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Revision – What is That? Or How To Revise More Effectively


Hints and tips on how to get the best out of your exams

If you are not one of those lucky people who have a photographic memory and can remember everything you’ve read, you will need to revise for your exams. Each year you will have ‘revised’ for numerous tests and common tests. Ask yourself, how successful were you? Now multiply that work by 10 or 20 and do it all in a few months. GCSE revision seems like a huge task. And it is. But you can do a lot to help yourself make it easier. It’s not going to be easy, just easier. The information in this article will help you to get organised and stay in control.

Make sure that you start to revise early enough in the year. Make an action plan. This would change depending upon whether it is term time or Easter holiday or if you are on study leave.

When you have a plan, you are in charge of your work and you are more likely to stay in control. This will reduce the stress you feel and make you less panicky.

Setting up a revision timetable - term time

You must fit in your revision with the school work that you are still doing. At this stage, smaller amounts of revision are more likely to succeed.

Aim to do 15 mins revision each on two subjects a night for four out of the five week days. This gives you 8 slots. You can fill these with either one subject each, covering all your subjects. Or, you might prefer to concentrate more on the subjects you know you have more trouble with or that have a higher amount of content.

At the weekend, you should spend 5 mins reviewing what you did in each 15-minute session during the week. That makes two 20 min sessions (do one on Saturday and one on Sunday). All you need to do in the session is check your understanding or memory of what you covered in the 15-minute revision session; you should not have to relearn it. If you have forgotten it, make a note to go over it again next time you revise that subject.

The review is important because you must embed the information in your brain so that you don’t forget it. It helps to transfer the information from short term memory to long term memory. Without the reviews, you will find it harder to remember the information until the exam.

Holidays and study leave

Either get a calendar, or make your own, to cover the time from the mocks to the exams. Divide each day into six 1 hour sessions: 2 in the morning, 2 in the afternoon and 2 in the evening. Only work 4 out of the 6 sessions on these study days i.e. morning/afternoon or morning/evening or afternoon/evening. Each session should be about 1 hour with a short break between the two sessions. You will also need about 20 -30 mins for two days at the end of your week for reviewing.

It is important not to overstretch yourself and get exhausted. You will not be able to perform at your best if that happens. Therefore, plan your rest days or days when you are unavailable to work e.g. going away, family commitments. Remember you owe it to yourself to be as prepared as you can be for your exams. This means putting in an appropriate amount of effort. If you put in the minimum amount of effort, you will get the minimum grade out. So, if you would like to take a few days off hanging around with your mates, think if that is something that would be better done after your exams and your time used for revision. Remember you should aim to work for 4 out of the six sessions in a day. That gives you plenty of rest and relaxation time.

Make a list of the topics you still need to revise for each subject. Work out how many revision sessions you have in a subject, and divide up the work into that many sessions. For example, you can divide your chemistry into 12 topics; there are 5 weeks when you are either on holiday or study leave, until the beginning of June. Say you devote 2 sessions a week plus an extra weekend session in 2/5 weekends to chemistry revision. That gives you your 12 sessions.

Plan a week at a time. Fill in which sessions you are going to use for which subjects/topics. You may find that some subjects need more time and that some don’t need as much. That’s all part of the planning you are doing now.

Plan reviewing sessions for the week’s work at some stage, at the end of the week. Just as you did in the term time timetable. Ideally, as each week passes, you should review past weeks’ work. This need only be a quick look - a few minutes’ worth - at the condensed revision notes you have created in your revision sessions. This means that you will remember the work that you revised at the start of your revision and not forgotten it by not looking at it for a month or more.

When making your plan for a week, set realistic targets for yourself. However, once you have done the week’s plan, don’t think that it must be followed to the letter. Allow a certain amount of flexibility, particularly at the start as you get used to how it works and how much you can get done in a session. If you don’t complete a day as planned, don’t abandon the timetable and think that it’s not going to work. Get back to it the next day. Or change it if necessary. Once you get it working, try to stick to it.

Revision techniques

Check your notes are complete. If they are not, you have several sources from which to find out the missing information; text books, teachers, tutors, other pupils, revision sites on the internet. Check your understanding by discussing work with friends or teachers.

Summarise your notes. Convert them into condensed packets of information. These can be in the form of;

  • Index/flash cards

  • Bullet pointed concise lists (you could do this as a PowerPoint if you like using the computer. Then simply run through your presentation. Give it to anyone who will listen, Mum, Gran, your little brother, the dog, your hamster. Who is not important. Explaining it out loud is. It just sounds better than talking to yourself. But you can do that too.)

  • Mind maps

  • Recording the essential information onto tape/computer

  • Or any other format that you like and are successful doing.

The important thing with making these is that you change the format of your original notes. The very act of changing the information into another format means that your brain is processing the information, which means that it is much more likely to stick.

You may have to try out various formats to find one that suits you personally. If you like colours and diagrams more than words, try a mind map or colourful flash cards. If you like lists of words, try reducing your notes to the bare essential words in bullet points. If you have a strong auditory preference, try recording the main points onto a tape or use the record facility on your computer for play back. One of the advantages of a mind map is that you will be able to see the whole topic and get a feel for how each part fits together.

Use your condensed notes to review your revision in the reviewing sessions you have planned into your revision timetable.


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