How to Revise the Right Way

by Anita Naik

Studies have found that most students are drawn to ways of revising that don't help them. It's partly down to the fact revision is rarely taught and this, in turn, can sabotage study efforts for an exam. If you're currently studying for mocks here's how to revise the right way.

Don't just read your notes

The most common form of study is reading the topics you want to learn over and over again. However, bear in mind that recognition and recall are different processes. In exams, you get marks for recalling relevant information and knowing when to use it and how to use it to answer the question. This is different from merely understanding the information (recognition). Therefore, to recall information you need to:

1. Test yourself over and over with facts (flashcards)

2. Know theories inside and out (mind-maps, flow charts)

3. Understand how facts and theories correlate to questions (past exam papers)

Practice what you'll be tested on

You'd be surprised how many students fail to revise for the right thing. Again you won't just be tested on memory but how you use the facts to show you understand the content. It means for many subjects; you need to be adept at writing essays. Meaning you need to practise essay writing, as this is a skill in itself.

1. Write essays in timed conditions using past papers

2. Mark your work and note down areas you need to work on both in terms of knowledge and essay writing skills

Be selective (in the right way) about your revision topics

Knowing which topics to revise should be an informed choice, not one based on your strengths. Firstly look at the exam spec and your GCSE or A-Level subject guide or revision guide that lays out all the key areas. Secondly listen to what your teachers say, and what they emphasise as they will be basing this on past papers. Finally invest in a Revision Guide from your examining board. These always have a big focus on helping students develop their exam skills, and for each topic, there are exam-style sample questions with fully worked answers.

Revise actively

Review your revision notes, guides, and flashcards, actively and repeatedly. Ask your peers to test you, and spend ten minutes a day testing yourself with flashcards.

Another effective form of repetition is to reduce pages of notes down to crucial bullet points or a diagram, or a mind map to practice different ways of reviewing the material.

Explaining what you've learned to someone else is a great way to be sure you understand the topic. It will also help you remember information and identify any areas you don't fully understand.

Avoid prolonged cramming sessions

While revision tends to be different strokes for different folks, one thing is true - hours spent at your desk revising one subject without a break does not work.

For high levels of concentration and better retention, your brain likes small chunks of information. Think 30 minutes and a short break, and focus on three core concepts a day. Break up what you're learning: one subject in the morning, another in the afternoon and then consolidate everything at the end of the day.

Learn from your boredom

Boredom with revision suggests that you are not using a variety of interactive learning techniques to stimulate your brain. This means you need to look for ways of introducing variety into your study sessions to refocus yourself.

Discipline beats motivation, so don't wait to feel motivated, revise every day until it becomes second nature, and mix up the subjects and how you revise so you don't lose focus and drift off.

One excellent method is self-quizzing: This is a very effective method in which you ask yourself three questions after every 30 minutes regarding:

1. What you are studying

2. What were the key points?

3. What is the key concept from your revision?

When you question yourself by self-quizzing like this, you make information to stick to your brain, and you can retain it even after a long period.

For more help with revision on GCSE topics and A-Levels, our tutors can help.