How should I revise?


02 Mar
02Mar

Revision needs to be organised, intense and testing, but also fun, creative and impromptu. And that's why students get confused about how to go about it. People's brains work in different ways, so revision should, to some extent, be tailor-made. The human brain is a complex machine, and in order to maximise our chances of recalling information, we need to ensure material goes into the long-term memory store. We should be trying to process information to a deep level. I've listed below some revision tips and techniques that many students find useful.

Get plenty of sleep

When we're tired, we can experience brain fog and don't always think clearly, so make sure you hit any late nights on the head during revision/exam season and get yourself into a routine of going to bed early(ish) and getting up before nine in the morning. 

Have a cold shower

If you're brave! Some people believe it can give your brain and energy levels an extra umpf for the day. I have yet to try this!

Stay hydrated and fuelled

Make sure you have water to hand whilst revising and something to nibble on that will keep your energy levels up. Your brain is a machine and needs fuel to be working effectively. 

Work in silence

Exams are taken in silence, so work in silence. 

Highlighters

Create a rainbow of colours on your revision notes. Highlighters add a splash of colour on your work and are a great way to help with organisation; however, be selective in what you do highlight and avoid highlighting large chunks of text because your brain needs to make connections between material - highlighting huge blocks is only telling it to partition that work and to isolate it. For instance, if you're reading a text in English, an effective way to highlight may be to choose one colour for language devices and techniques and then a different one for structural features. You could even set yourself a challenge of not highlighting more than three or four words on a line to make sure you are being selective and really thinking about the material and its relevance.

Flashcards

They're a teachers favourite, aren't they? You bet they are! I know some students are sick of the sight of them, but flashcards really are a fab tool for learning when used effectively. They are great for synthesising notes and for revision games like snap or matching pairs. However, the act of making them isn't enough. Nope, you have to use them, too, and test yourself.

Digital voice recorders

If you learn from listening to material (or like the sound of your own voice), why not buy a cheap digital voice recorder, such as a Dictaphone, and record yourself talking through your revision notes. You can pick them up relatively cheaply online (about £20-30) and in many shops. 

Podcasts or videos

The internet is full of great revision podcasts that you can listen to, and YouTube has some really good videos that can watch if you have a free 5-10 minute slot in your day, so I am actually giving you permission to use technology to help with revision. You can't get by on these podcasts and videos alone, though; they're purely to complement other methods.

Be arty

Convert your revision notes to pictures and diagrams - the sillier the better sometimes because they'll stick in your head more. For instance, many years ago I had to teach students about the body's stress response and designed a cartoon strip ('Peter Pituitary') to explain it to them, but you could take a quote and draw it out, or if you have a group of friends revising the same stuff, play a visual game like Pictionary.

Venn diagrams 

Venn diagrams are not just for Maths. They're a brilliant tool to test your understanding of material because they force you to examine similarities and differences between characters, themes, concepts, poems etc. 

Mnemonics

The human brain does like to chunk information and categorise it, so it can be stored neatly away in its memory, and one way to help it do this is to use mnemonics, which can give us catchy ways of remembering words and groups of information. You could make use of various mnemonics, including songs and acronyms.

Teach 

It's the best way to prove that you understand something. It feels a little weird doing it for the first time, I know, but either teach a concept or idea to someone who does not know the topic well (maybe a parent) or invest in a mini whiteboard and teach the dog or invisible students. If you're going for the dog or invisible students option, you'll have to pretend you have a really curious (some may say 'challenging') student in your class that questions everything as you go along, so that you clarify and expand on points.

Exam papers and mark schemes

One of the very best ways to increase your chances of success in exams is to complete past papers in timed conditions and to try and mark them yourself with the appropriate mark scheme (you can often get these off the internet). You can also read examiners' reports online. This is probably the very best way to test yourself and your capabilities, and it allows you to see what examiners are looking for. When your confidence with marking your own work and exam papers has increased, try and make up new questions and mark schemes. 

Have some chill time

Your brain does need some downtime. In fact, rest periods can help it recover, restore itself and get ready for new material heading its way. Have a read of my previous post (Blame Peppa Pig. I do!) to see how you can factor in some relaxation time into your revision schedule to help avoid burnout. 



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