When it comes to exams, preparation is key. This means revision. But why is revision so important?
Revision involves looking again at material you have learnt and committing it to memory. Exam revision specifically entails reviewing course materials in order to pass exams. Revising helps you to recall important information you have already studied and to identify which areas you need to concentrate on. Doing sufficient revision will assist you in answering questions on your all-important tests.
Revision will also make you feel more prepared for the exams, giving you confidence, reducing exam-induced anxiety, and thus improving your exam performance. By contrast, if you do not revise, you tend to forget details and suffer from an increase in stress in the leadup to and during the exams, resulting in poorer performance in the exam.
Easter is a crucial time to consolidate what you have learnt and to ensure the information you revise goes into your long-term memory ahead of summer exams. Starting your revision early allows you time to explore which revision methods work best for you and to practice exam techniques, as well as avoiding the need to cram. Early revision will reduce your stress levels.
Here are our top tips to ensure your hard work comes to fruition at crunch time:
1. Plan your revision
Think ahead and make a revision schedule. If you are revising for GCSEs, you will likely have a lot of subjects, so ration your time to cover all topics while concentrating most on the subjects you wish to take at A Level, plus core subjects like Mathematics and English. Start early and tackle the most difficult topics first, leaving easier topics until later. Spreading out your revision sessions on a particular topic, otherwise known as ‘spacing’, is shown to be more effective than spending the same amount of time studying a topic in one go. This means that it is more beneficial to study a topic in one-hour sessions over 10 days than to spend 10 hours studying the topic in one day.
2. Be active, not passive, in your approach to studying
Using a range of resources, such as coloured pens, highlighters, spider diagrams, flashcards, PowerPoint presentations and podcasts will add variety to your revision. Find out what works best for you. Are you a visual, kinetic, reading/writing or auditory learner? Play to your strengths when you revise in order to get the most out of your study time. Testing yourself and teaching the material to someone else have been shown to be two of the best ways to improve memory recall.
3. Do practice papers
A student might know the content, but if their exam technique is poor, they might lose a number of marks in the final exam. To avoid this, start doing practice papers over Easter to help you discover where you need to improve. Begin with open-book tests – looking up the answers will help you to learn and build your confidence. Next, try closed-book tests without a time limit, to check your knowledge. Finally, sit practice papers in exam conditions.
4. Learn from your mistakes
Everyone makes mistakes – what is important is that we learn from them. This is where practice papers can be especially useful. Try to work out where you went wrong and identify patterns. Only by acknowledging our weaknesses can we improve. If you need help, ask a teacher, tutor or parent.
5. Give yourself breaks
Nobody can revise non-stop. Regular breaks will allow you to absorb the information you have just been studying. You could consider the Pomodoro method, which consists of 25 minutes studying, a 5 minute break, and repeat. Strike a balance – you do not want to develop fatigue, but Easter is an important period ahead of summer exams.
6. Put gadgets away
Eliminate distractions and avoid procrastinating. Keeping gadgets such as your phone and the TV out of your revision zone is one of the best methods to ensure you are revising effectively. Hide your phone away. Or you could try using the Forest app which allows you to grow a virtual tree – the tree will die if you go on your phone! Research has shown that students who revise in a quiet environment are better able to recall the information they’ve just gone over than students who listen to music.
7. Quality over quantity
How well you are revising, rather than how long you are revising for, is what’s important. Consider a student who spends 9 hours ‘revising’ but in reality has been on their phone most of the time, versus a student who does 4 hours of proper revision a day. Which do you think is more effective? (Hint – it’s the second!)
8. Follow a routine
Get into good habits to help you revise most effectively. Eat breakfast before you start revising in order to increase your attention span and your ability to recall information. Exercise, even if it’s just going for a walk, to release endorphins and provide a break from revision. Practice mindfulness and breathing techniques to keep calm. Drink plenty of water to help brain function. And be sure to get enough sleep – you should be aiming for 7-9 hours per night. A well-rested mind is especially crucial during revision periods in order to maintain optimal brain function. Avoid caffeine in the afternoon or evening and don’t look at screens for at least 30 minutes before bed – try reading a book instead of scrolling on your phone.
9. Ask for support from your school teachers
If you are struggling with a particular subject over Easter, make a note of which areas you need help with, and ask your teacher for guidance once you return to school after the break. Your teachers will be happy to provide support, and will appreciate you not leaving it until a week before the exams to ask for their help!
10. Enlist the assistance of a tutor
Specialist subject teachers can help you with specific topics as well as showing you revision techniques that you can use to successfully revise both now and in the future. At Bruton Lloyd, our experienced tutors are on hand over the Easter break to help with your requests.
Although the revision period can be tough, be kind to yourself. You are on the home straight now. Envision all your hard work paying off when you open that letter on results day! Happy revising!