Revision is something that many of us don't do quite as effectively as we could. We get to the last before a major exam, and then we go into default mode. We seem to think that shutting ourselves away, drinking copious amounts of strong coffee and reading every note we ever made, will be a good way of getting the facts stored successfully in our brains. Let me tell you, it is not.
The problem here, is in our approach to revision. Many of us reach the point where fear sets in, and we dive head first into a pile of revision notes without a sexond thought. How often though, do we sit back and consider how we might be creative and find better ways to get boring facts neatly filed away in the grey matter of our brains.
Your learning style is without a doubt the most important thing that you should consider before beginning your revision. We all have ways that we prefer to learn. Although we are all human, and have similar brains, we are equally very unique as individuals. When it comes to learning, each individuals brain has ways that it functions most effectively to take on new information. This is the reason why some people like to use a map when they are following directions, while others prefer step-by-step instructions. Gaining an understanding of the way your brain works, will allow you to present information to it in ways that it can easily understand. It is therfore well worth undertaking a little bit of research in order to discover yours. Although we are taught at school to listen, read and make notes from our teachers, most of us will not find that it is the best way for us to learn. When we are able to identify our preferred learning style, it can often make what previously seemed like a foreign language, appear as simple as reciting the alphabet.
My experience of this has been lifechanging. A year ago, my revision consisted of reading my notes, making more notes, drawing posters using the information, and then reviewing these. I approached my revision sensibly. I would use a plan, take regular breaks, start work with sufficient time before the exam date, and be generally very organised. I would often struggle however, to recall what I had learnt, and I would spend vast amounts of time going over this process, growing more and more bored and miserable.
About eight months ago, I was lucky enough to have a session with a study skills tutor. She helped me to realise that I was not a very strong visual learner, as I had previously thought. I was in fact an auditory-kinesthetic learner. The news of this was quite surprising, and I was rather unsure of how to go about my revision with this newfound knowledge. Sure, I knew I liked to talk about topics and issues; but I wasn't about to bore my friends and family with a conversation about human biology (my degree topic). It simply wasn't practical.
So with my tutor, I spent time working on techniques to suit my styles, and it has completely transformed my life. Since implementing some new learning and revision methods, I have increased my reading speed significantly, and have learnt to hold and recall far more information in my head with very little effort. My grades have also increased and I no longer turn into a monstrous stress-head in the lead up to my exams.
So what can you do?
My advice, is to take some time to research your learning style. Think about whether you like listening to people talk about topics. Do you like to do tasks or activities related to your studies? Or do you find you often remember things visually? There are a several main types of learning style including visual, auditory and kinesthetic. Most of us will have a preference for one or two of these. Working to your strengths and planning your revision and studies accordingly is likely to stop the uphill battle that we often have when trying to cram unnatural numbers of facts into our heads. After doing this, it's a good idea to experiment with different ways of learning. Below are some ideas that you could try:
- Make a video about your topic
- Set yourself essay questions and then organise the information into an essay plan
- Design a poster
- Record a video of yourself teaching the topic
- Stick post-it notes around your house with key points
- Make a voice memo of your notes and listen to them while you're in the car or at the gym
- Teach the topic to a friend on your course
- Test yourself with questions on flash cards
These are just a few ideas for creative ways of learning. There are many more. You will probably find a few that you enjoy, and it's worth considering which styles are most suited to the task in hand. If you need to remember a list of names and dates for example, it may be helpful to draw a timeline and add memorable pictures to it. If your writing an essay however, you may want to stick post-its on the wall with your main essay points, and reorder them as your ideas develop. The most important thing here, is to try a few techniques and see what works for you. With a bit of time invested early on, you should find your revision will be taking a lot less time and effort. I wish you lots of luck in your studies. Stay tuned for more articles about specific learning styles to help you study.