Get the most out of your revision by organising it into bitesize chunks, using your time more effectively, improving exam performance and avoiding last minute stress. Here are some hints and tips to help.
Create a timetable that is realistic but allows you to cover all the topics you require. Students should revise in short bursts with plenty of breaks. A rule of thumb from experimental psychology is that our attention span deteriorates rapidly after 45 minutes of study. Therefore each revision session should terminate after 45 minutes. You should then allow a 15 minute break before the next session begins.
- Set a schedule that allows you to study in blocks. Ideally in the morning after breakfast revise from 10am-1pm each day (i.e. three 45 minute sessions with breaks). You are then free to spend the rest of the day as you wish.
Use your time in school or college productively; do not waste time during the day so that you have more time to relax in the evenings. Make sure that if you are not studying your parents are aware that this is scheduled ‘rest’ time. Parents only worry if they think you are not in control of the situation.
- Count the topics you cover rather than the hours you spend. There are no marks awarded for spending a long time at your desk. It is pointless revising for a long time material that you are comfortable with, whilst ignoring that which you find trickier.
- Do not revise things you already know. Although this can be reassuring, if you know something well, learn something else.
- In your schedule, have at least one day per week when you do not study and do not think about exams. Do something else instead.
- As this period is very close to examinations it is a good idea to work on past papers first. To test your understanding, begin with trying questions from previous exams on the topic you are working on. If you cannot answer them use your notes and your books until you can. Never reverse this procedure. Closer to the exams it is essential to focus intensely and exclusively on responding to exam-style questions rather than attempting to master a topic to its fullest extent.
- Some people learn well by listening and so dictate their revision to tape or mp3 then listen to it when it suits them. Others prefer to write notes or use mind-maps to summarise ideas. Few people learn through reading alone. It is much more productive to revise actively than to revise passively.
- During the Easter revision and exam period look after yourself. Do not start a diet or attend late parties or nightclubs. Get plenty of sleep and do not stay up late studying (or doing anything else for that matter). Cut down on the weekend or evening job. Eat well, especially breakfast. Take regular exercise – it helps to get rid of many of the toxins that build up in your body and will help you to sleep and relax.
- If you are stressed – tell someone. This may be a friend, relative or teacher.
- There are many helpful revision websites. A particularly good one is www.s-cool.co.uk.
- Do not try to ‘question spot’; no-one can predict what will come up. However do familiarise yourself with past paper questions and practise as many as you can. Use these to test yourself in timed conditions.
- Proper materials. Ensure that your notes are up to date and you have readily available to you copies of A level and GCSE past paper questions and any textbooks you know to be useful.
- Study groups. Try to form these with friends. Have a list of phone numbers and email addresses so that you can discuss and meet to share problems you find perplexing. The principle behind study groups is simply this: if you have to explain something to someone, you have to understand it first. Try it, it works.