With the exception of a lucky few, revising effectively for your exams is essential in achieving great results and being able to fulfil your future goals. Therefore, here are 5 handy tips to help you make the most of your revision in the weeks and months before the exams:
1) Start revising early
It sounds obvious but too many of us (myself include from time to time) leave revising until the last possible moment. Although cramming all your study together feels good, the problem is that the memories you’re currently holding in your mind are more fragile. Spacing your practice out results in memories that are more likely to be useful and you can only achieve this if you start revising early.
2) Learn to recall information not just recognise it
The most common revision technique is looking back through your textbook and notes, maybe highlighting a few key phrases. Seeing the same piece of information for the umpteenth time creates a feeling of familiarity (recognition), which we then mistake as ‘knowing’ it. But exams don’t ask you to be familiar with something, they ask you to be able to recall the relevant information to answer the question. Therefore, you need to test yourself during your revision to help with your recall when you’re in the actual exam. For example, if you’re revising vocabulary for a French exam, don’t just read a list of French words with their English equivalents, use flashcards instead. Write the English word on one side, and the French translation on the other side. Looking at the English word, try to remember what the French word is, before turning over the card to check.
3) Rehearse what you are going to do
Imagine you are playing a very important tennis match tomorrow. What’s the best way to prepare? Watching tennis matches on TV or actually practising it? Clearly, the best way to prepare in this situation is actually doing it and it is true for taking exams – we need to rehearse exactly the thing we’ll be required to do. Therefore, build time into your study plan to get away from revision and try answering question with the information you’ve revised. This is one of the reasons that teachers use past papers in class – it familiarises you with the exam and gives you an opportunity to put what you ‘know’ into practice.
4.) Take regular breaks
Most development experts suggest that the average attention span of 16-year olds is approximately 35-45 minutes although this can be extended if you’re doing something you truly enjoy. Unfortunately, revision is probably not on the list of things you like doing but more something that you have to do. Therefore, it’s important to build in breaks every 40 minutes or so when revising to allow you to refresh before tackling more. In other words, instead of doing a 2-hour solid block of revision, try 40 minutes – 5-minute break – 40 minutes – 5 minute-break – 40 minutes. It takes a short time longer overall (10 minutes) but you will find more information will go in & be more likely to stick.
‘How is it possible to revise for any subject that requires you to write an essay?’, you may say. Prompt cards are very useful in helping you remember everything you want to say, but how can we make those prompts as useful as possible? One of the best ways is to start your revision by writing a detailed plan of exactly what you want to say. Repeatedly rewrite the essay but reduce the amount of detail each time you do. Eventually you’ll end up with just basic prompts which you can then use to write your essay from memory & check it against your original.
Revising is unlikely to be on anyone’s bucket list. It is simply something we have to do if we want to achieve the best possible results in our exams. Incorporating some, or all, of the tips above when you’re revising will at least give a greater opportunity to do just that.
+1 Sign up for a revision course
Having private tuition one-to-one or in a small group can really help with your revision and your overall grades. Have a look at Find Education’s GCSE Easter Revision courses in Oxford.