A Guide to Successful Revision
Getting the Most out of Your Revision Time
Exams, exams, exams, exams and (ahhhhhh!) more exams.Throughout the best portion of your life it'll feel like you're constantly doing exams. Most people hate them but at the same time it's absolutely essential to do well in them for most people to end up where they want to in life. Just think, some hard work and revision now could make the difference between boardroom and broom cupboard later on. NO ONE gets ANYWHERE without a good bit of hard work. That is the single most important thing to remember for successful revision: it shouldn't be easy and if it is you're doing it wrong.
That's not to say there aren't a few tips and tricks to help you out. There are loads of really simple things that you can do to get the most out of your revision time and the best results possible. I've compiled a few of them here.
Organise Your Revision
- A good work environment is crucial
Take the time to clean your room and desk. Make sure that your work area is in a well ventilated and well lit area. I found when I had exams that this was a good way to avoid feeling stuffed full of information. Make sure you're out of the way of ANY distractions: TVs, smartphones, tablets and other people should all be out of sight and out of mind when you're sitting at your desk. I promise you that taking these simple steps will instantly make you feel much more inclined to work - definitely a good thing!
- Make sure you have ALL your materials
Heave all of that paper out of the school bag and sort it out into piles for different subjects. Just doing this will give you an idea of the amount of work you have to do. Don't be disheartened though. Positive thinking is key, especially at the beginning of the revision process. Treat yourself to some new folders and assign one to each subject. Have these within close reach of your desk. You never know when you'll suddenly have to make a grab for the finer details of meiosis. Read course summaries for each of your subjects and check that you have everything. If you don't ask your teacher/lecturer now before it's too late.
- Make a plan
Cheesy perhaps, but you can't get much more truthful than what your teachers have been telling you since primary school:
Fail to plan; plan to fail.
After arranging your materials you should have a decent idea of how much you have to do for each subject. Thinking about this, write down a list of your subjects in order of priority. Now get a blank diary. A wall planner is a really good idea if you can get one because it means you can have it easily in view the whole time. Double check and write in the dates for each of your exams. Think about what you can realistically achieve revision-wise each day and split each day into a number of revision blocks accordingly. I always found 2 or 3 blocks of revision for 1 or 2 hours each to be the optimum number. With your subject priority sheet in front of you now is the time to assign subjects to the revision blocks. Do it in pencil the first time because you'll probably have to make lots of changes to get everything to fit in. Concentrate on increasing the frequency of a subject in the run up to that particular subject's exam.
- Avoid clashes
During the run up to exams it's more important than ever to maintain a balance between having fun and studying. Don't cancel all the things you love doing and lock yourself into a revision hive for months. Balancing work with fun activities is a very sensible thing to do: they complement each other really well and you'll find yourself enjoying your fun activities more because they're a break from work and working more productively because you've refreshed yourself by doing your fun activities. Everyone's happy.
Why not take a break and play your instrument?
Or get out on your bike?
Try to Relax
- Stress is NOT your friend
Some people will tell you that stress is a work incentive, that it makes you panic and forces you to work really hard. Don't listen to them. This isn't a helpful approach to take to life and if you take it the chances are you will burn out. This is the last thing you want to do before an exam. You should be having regular breaks anyway but if at any point in your revision you feel at all burned out, STOP. Have a break and do something that you like. Only go back to studying when you feel refreshed and ready to do so.
- Sleep IS your friend
During the revision period avoid having any more than a handful of late nights. You should try to go to bed earlier than you would normally. Sleep recharges the body so this means you'll wake up feeling truly revitalised and desperate (!) to revise each morning. As well as going to bed earlier, make sure not to lie in too long in the morning because doing this can make you sluggish for the rest of the day. Just like overcharging a battery can be detrimental to its electrical capacity, oversleeping can temporarily reduce the body's mental capacity for revision.
- Music MIGHT be your friend
Some people swear by listening to music whilst revising; they say it helps to relax and keep you focussed. Others, including me personally, find music to be just too much of a distraction; having to keep changing song or just getting too plain involved with it and starting your own personal karaoke instead of working. It's really up to you then. If you find listening to music helps you, then by all means listen to it. There are tons of playlists and compilations out there dedicated to helping people revise: just search YouTube for revision music. If you do decide to listen to music make sure it doesn't have too many lyrics. Pieces that are mainly instrumental are best at relaxing you.
Alternatively, you could try listening to white (or brown or purple...) noise. There are even studies proving that it is scientifically beneficial to the ability of the brain to concentrate which is especially important when it comes to revision. "myNoise" is one such noise generating website you could have a look at. There are loads of cool calibration options and settings although the default noise sounds a bit like the sea and I must say is pretty relaxing.
- Keep hydrated
Ensuring that your body is kept topped up with fluids will make your mind much sharper than if it's not. When you're revising always have a refreshing, healthy drink next to you - water, fruit juice, coffee or tea. You'll find that having a 5 second break every few minutes for a sip will really relax you and keep you in the ideal mental state for revision.
- Eat well
Everyone should be eating well anyway, but if you're not revision time is a good time to start. Avoid takeaways/fast foods and fizzy drinks, they're full of sugars and saturated fats and will leave you feeling bloated. This is exactly what you don't want during revision when you're trying to fit all the information you can inside your mind. One idea is to have a good, healthy snack next to you on your desk when revising: something to graze on like a bag of dried fruit, nuts or sticks of carrots can help you to stay topped up and interested in your work.
Find a technique that works for you
There are many different ways to revise: flash cards, copying, reading, writing, past papers, talking, watching relevant videos, mind maps, explaining to someone else... Different people work best with different revision methods.
- Make sure you're not bored
If you are then you've probably not got the best revision method: try doing it another way (flash cards instead of copying out, for example) and if you're still bored, have a break doing something fun and come back to revision later.
- Get a study buddy
As long as you are disciplined and don't just end up chatting, having a like-minded study buddy (not to be confused with a studdy buddy!) to revise with can be only a good thing for your revision. You can bounce ideas off each other and having another person to interact with will make you not end up bored as easily. Ask each other questions and practise explaining things to each other. Explaining something to someone else is a good way to find out if you actually understand it yourself!
- Mix things up
Don't spend your revision just using flash cards, try to have variety in what you do. This will make everything seem fresher and so you're far more likely to remember it.
Most importantly: don't worry
If you remain positive and avoid worrying too much over the course of your revision period, the exams themselves are likely to be a fairly - dare I say it - pleasant experience. But if you have a real disaster on one of your exams, some of your exams or all of your exams: don't worry. Not everyone is suited to exams. Some of the best, most successful people I know completely flunked their exams. Isaac Newton, Einstein and Darwin all did pretty badly in their exams and just look where they ended up!
Remember: early night before the day of the exam, good breakfast, plenty of water, no worrying. If you've done the work in your revision, you'll get the good exam results you want and deserve. Don't worry and good luck!