How to revise

How to revise

By Rachel Segal Hamilton IdeasTap 03/05/12

Whether you’re gearing up to finals, A-levels or GCSEs, check out our quick guide to revision, with tips from people who have been through it. You’ll survive with your sanity intact, ready to bag yourself the best grades you can come exam day…

Everyone has a different revision strategy. Mine consisted of frantically writing out French grammar rules on Post-it notes and covering every available surface of my room with them. At the very least this made for a satisfying post-exam recycling session! But whatever your preferred method, it might help to keep the following in mind.

Plan ahead

“Make yourself a sexy revision timetable with different colour highlighter pens,” says journalist Ellen E Jones. Life coach Pip Ravn agrees. She advises that you, “Keep working through the topics even if you don’t finish move onto the next, so you don’t front-end your learning – this is when you learn the first part and know nothing of the end parts”. Also stop trying to convince yourself that you’re at your most productive at 10pm – treat revision like a 9 to 5 job, rather than a last minute essay crisis. Choose a quiet spot to revise in and avoid listening to music. Not only is it distracting at the time, you might find yourself three weeks later, sitting in an exam hall, desperately try to remember a mathematical equation, with Rihanna playing on a loop in your head. 

Revise wisely

Steer clear of books or articles you aren’t already familiar with. Revision is the art of consolidating what you know. Attempting to cram lots of new information into your brain at this stage will only make you feel frazzled. Take your notes and “distill the main points down and down again, until two or three keywords on a Post-it remind you of a whole paragraph,” says Guardian writer and sub-editor Rachel Holmes. General consensus also seems to be that you should do as many practice exam papers as humanly possible. Inadvisably, I did a grand total of zero. 

Have a break. In fact, have several

You’ll struggle to focus if you don’t give yourself a breather every three quarters of an hour or so. And even a short break of a few minutes can do wonders for your waning concentration levels. It may be tempting to spend this time Facebook-stalking people you haven’t seen since primary school, chain-smoking or gorging on toast. Don’t. Force yourself to do something physical instead – have a stretch or take a stroll down the road. Your mind and body will thank you.

Find some pleasant distractions

Stay motivated by indulging in activities that make you happy and have nothing whatsoever to do with revision. I kept my morale up during finals with daily trips to a fudge shop for free samples, much to the irritation of the staff. Alternatively, “Develop an all-consuming library crush and it'll completely take the worry off any impending exams,” says writer and IdeasTap Marketing Executive, Cathy Thomas.

Explore eccentric memory techniques

The internet is awash with odd-sounding mnemonic tools. One of the best is the Memory Palace: by picturing a place you know well in your mind and furnishing it with visual cues, you can recall huge numbers of quotes, dates or formulae. It works for Derren Brown!

Playwright and performer Charlotte Josephine Briant has an even more unconventional trick for imbibing information. “I used to read my scripts upside-down, hanging off my bed,” she says. “Someone told me you remember them quicker.” Katy Baird, also a performer, likes to think up acronyms – the cheekier the better: “Usually something really memorable like PISHED,” she says. “It works for me and probably gives the examiner something to laugh about when they look at my notes section on the exam paper.” 


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