Welcome to Revision Break, formerly known as the Easter holidays. As you know, the next few weeks are of vital importance to each and every one of your future endeavours.
Just kidding. But now you’re nicely freaked out, let’s make sure you make the most of the next weeks.
You’re all probably slumped on different coaches of the revision train, so we’ve broken it down niiice and easy for you guys. Slackers and keen beans - you’re all welcome here, just pick your relevant starting point and work your way from there.
If this is the first time you’ve contemplated revising…
Welcome, slackers. You’re probably going far in life; as Bill Gates once said, “I will always hire a lazy person to do a difficult job.” Why? “Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.” So, aptly, step 1 is nice and basic and pretty much just involves you planning your revision timetable.
There’s no need to go all arts and crafts here, unless you’re that way inclined.
What we are aiming for is SPECIFICITY. ‘Tuesday – Maths, Wednesday – Biology’ is not cutting the mustard. You need to split your subjects into exams, then split again according to the different sections of your exam paper and then divide them from there into a clear list of topics. So you will end up with something like this
‘English Literature → exam → section 3 → topic'
Work out how much time you have until your exams, and allocate accordingly - aim for a few different topics per day.
You might be stronger on some subjects than others, or aware that you’re lagging in one subject in particular, so you want to be spending a little more time on these than on the subjects you know really well (but don’t ignore them completely).
If you’re ready to go, but haven’t opened a text book yet…
You guessed it, stage 2 is all about becoming familiar with the content, which means time to make yourself a really solid set of notes for each subject. If you were planning on just copying out your class notes but in neater handwriting using coloured pens and highlighters, stop right there. Start afresh using the structure of the syllabus. The syllabus is King, and we are slaves to its every command. But seriously, there’s no point learning any more than you need to and this way, you can be sure that you’ve covered 100% of the content and have a solid foundation for each subject.
If you have a glistening set of notes for each subject…
The whole point of writing out a set of notes is so you have a good idea of what’s going on, so the next stage is understanding the content. There’s no point memorising a few key points if you don’t actually know what they mean in any wider context (i.e. the exam questions).
To make sure you really understand your topics, try to expose yourself to the same information in a few different ways: read your notes from class, read your textbooks, read online summaries and watch videos.
The best way to really test your understanding is to try and explain the idea (or the event, or the process, or the theme etc.) to someone else... even if it's just your dog, or yourself (out loud).
If you’re feeling pretty smug about understanding most of your topics…
Now that you have wrapped your head around the content (yes, well done you), the next stage is to extend your understanding. You want to start thinking critically, making high level connections, being able to transfer knowledge and all those other fun buzzwords – basically, you need to be aiming for those top band marks.
There are a few great ways you can do this:
- Group study is a fantastic way to make sure you’re extending your understanding. You already have your own grasp of the content, but chatting to other people gives you the opportunity to see if they have extra information, a different opinion or have made a link that you haven’t yet.
- Finding extra examples and case studies and furthering your research is also beneficial at this point. Taking the ideas you learned in class and transferring them to real world situations and scenarios is the kind of solid critical thinking that your examiners drool over.
- The final option we’re going to suggest here is to take your notes and rework them a few times to create really smart, connected summaries. The more times you go over your notes, the more you will be able to pick out the most crucial bits of information, pinpoint any critical links and arrange all the content into a punchy, memorable and useful summary.
If your knowledge is solid and extensive…
This stage can really be done just in the lead up to exams, because it’s all about memorising the evidence that you will need for your answers.
This is going to look a little different depending on what exams you’re taking because each subject needs different kinds of evidence, but to give you an idea:
- English: quotes and maybe some techniques
- Maths: formulas and key definitions
- Science: scientific names, processes, formulas
- Geography, history, business studies etc: dates, statistics, facts, key definitions
The secret to remembering these is going to be a little different for each person but some of the most popular options are mnemonics like acronyms and flashcards.
This memorization stage must must must come after the understanding stage. So if you’ve skipped down here with a full set of notes and no understanding, back up you scroll.
Understanding your notes first means that you know exactly what you need to remember (and nothing extra) and you will have a better chance of remembering your evidence because it will make more sense in context. Plus, if you’re relying entirely on memory and not on understanding, then there’s always a chance of a total mind-blank = exam meltdown, and that’s no fun.
If you already know it all because you’re a total brain bot…
Okay, we are really getting through this! There’s still more to be done to reach those top band marks though. This stage is all about application. There’s just no point going through the first stages of studying if you’re not going to put yourself to the test and make sure it’s really working. Besides, you want to get used to actually applying your knowledge to a real exam paper.
So, crack out those past papers and get going. Start with a few practice questions, take your time, check your answers, and correct any mistakes. Then move on to full on past papers and do these under exam conditions!
Again, don’t move onto this stage before you have completed everything we’ve been through above this, you’ll just get freaked out by how much you don’t know. And we’re aiming for a meltdown free zone here…
No but really, I’m ready to ace any topic you throw my way…
Okay, okay, so you’re pretty much done by this stage and we’re running out of instructions to throw at you. But before you go anywhere, there is just that little bit extra you can do to go above and beyond and make sure you are completely, 100% exam ready.
As well as studying the content of your subjects, it’s going to be a massive help for you to practice your exam skills that carry across all your subjects. This is going to be things like:
- Time management in exams
- Staying calm under pressure
- Writing essays under exam conditions
- Answering short answer & multiple choice questions
- Really addressing the key word in the question
- Bringing source material into your answer
Brush up on these skills because the best study in the world isn’t worth anything if you don’t demonstrate it in an exam.
Good luck! 💪