2. Revising Effectively

Revising Effectively

2. Revising Effectively

What does revision look like?

Examiners want to know that you understand what you’ve been learning – not just that you’ve memorised the key facts. So, even if your exams are open book, you need ensure that you have a proper understanding of the material: for most exams, you'll be tested not just on what you know, but on whether you can use that knowledge effectively.

Your revision needs to reflect this.

Here are some ways of thinking about approaching a ‘chunk’ of revision (e.g. a 3-hour block) so you can practice applying what you’re revising:

  • What a revision chunk might look like in an essay / long answer subject
    - Remind yourself of what you’ll be tested on, eg check through past exam papers on the topic;
    - Quickly skim through your lecture notes, tute notes, and assignments from the topic, pulling out key ideas, to ensure you have a ‘big picture’ of what you need to know;
    - Do a ‘second pass’ in more detail to fill out facts, details, examples, experiments, and quotes;
    - Practice applying your knowledge by making essay plans, and perhaps doing timed essays or timed short/long answer questions.
  • What a revision chunk might look like in a problem-based subject
    - Remind yourself of what you’ll be tested on, eg check through past exam papers on the topic;
    - Go through lecture material, pulling out the key ideas and the ‘big picture’;
    - Note down on crib sheets the key things (i.e. particular formulae) which need to be learned, or quickly accessed in an open book exam;
    - Practice applying your knowledge by doing lots (and lots!) of questions until you have a really good feel for how to tackle them. These questions could be ones you didn’t complete over the course of the semester, or additional questions in your text books, or taken from past exam papers.

An effective way of testing whether you understand a topic is to talk about it – make yourself describe it aloud to yourself or a handy friend of family member; even better, meet up with someone on your course and take it in turns to explain key concepts or methodologies to each other.

If you’re revising a fact-based subject that relies a lot on rote learning, things like flash cards and quizzes are a great way to check you’re on top of the material – and of course keep working with friends to test each other. Here are some useful tools:

GoConqr: enables you to create your own mindmaps, flash cards, quizzes
Quizlet: develop your own flashcards and tests
Kahoot!: a fun way to test each other

How to optimise revision time

  • Get into a routine – one of the most useful things you can do both to feel in control and to be in control is to create some structure around your days.
    Here’s where your planner comes into its own: you’ve blocked out the times you’ll be studying; now stick to it. The more you can keep to regular study habits (eg always starting work by 9.30am each day; always taking an hour off for meals; always making time for exercise in the afternoon - or whatever works best for you), the more you’ll achieve and the better you’ll feel.
  • Divide up your ‘work’ and ‘not work’ time – use your planner to demarcate this clearly!
  • Remove distractions – during ‘work’ time, switch off your phone and put it out of sight; disconnect from the internet if possible; avoid social media; go to the Academic Centre or another study space if you can’t work in your room.
  • Remember your goal – ie what you’ll be tested on. Your revision notes should be effective to ensure you’re where you need to be for that topic.
    If you find yourself writing endless notes on one book or article, challenge yourself to summarise the chapter/article and what you need to take from it (eg the main argument) in a couple of paragraphs and then move on. Don’t forget – it’s about your understanding, not superficial memorisation.
  • Work with others – you are not competing against each other, either in terms of performance in the exams, or the amount of revision that you are doing. It can be really helpful for your knowledge and understanding of a subject to discuss it with others and consider their views. Not only will you be testing your understanding, but you’ll also benefit from their perspectives and approaches.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of small incentives – it’s amazing how little things can make a difference when it comes to motivation. Give yourself a gold star every time you finish a revision chunk, or treat yourself to a hot chocolate each time you tick off a topic.

Looking after yourself

  • During revision time, you need to remember the ‘SEE’ guide: Sleep, Eat, Exercise.
    If you are not finding time to do these three things – especially sleeping and eating – not only is it a worry health-wise, but it’s also counter-productive. You won’t be able to study effectively, and that will affect your exam performance.
    Treat it as a warning sign that you may need to talk someone – you’re always welcome to come and talk to Kat, Sally or Stuart, or to one of the student leaders.
  • Stay hydrated, and keep alcohol and caffeine within sensible limits.
  • Footy or Jigsaws? – rather than diving straight for your phone when you have a break from study, consider doing something that gives your brain a break and doesn’t bombard it with loads of other distractions.
    This could be a quick kick of the footy or walk to the river and back – or have a go at one of the jigsaws that we’ll put up in the Learning Commons in Swot Vac.
  • Take a cake break! – if you’re in College then you’ll be happy to hear that, from the start of Swot Vac, the kitchen will provide afternoon tea from 3.30-4pm – build this into your schedule.
  • Make time to unwind with friends, share meals, etc. Plan fun things into each day and don’t feel guilty enjoying the time between working.
    Try to do something else apart from work before you go to sleep at night, even if it’s just listening to music for a few minutes or reading a book. Make sure all computer screens are turned off and your phone is out of reach.
  • Check out our Wellbeing pages - these contain links and suggestions you may find helpful during the revision and exam period.
  1. Planning your revision
  2. Revising effectively
  3. The exam itself