being well-prepared will help.
- Find out what is involved in the exam: where and when it will take place, how much time is allowed, and how many questions you need to answer.
- Check you have the correct equipment with you before you leave the house (pens pencils, eraser, etc.).
- Take a watch with you so that you can time your answers. You will not be able to use your mobile phone during the exam.
- Leave for the exam in plenty of time, allowing for traffic and finding a parking space, and then a bit extra.