Revision Blues

So, how do you approach that enormous pile of files and books?  Put them under your pillow and hope the information magically gets into your brain while you dream?  It’s one approach, but I can’t guarantee it’ll work… What I can guarantee though, is that starting is the hardest and most important bit.  Here are some ideas on how  to get going.

  • Make a plan.  Work out how many days you have until the end of your exams, and then how many revision sessions you can do per day.  If you’re on study leave then you can probably do 2 sessions in the morning and 2 in the afternoon.  You might want to do some evening sessions too.  Keep your sessions fairly short – an hour to an hour and a half is fine, depending on your age and attention span.
  • Get a big bit of paper and draw a calendar on it, showing each of those days and sessions.  Write your exams on it.
  • Go through each of your subject files and write a list of all the topics you need to revise.
  • Work backwards from your exams and put your topics into your calendar.  Use a pencil as you’ll need to rearrange them while you work this out!
  • Remember that one session per topic is probably not enough.  Plan in second sessions to go back over your notes and consolidate your learning.  Also plan in sessions where you can do timed past papers and essay questions.
  • You might not stick to this calendar rigidly, but if it’s there, prominently on your wall, it should help you keep focused on all the things you need to do.

Next, decide your approach for each subject.  Get organised – you need a file where you can find things quickly and easily.  In English you might need time to do any or all of the following:

  • Re-read your texts
  • Learn quotations
  • Study the mark scheme
  • Read exemplar essays
  • Read through your own old essays and preps
  • Read past examiners’ reports
  • Plan essays using the mark scheme to help
  • Write essays
  • Write essays in timed conditions

How do you learn quotations?  Some people find this really easy and others find it awful.  If you’re in the latter camp, try and integrate it into your everyday life.  For each theme or character you need a sheet of plain A4.  Write the name of the character or theme in the middle and circle it, then go through the text and pick out the main, appropriate quotations.  Write them around the page in different colours so they stand out.  Once you’ve done this for the whole text, wallpaper your bedroom.  That way when you’re losing focus during your revision and you glance up to stare into space, you’ll find yourself staring at King Lear instead…  Another good place to put them is in the bathroom.  Nothing like staring at the loo door to help you learn quotations about philosophy and the meaning of life!

So how do you start revising?  Make a plan and then…just start!


Learning styles

“But how do I revise?” is a question I hear several times a year.  There’s no easy answer unfortunately – you are an individual with individual needs!  A good place to start is to decide what kind of learner you are.  Think about your lessons at school, for instance.  Do you learn best by listening to the teacher and then writing down notes?  Or would you forget everything she was saying before it got to paper?  Perhaps you need to keep moving while you learn – do you pace your room while reciting verbs?  Or maybe you need to see the idea in written or figurative form, and then write copious notes of your own? Basically, do you learn best by listening, moving or seeing?  Once you have answered this question, you can use your own personal learning style to help you during your revision.

Auditory learner tips (LISTEN):

  • Go through your notes with someone – ask each other questions
  • Record your notes and then listen to them
  • Talk to yourself while you revise – read aloud and ask yourself questions about the topic
  • Listen to quiet music while you work (although bear in mind some people find this very distracting – know yourself!)

Kinaesthetic learner tips (MOVE):

  • Use flash cards and turn using them into a game
  • Take regular breaks from your revision to go and do something active
  • Fiddle with something like blutack or a stressball while you’re working
  • Think of physical examples of the concepts you’re revising where possible

Visual learner tips (SEE):

  • Turn your notes into colourful diagrams such as mind maps
  • If you’re writing notes in list form, make them interesting to look at, with colours and hilighters to help you cross reference
  • Use flash cards
  • Watch videos explaining the idea you’re trying to learn

Next time:  How to begin your revision