Getting Stuck Into Revision: 9 Techniques that Actually Work

Beatrice Howard on 6 February 2018
Getting Stuck Into Revision: 9 Techniques that Actually Work

It's time to stop procrastinating and get down to revising. Unfortunately, we can't do it for you (sorry!), but here are some of our tried and tested tips that actually work.

Get in a Healthy(ish) Lifestyle

This sounds like a really annoying and unhelpful tip, but honestly, I’m not telling you to start getting up at 6AM to go running or to suddenly exist solely off quinoa and chia seeds. In all honesty, right now probably isn’t the time you’re going to transform into a toned and glowing gym bunny, but your brain really does need proper fuel and proper rest. There’s always one haggard library-dweller, who only slept four hours last night, is downing Red Bull and is probably twitching. Do you really think they’re doing any better than someone who is eating and sleeping properly, in terms of productive work value? Be sure to eat breakfast, get plenty of sleep, and eat proper balanced meals - yep, your mum was right all along.

Try and Start Earlier in the Day

Ok, for some people this comes naturally. For others, waking up before 9AM feels like being repeatedly hit in the back of the head with a baseball bat. However, whether you’re a natural early bird or a night owl, it’s always better to get stuck into revision as early as possible. Actual hours of productivity vary from person to person, but what you want to avoid is procrastinating through so much of the day that you start late, and then finish late, and repeat on a loop. Try and schedule your revision like a school, or work day. This not only gives you routine and structure but also means that you’re finished by the early evening. Which gives you extra time to catch up on other things, which could mean reading an intellectual book, or it could mean binge watching Friends.

Prep Your Space

In an ideal world, we would all have perfectly quiet, totally empty revision spaces with lots of natural light and ergonomic chairs. Unfortunately, these places rarely exist. Libraries are notoriously noisy, there’s always one person who keeps coughing, and shushing librarians often end up being louder than the actual talking was to begin with. Home can also be a problem, siblings are loud, and cats just can’t understand that they are not being helpful by laying on your laptop. However, there are a few things everyone can do to maximise productivity wherever you are. First of all, don’t revise in bed, or with the TV on. Even if you can revise under a duvet, or with Netflix in the background, it just won’t be as productive as if you were undistracted and on a chair. Science has spoken. Also, try and be physically away from your phone; it’s too tempting to sneakily check it if it’s just muted.

Find Out How You Learn Best

You’ve probably taken some kind of test at some point that said you were a visual, audio, or kinetic learner. This worked great in year three when you could claim that making things out of playdough was just how you learnt best, but unfortunately, it isn’t always applicable at this age. Some people do learn better from mind maps and colours, and some people find that listening to recordings helps them learn, but unfortunately, a lot of the time there’s no escaping just reading and making notes. However, you can still work out what works best for you, especially when it comes down to actually memorising. Think about how big of a chunk you’re trying to learn at a time, and see which techniques make you remember the most a few days later, not the second after you’ve read something.

Be Sure to Find Past Papers

Memorising the information is only half the battle, you need to be able to use it! And ideally, you need to be able to use information creatively so you can still give a good answer even if the question stumps you. You will probably already have found a few, but try and hunt down as many as possible so you get plenty of practices.

Read the Examiners Report

People always seem to overlook this great tool! In essay subjects where the answers are subjective and it’s hard to revise, it’s beyond useful to read about the exact kind of things the examiners are after - what do they look for? And in particular, what do they absolutely hate seeing? Obviously, in some exam subjects, the examiner's preference is just “get it right”, but even in these cases, they can let you know in which particular areas past students have faltered.

Work with Others

Disclaimer: only do this if you have the willpower not to get distracted; the rest of you, move on to the next point...

Although it can be tricky, discussing with others can be a great revision tool, especially in essay subjects. Often you can get to the right answer by discussing it in a group. Although you can’t discuss it in the exam, you’re more likely to remember Alicia saying “ I remember that Lord Rosebery was prime minister in 1895 because I used to live on Rosebery Lane”, than you are to remember seeing that (fairly boring) fact written in a textbook. You can also quiz each other towards the end of the revision period, and take snack breaks together.

Don’t Keep Comparing Yourself to Others

Don’t focus on how much everyone else is revising, it’s totally unhelpful. Some people work really hard for six hours in a day and can do no more, others work for 12 hours a day but less intensely, you just need to do what’s best for you. Rather than scheduling your revision around how many hours you want to do in a day, try setting goals for what you want to have covered/ which concepts you want to get to grips with. Obviously if you’ve done a whole day's worth in 40 minutes, or only done half a day in 12 hours, you need to go back to the drawing board, but in general, it’s far more productive to set knowledge rather than time-based goals.

Google Some Motivational Quotes

It’s shockingly easy to feel like revision is the end of the world, and the hardest thing ever. To be totally honest, it is really stressful and hard, but getting into a negative mindset won’t help! Do whatever you can to stay positive. Watch videos of baby animals or animals of different species who have made friends. Research people who have your dream job and read about their lives, or just find some good old motivational quotes. Life really IS 10% what happens to you and 90% what you make it…

Beatrice Howard
Beatrice Howard on 6 February 2018