With GCSE and A Level mock exams approaching once again, it is always worth reminding ourselves of the most effective revision techniques so as not to fall back into old habits!
Most of us know all too well how revision often consists of reading through passages and highlighting just about everything, or spending hours and hours creating flashcards only to fail to make proper use of them. Although it feels like we’re doing a lot, this method ensures we only manage to memorise a very small percentage of the content. There’s a much more effective and efficient way of utilising revision time based on one simple principle (which your grades will thank you for)!
Active recall is a technique for moving information from the short-term memory to the long-term memory. It involves testing yourself and stimulating your brain in order to retrieve information without the help of any prompts. Doing so repeatedly enables you to commit the knowledge to your long-term memory and effectively recall it when you need it, such as in an exam.
There are a multitude of effective revision methods which employ active recall. Here are three of the most effective you should try:
- The Question Method
- The Feynman Technique
If you are not quite ready to give up note-taking, the Blurting method allows you to combine it with active recall. It involves 5 simple steps:
- Read your notes
- Put your notes away
- Write down as much as you can on the topic
- Compare what you have written with your notes and look for information you have missed
- Fill in the information you missed in a different colour
Steps 1-5 can be repeated until you remember everything on the subject area. This is a quick and efficient way to identify the gaps in your knowledge and consolidate what you’ve learned.
The Question Method
The Question method requires you to convert all your notes on a topic into questions. The next step is to ask yourself these questions, and see if you can answer them without using any notes or prompts. After a short break, repeat the exercise, but this time using your books and notes to help you. Ensure to answer the questions correctly and in full. Lastly, answer the questions once again without the help of any notes or prompts. You should see that you have managed to memorise a large percentage of the content by the last step!
The Feynman Technique
This technique can be applied to any area of study and is based on the logic that if you want to understand something well, you need to be able to teach it. Teaching or explaining a complex concept in simple terms to somebody else (or yourself) helps to improve your own understanding. In doing so, any problem areas which halt your explanation and need extra attention will quickly present themselves.
Combine these methods with spaced repetition. We remember things more effectively when we space out our learning and revisit the material at systematic intervals. By leveraging this technique along with the other methods, you will maximise your learning.
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