It’s revision season: exams are creeping up on us and the time has come again for us to sit at our desk, stare at our books and wonder where to start. Well, look no further.
If you are going to delay revising today for any reason, let it be to motivate yourself by learning some simple tactics about how to revise properly to meet that university/training contract offer you have in your sights.
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It is never too late to find your best revision technique
Yes, you may have been revising for some form of examination every year since you began secondary school, but that doesn’t mean you know the best way to revise yet. There is no one-size-fits-all revision technique, nor is one revision method superior than another.
Some topics require rote learning, others benefit from more hands on practical learning activities, but no matter what you are studying for its never too late to switch it up.
If you find yourself in the most familiar student position of writing the same revision notes over and over and feeling like absolutely nothing is going in, then change your style and then change it again until you find yourself absorbing the information you need.
In my experience, the most satisfying moment is when you actually find yourself remembering what you just revised – in some ways, finding your perfect technique can even be fun!
Start in advance, track your revision, use to-do lists or timetables and find your daily schedule
This is a cumulative tactic, but like above it’s about finding what works for you. Plan your revision days specifically for what you are going to do. Some students can work for 12 hours straight and remain focused, others find it better to timetable two hours here, three hours there, with set breaks in between to let their brain breath.
For me, after years of exams and deadlines, I find to-do lists really get me motivated – it doesn’t matter to me how long it takes me to finish the tasks as long as by the end of the day I have had the satisfaction of crossing out every one.
Also, track your revision; if you start in advance, you will know that you have seven weeks to learn nine topics and you can plan this time to make sure you learn everything you need to in the time you have left.
Finally, for this tactic, find your daily schedule. Everyone is different; for me, 9.30am-2pm is my best time to work to stay focused but for lots of my friends 6pm-11pm is when they peak in terms of focus. Especially if you have started early, you can try and test this out and find what time of day your brain most wants to learn and then use this knowledge to your advantage.
For me, this tactic is so important. When you start revising, highlight to yourself little notes; for example, you really struggle with Topic 4 in a subject? Prioritise this topic until you are happy with it!
This doesn’t mean you neglect your other subjects or even the other topics in the same subject it just means you know what you need to focus on in that moment.
Then, when Topic 4 is set, re-prioritise. This cycle of prioritisation becomes even more important as you get close to the days of your exams as you can use it to prioritise whole subjects as you get closer to their papers.
Use every resource possible. When talking yourself through subjects or writing down notes is no longer of any benefit to you, remember everything else you can use.
Flashcards are often a lifesaver, they force you to concentrate on the most important information and give you an easy way to test yourself. If physical flashcards aren’t your thing, try revision aid websites such as Quizlet to help you along.
Another brilliant resource always endorsed by teachers is past paper questions and answers. Once you have revised everything, open a past paper and try the questions! There is no better way to feel confident walking into that exam hall than knowing what the questions might look like.
Not only this, but marking your own papers and becoming familiar with the mark schemes can help you come to terms with what examiners look for in answers and can really cement a good exam technique which can bring you better marks.
A final resource I always recommend is examiners’ reports; these will detail questions which students in the past have found challenging and give advice as to how to prepare students for such difficult questions in future. The reports, whilst targeted towards teachers teaching the courses, are freely available from the examination board to read for anyone who wants to access them. It could give you the edge, so if you feel bored, have a look.
Need a break from all of your hard work? Take one of our two-minute quizzes as a well-earned revision treat!
Make sure you understand and if you don’t understand, ask questions and take advantage of your teachers
A similarly incredible resource often forgotten about when study leave starts and your head is buried in books is that your teachers are still at work and, whilst often not required to attend school during leave, you won’t be shunned away if you visit.
Teachers want to help, and they are in the best position to help you understand if there is something you truly cannot grasp. Trust me when I say they are better than Google.
The importance of understanding the content for your exams and not merely knowing it by heart cannot be stressed enough. I remember rolling my eyes at this idea in school, but in an answer written by someone who learnt it by heart versus an answer written by someone who understands what they are talking about there are stark differences. Make sure you are the latter.
The best people to help you cross the boundary between the two are your teachers.
Beat procrastination – meet productivity
In a world of social media, mobile phones and Netflix, it is near impossible not to find yourself distracted and falling into a pit of procrastination. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
If you find your eyes are weary, your brain is focusing on something entirely different to Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” and you just don’t want to revise anymore, that’s fine. STOP. Take a break, but don’t allow yourself to do something that is numbing your brain power – go for a walk, tidy your room, have a power nap, listen to some music, make a smoothie, browse The Lawyer Portal for helpful revision guides or even watch some study YouTubers. Believe me, there is often nothing more motivating than spending five minutes procrastinating by watching other people be more productive than you.
The point is, if you feel yourself losing focus, you aren’t focusing anymore and that is sign that it is time for a break. However, spending 20 minutes scrolling through Instagram is not a good motivational tool, keeping yourself productive away from studying will help keep you focused when you eventually lift your pen to start again.
Eat properly, sleep properly, take breaks, exercise and read something else
I know you know this, but this is the most important tactic of all.
Eat properly – you are more than welcome to treat yourself and treat yourself greatly for working so hard, but in general green leafy veg, fruit, protein and lots of fresh cold water are what your brain needs to keep it strong, so don’t forget to keep an eye on how much fuel you are or are not giving it.
Sleep properly – this isn’t me telling you to avoid all-nighters. Like I said before, if you work best from 11pm-6am then that’s fine, you do you but please do avoid 24-hour study sessions, get eight hours of proper rest somewhere in your study day or you will find it much harder to keep focussed.
Finally, take breaks – whether you use these breaks to rest, exercise or read your favourite non-syllabus-recommended book, it’s important that for some minutes during your day you forget about the upcoming exams and just relax.
This one is a given, but I understand that it’s easier said than done. You know you want to get into university/get a training contract, you know what you need to achieve to be successful with that goal, so use that as your ultimate motivation. You don’t need anything else!
You have worked hard all year, have a myriad of resources at your fingertips to help with any other worries you may have and beyond that just try your best.
I promise that the world won’t stop spinning after a seemingly bad exam and as long as you have prepared to the best of your ability and given it your best shot, you might surprise yourself!
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