Top revision strategies and tips

Top revision strategies and tips As certain as day follows night, it’s a fact of life that we all have to spend time revising for exams. You may be tempted to resort to the standard tactic of cramming in as much information as you can in the shortest amount of time, but honestly, it’s not worth it because more often than not it won’t help you to get the grades you want / need. Instead, you should make the most of the following advice to become a revision master.

Revision tips: short bursts are best

You may think the best tactic is just to spend hours hunched over a textbook, but this is far from true. In fact, it’s best to revise in short bursts over about half an hour to 45 minutes, before taking a 15 minute break to rest your mind. This will mean the work you’ve just done will have time to sink in and you’ll be able to return to the revision as refreshed as a glass of Coke on a warm summer’s day.

How to revise successfully: make sure you understand what you’re reading

If you find yourself reading something for the sake of it rather than taking it in an understanding what it means, you’re just wasting your time. You may as well be looking at a foreign language. Revising effectively is about understanding what something means. If you take the time to understand the principle behind something, you have a better chance of applying it when it comes to answering exam questions you may not be expecting.

Practice past exam papers

This is a great way to prepare yourself for exams of any kind, because not only does it give you a chance to test your knowledge and revision, but it also provides you with an idea of what you can expect from the real thing. Have you seen our top employers page yet? Why not check it out now? You’ll be able to get an idea of what kinds of questions you may be asked, and how to answer them. It also lets you become used to the exam format without the added pressure that comes with sitting an official exam, so you’ll know what to expect on the day. Doing a past exam can also act as a nice break from simply revising from your notes, while it can be useful in highlighting any areas you need to improve on.

Best way to revise: start early

It’s oh so tempting to leave everything until the last minute – the ‘I still have time, I’ll do it later’ mentality – but rarely does such a strategy result in success. If you do this, you’ll leave yourself with too much to do in too little time. Instead, you should aim to start your revision as early as you can. Yes, you may be thinking that your exams are still months away, but if anything that’s more of a reason to start now. If you reinforce everything you learn as you learn it and take in all the key information you need throughout the year, by the time exams come around it will all be firmly ingrained in your memory.

Revision techniques: identify trends and typical exam questions

Exams questions are based on the school curriculum and syllabus, which means that previous years’ students will have studied and been tested on the same things. What this means for you is that your exam paper is likely to be fairly similar to what’s come before. This is another great reason to try out past papers, because the same types of question come up on a regular basis. If you’ve tried out exams from the last few years, you should have a good idea of what to expect from your own.

How to revise effectively: put in the extra hours

There’s a reason why ‘you get out what you put in’ is a famous phrase. If you don’t put any effort into revising, then you can’t realistically expect to get anything good out of it. If you do put in the time though, then you’re giving yourself a much better chance of getting the results you want. If your school is putting on extra lessons, go to them. If you find it easier to learn at school rather than at home, see if you can stay a little later and revise in the library or somewhere where you can focus. That way, you put your time in at school and have the rest of the time outside of school to relax and let all your hard work soak into your memory.

Secrets to revising: go above and beyond your current level

This might not apply to everyone, but if you can, try and study above your current level. For example, if you’re preparing for GCSEs, study at an A level standard. If you’re doing your A levels, do some university-standard revision. Why? Simply because if you’re able to grasp the subject, whatever it is, at a higher level, you’ll have a greater bank of knowledge to refer to. This might also make elements of your current level easier to understand and appreciate, which means you may be able to remember it more easily.

Revision plan: make your notes effective

Another benefit of starting your revision early on in the academic year is that it will make it easier for you to organise your notes more clearly, thereby helping you later in the year when you’re referring back to them. Think about it, what’s more beneficial – a nice organised folder of notes, or scrambled pieces of paper in no particular order? It’s a no brainer. How you organise them depends on how you learn – you could colour code them by subject, or use sticky notes to draw out particularly important pieces of information.

Create a revision timetable

Again, whether you need a timetable or not depends on what kind of person you are. If you’re naturally-organised, you may be able to keep track of your learning time without a timetable. If you find it hard to organise your time however, you could benefit from a structured timetable. Set aside free time in your day when you can sit down and learn. You may want to do this in blocks – half an hour on, half an hour off, for two or three hours a day. If you do create one, make sure it’s realistic so that you can stick to it.

Get your sleep in while revising

You may be sick of people telling you to get a good night’s sleep, but honestly, it’s one of the easiest ways of guaranteeing your success. After you’ve just spent your evening revising, all this information will sink into your memory while you sleep, meaning you’re much more likely to remember it later down the line. Don’t waste all your hard work but staying up too late and tiring yourself out, because you won’t perform as well as you could. “New research shows that a brief rest after learning something can help you remember it a week later. Other experiments have shown that a full night’s sleep helps you learn new skills or retain information.” Tom Stafford, The Guardian, 2014 Above all, remember these top tips on how to revise effectively for your exams:
  • Don’t leave it late
  • Take regular breaks
  • Go over notes in as much detail as possible
  • Repeat the same module or section over and over
  • Don’t just learn the textbook word for word, try to understand the underlying principles
  • Do as many past papers as possible, and then improve on your weaker areas
  • Stay positive. You can do it!
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