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Many young people leave revision to the last minute because they don’t know how to do it and they have a general fear of the unknown. So the best way to get over those fears is to find some techniques that work for you.
Everyone has their own unique revision style and overtime you’ll discover the best techniques that work for you. However, if you want to improve your grades and excel in exams, there are some essential things that you must do. We’ve listed this below.
1. Set some goals
What are your predicted grades? What are the grades that you’d like to achieve in your exams? How much would it mean for you to achieve those grades? What difference would it make in your life? Think about the end goal. The exam period will be over soon and if you can hold on and work hard, you will be glad later on. Summer and other school holidays will be even better if you know that you worked hard for your exams. Why do you want to get good grades? To go to sixth form, university, get an apprenticeship, be a more well-rounded and educated person? Thinking about this can give you some perspective and help you to see why you are putting the effort in. How will you feel if you achieve those ideal grades? How would you feel if you didn’t get those grades? It’s important that you know why it is that you are revising, and why it matters to you. Once you know this, you can get started with your revision.
2. Just get started
So you’ve set some goals for yourself, now it’s time to just get started. You may initially feel overwhelmed by the thought of having so much work to do. You may even feel that you don’t have a lot of time until your exams. However, you’ll be amazed at what you can achieve in one month, one week, or one day – if you just get started! It’s easy to procrastinate and ‘wish’ that you’d started ages ago but the reality is that you can’t go back in time. The only thing you can do is get moving and get started.
3. Get an overview of where you’re going
If you don’t know where you are going, every road will lead you nowhere. The same applies to revision. You must have an overview of all the topics included in the exam. This is sometimes called the ‘exam syllabus’. Sometimes this can be very detailed, so you really just need a summary. Your teacher may be able to give this to you. Alternatively, you can use an exam board textbook and look at the content page. This page will usually summarise all the topics that are included in the exam. You can then break this up and use this to plan the topics that you’d like to revise in preparation for the exam.
4. Make notes using content from textbooks & different resources
Your revision should always involve making notes. Ideally, you should have one study or revision notebook for each subject. You can use bullet points when making notes and use different coloured highlighters to make various parts of your notes stand out. Your notes should be a summary of what you’ve learned from textbooks, revision books, in videos, revision websites, past papers, and what you’ve learned from school. You may be able to buy textbooks and revision books that are specific to your exam board. Have a look online and ask your teacher if you’re not sure which one to buy. Be careful of googling questions and making notes using various websites – not all the information online is correct. Make sure you get information from a trusted source.
5. Stay motivated & Stay focused
Revising doesn’t come naturally to everyone and you’ll need to figure out a way to stay motivated and stay focused. One way to do this, is to think about ways you can reward yourself. So – What’s on your wishlist? What is a big enough reward that will motivate you to get started? How you reward yourself is up to you. It’s best that you think of a big reward that will motivate you to achieve your personal target grade. You can also ask your parents/carers if they can give you a reward or if they will be willing to ‘chip’ in and get that reward for you. You can also think of smaller rewards that can help you stay focused eg. I’ll only watch that movie this weekend if I’m able to revise for 4 hours this week.
6. Create a revision timetable
We have a template that you can use to create a revision timetable. It is similar to a study timetable. The only difference is that you’ll need to take your exams into consideration when you design it and it will need to be updated regularly. You should also aim to have a balance of different subjects based on the upcoming exams. During exam season, you will probably need to update your schedule each week as you will have a new set of exams to focus on. If you’re struggling with creating a revision timetable then ask for help from a parent/carer, teacher, mentor, or tutor.
Ensure you have eaten well before you revise or prepare some healthy snacks to eat during revision. If you are hungry, it will be hard to concentrate and your revision session will not be as efficient. Also, make sure that you get enough sleep. Your revision will be more effective if your mind is well rested. It is better to spend one hour concentrating hard and making good progress with your revision, than spend three hours struggling to take in any information because you are tired.
8. Remove the distractions
Remove things that you know will distract you. Give your phone/tablet/tv remote control to someone at home and ask them not to give it back until you have finished! Alternatively, you can put it in another room so it will take a lot of effort to go and get it. Try to find a quiet space at home where you can be alone and shut the door. If this is not possible, try earphones/headphones with relaxing music on low volume. Tell your family that you are revising and ask that they do not disturb you. It’s important that you stay focused when you’re revising. When you’re not focused, you end up wasting a lot of time.
9. Take regular breaks
It’s important that you take regular breaks when you’re studying or revising. You may have heard of the Pomodoro technique which is meant to be highly effective. The aim is that you work in 25 minute chunks with 5 minute breaks (pomodoros) and after every 4 pomodoros, you take an additional longer 20 minute break. Another way to take breaks a break every hour ie. set an alarm for every hour or every half hour. Another way to ensure that you have regular breaks, is to plan your next break as a mini-reward ie. when I finish reading this chapter, then I’ll give myself a 15 minute break. Whichever way you choose to do it, it’s important that you take regular breaks.
10. Use Past papers
This is one of the most important things that you can use to aid your revision. You don’t need to learn everything before you look at the past question papers. When you look at past question papers and accompanying mark schemes, you can see the common questions that come up and the keywords that you must include in your answers in order to get full marks. You can even use past question papers as a key feature of your exam revision ie. start your revision by looking at recent past question papers and start making notes based on what you see. If you use this method, you’ll know the frequently asked questions for the exam and you’ll know exactly which topics to spend the most time on.
11. Test your knowledge
When little children are taught how to spell, they are told to ‘Look, Cover, Spell then Check’. This is exactly what you should be doing when you’re revising. You can spend a considerable time reading and making notes but at some point, you will need to test your knowledge. The best way to do this is by using mini-quizzes and end of chapter tests. You don’t always need to use past question papers to test yourself. The best way to test yourself is to do it in small chunks while revising a new topic and at the end of revising for a topic. This way you’ll be very clear on your strengths and weaknesses within that topic and you’ll know the areas that you need to revisit or revise again.
12. Getting rid of anxiety
Preparing for your exams using thorough revision techniques will help you feel confident during your exam week/s. If you think you have left it too late, do not worry. You can still do something about it. Make the most of the time you have and focus on the most important topics. Make sure you get enough sleep before your exam. On the night before your exam, do not panic and stay up all night revising – This will have a negative impact on your memory recall which could impact your exam grade! Instead, run through some notes but keep it concise. Relax and go to bed at your normal time. If you feel panic setting in, talk to someone about your concerns. Some nerves are normal but you must remember that it’s just an exam. All you can do is your best and the only way to do your best is if you are well rested.
13. Think about how you learn best
There are lots of different ways to take in information and everyone has a learning style that helps them learn in the best way. Are you more visual or do you prefer listening? What’s your favourite way of memorising information? Do you prefer maps, diagrams, sketches, flash cards, notebooks or folders with dividers? Are you better at revising on your own or do you prefer doing shared revision sessions and teaching a friend what you have learned? As you build confidence with revising, you’ll discover revision methods that work best for you.
As you spend more time revising, you’ll build confidence in your revision techniques and you’ll come up with new and improved ways of revising. Keep looking for ways to challenge yourself and make your revision more effective. Over time you’ll find better ways of making notes, staying organised and memorising topics. As you build more experience with revising, you’ll find it easier to pay attention in class and you’ll feel more confident asking questions in class.
You’ll also become better at managing your time, you’ll set higher goals for yourself and you may even begin to start looking forward to any upcoming exams!