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Revision tips for effective learning

Young woman studying

This is the time of year when revision takes priority over many other activities for students whose exams are fast approaching. The key is to study smarter, not harder (or longer). Here we look at a few revision tips.

Get organised

Decide where and when you are going to revise. Pick a quiet space and make sure you have all the equipment and books you need. Some people prefer to study with others around as it can help with discipline but chose a space alone if that would distract you. It’s most helpful if you leave your phone in another room.

Plan your revision

Devise a revision plan working backwards from your exam dates. Use a checklist of each subject’s topics so that you can cross them off and make sure you have covered everything.

When making your plan, be realistic. You won’t benefit from revising for eight straight hours a day or all evening after school or college. Aim for around four sessions of 20- to 30-minutes in an evening and perhaps six to eight if you have all day.

Each session should cover a different topic to keep you fresh. Before you start, have a clear idea of what you are going to study during each session. Plan in breaks – most of five to ten minutes, with longer breaks so that you can do something nice.

Time your sessions

Using the Pomodoro technique can help you stay motivated and focussed. Each 25-minute session is timed using an alarm clock or kitchen timer. It’s 25 minutes because that’s the optimum time to concentrate and not get distracted. Use a couple of minutes at the start of each session to get ready and use the last five minutes to review what you have learnt. Most effective learning happens at the beginning and the end of a session so short sessions mean lots of beginnings and endings! See more about the Pomodoro technique here.

Use a variety of learning techniques

We all have ways of learning that work bester for us but using a variety is helpful too. During each short revision session:

• Before reading, take an overview of the material – by reading titles, the introduction, the beginning and the end of paragraphs and the conclusion. This primes your brain about the topic before you start reading in depth.

• Revision by just reading, highlighting or copying notes, is not as effective as testing your knowledge.

• To test yourself you could:

- build a mind map where you do a ‘brain dump’

- use cue cards to answer questions

- explain a concept, using your own words, to someone else.

• If you write, draw, use colour, speak out loud and use gestures, the information is made more memorable and more easily retrievable. Rather like routes to a destination, the more roads there are, and the more times they are driven, the easier it is to get there.

Regular testing sticks – the Leitner system

The Leitner system is an efficient way to test yourself using cue cards, monitor your progress and focus on what you find tricky. Cue cards are reviewed at intervals and this repetition is both effective and rewarding. Written down, the system seems quite fiddly so it is worth watching a video on the system. This one is easy to follow.

Look after yourself

Most important, when you are preparing for exams, is to look after yourself. Take time to:

• Sleep for long enough each day.

• Eat well.

• Drink lots of water. Your brain is 75-80 per cent water. Being even slightly dehydrated effects its function!

• Take exercise and get out of the house.

• See friends and have fun.

Good luck!

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