Revision sucks. There’s absolutely no two ways about it. It is an obstacle you cannot avoid, and university exams boil, simply, down to this: if you don’t revise, you won’t do well. It really is that simple. However, revision itself is a slightly ambiguous beast and though we are lectured throughout our entire academic careers on the importance of revising, no one actually tells us how to revise, or more importantly, that there is not one set method that is guaranteed to work for everyone. The trick to effective revision is finding a method which works for you, and depending on the sort of person you are this could be vastly different from your mates. Hopefully by the end of this blog you will at least have a few ideas to try for your next revision sesh, and you’ll be a few steps closer to figuring out how to tackle this demon. Remember, not all of these will work for you, and you need to try a few before you come across a method that you’re comfortable with, so don’t worry if you’re struggling, you will get there eventually.
Your revision toolbox
There are some things which are necessary across all revision methods discussed today. You’ll need some post it notes, your mobile phone, some coloured pens, a pair of headphones and lots of paper.
This is perhaps better suited for those studying science related topics, or any topics where names and dates are required. Get a list of your key terms and definitions, the ones which it are really essential for you to learn. Write them out on post-it notes, and literally plaster them everywhere. Put them in places that you’ll see every day, on the book you’re reading, on your lightswitch, on the bathroom mirror, on your bed-side lamp, on your front door, on your wardrobe, and make a point of reading it every time you see it. This method will slowly and surely work as you’re subconsciously taking in the important information on a regular basis. If you’re quite a visual person with a good memory for images, you might be able to recall certain terminology from the corresponding post-it notes, and if you’re not, it doesn’t matter because you will be reading this important information so many times that hopefully these definitions will be on the tip of your tongue in no time.
This is easily the most boring method, but unfortunately it appears to be the only way for many to learn. I find this method slightly easier if the information is colour co-ordinated. Start by writing down all the themes which you need to know for your exams. Have a different page of A4 for each one. Write down the key information from your lecture slides on the correctly themed pages. Then you will have pages of all the key information related to the themes you need to know for your exam. Now is the hard bit, you need to try and get all of this information on one page. Mainly because one page seems considerably less daunting than 12 pages! Write out the information in parrot fashion until you feel confident enough to condense the sentences so that all the information fits on one page. Make a pretty table, make a mind map, make whatever on earth you want out of it, just get it on one page. The beauty of this method is that whilst continuously writing the information out you’re really getting to grips with it, again subconsciously learning the material. By the time you get into your exam you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the information you never even realised you knew.
Some of you will respond better to audio cues. Record yourself repeating the important information for an exam on your phone and listen to it before you go to bed every night. Listen to it when you’re walking, when you’re on the bus, when you’re in the bath. Once again, this repetition will be subconsciously entering your little brains and filling them with useful knowledge.
For those artists among you, why not attempt to draw a diagram of the important information? If you can create a picture which symbolises all the important information you need, recreate and remember it then do so! It is a case of work with what you’ve got, and if this is how you operate then why not go for it? If you’re finding it difficult to create a picture which appropriately contains all the information, at least by trying to figure it out you are once again subconsciously dealing with the information you need to know for your exam.
Mind maps, though often considered a sort of primary school thing, these are extremely useful. It’s a way of physically mapping out how all your information links together. Throw in some coloured pens and you’ve absolutely got a winner: stick it up on your wall and make a point of reading it when you get up and before you go to bed. This is sounding a little boring (ironic because we’re talking about repetition so flippin’ much..) but by actually creating your mind map you’re once again reading through all this important information.
Something I know works for a lot of people is to associate information to a routine you regularly have. This works particularly well for historical subjects where you need to memorise a timeline of events. For example, take your morning routine. You have a timeline of events to learn, the first event starts when you get out of bed, you go to the bathroom = second event, you brush your teeth = third event, you have your breakfast = fourth event, and so on and so forth. You could even associate events with your walk to uni, your walk to the shop, a different place you pass on your journey signifies a different piece of information you need to learn. By repeating this information with every step of your routine, soon the process will be second nature to you and you’ll be regurgitating the information without any hesitation at all.
As previously mentioned, many of these methods might not work for you. The important thing to remember is that you have to do a certain degree of work regardless of which method you choose, or perhaps a combination of the above mentioned methods might be what works for you, everyone is different. Hopefully this has been useful, and good luck!
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