When you revise for your exams, the most important thing to remember is to use active revision techniques. If you try simply to read over the material and remember it, you will find that very little of the information goes into your memory. What you need to do is find ways of engaging actively with your revision or, to put it another way, do something active that helps the information go into your long-term memory. Try these 5 revision techniques that have been proven to work.
Revise by underlining or highlighting your notes
Grab a set of highlighters or coloured pens and when you read over your notes, underline or highlight the key points. You don’t need everything, choose the most important points in your notes and colour them bright. This not only helps you to decide which are the key points you’ll need to remember for the exam, but the act of highlighting them helps to fix the points in your memory.
Make sets of flash cards
Use the key points you have identified and highlighted in your notes to make your own revision aids. This is a very effective way to revise. Buy a set of simple record cards and write out the key points for each subject. Try not to fill up more than one side of each card – you need to keep it simple. Use bullet points! You will also need to adapt the information for each subject. For example, if you are doing history you will needs cards for each important person, each key event (including the date), the key themes or concepts, and the key points for the topics you have studied. You could then arrange your events cards into a timeline to give you an overview of the course. If you are doing English Literature you could make a card for each character, each theme, a plot outline, literary devices and the main points for every poem in your anthology. Design your own cards to suit your subject.
Repetition is important
Once you have your flash cards, don’t put them away; keep them out and carry groups of them around with you so you can run through them several times a day. Get into the habit of memorising one or two of them whenever you have a spare moment or ask someone to test you. Waiting for the bus? Go through some cards. Free period between lessons? Ask a friend to test you. When you get home from school – run through a group of cards and ask a parent to test you. Keep using them. Repetition is important.
Practice exam questions
Use the information on the flash cards to help you revise with practice exam questions. Go through specimen or past papers and practice writing exam answers, using the flash cards to help you when you need it. Gaps in your information? Write a new flash card. Can’t remember the information you need to answer a question? Use the flash card as a prompt and then memorise the information. If you have a tutor, ask them to mark practice questions for you and point out any gaps in your knowledge.
Start writing timed practice questions
A few days before your exam, start writing timed practice questions. If possible, write a complete exam under timed conditions. Again, if you have a tutor, ask if they will check it for you. By this point you should know your information and exam technique, but a timed exam paper will tell you if you need to work on your timings. Do you have plenty of time left over? You are probably missing something – go back over your notes and think about what else you should cover in your answer. Too little time? This is your chance to revise your technique and trim your answers. Remember, however, that you may write faster in the real exam when you have adrenaline spurring you on.
Using these 5 techniques should give you a good foundation for your revision. Good luck!
About Dr Rose
Dr Janet Rose is an international tutor who teaches English and History for The Tutor Team. See her profile here
Janet also manages The Tutor Team Facebook page, where you can get study tips, educational videos and posts every week.