Revision is something that most students struggle with; when you hear the word revision you will most likely think of a monotonous, dull, impossible activity that comes with any type of education. I’m currently a college student studying for my A levels, and anyone that has done A levels will know that they come with ALOT of revision- the amount of content is ridiculous. A few years ago when I was studying for my GCSE’S, I was terrible at revision. I never did anything that was not essential homework, I floated through my exams doing alright with no revision behind me- I am lucky I was doing ok without effort, but the grades I was getting were far from the ones I wanted to get. When it came to year 11, my GCSE year, I decided I needed to turn it around and learn how to revise. Because I hadn’t revised much at all throughout my whole time at secondary school, I had no idea how to start, what worked for me, or what to do. So I started doing lots of research and watching various Youtube videos to teach me how to revise. After a while I found a method that worked for me and I managed to pull myself together for my second lot of GCSE mocks, and whilst I didn’t get to sit my GCSE’s last year because of covid, those February mocks completely turned around my grades and left my teacher assessed grades higher than they would have been if I hadn’t revised. Now I have my revision system set up, so whenever I need to revise I know exactly what to do, and as I spent ages collecting the best pieces of information to teach myself how to revise, I have decided to compile this information into a blog post for anyone who needs it. I definitely don’t revise as much as I need to, but when I do, the method and techniques I use do clearly make a difference to my results! Here are the top 5 bits of revision advice I’ve found have helped me over the last few years or so.
Firstly, find out how you learn! Find out what type of learner you are so you don’t waste your time doing revision that is not adapted to you! Take a quiz to work out how you best learn, so for example if you learn through videos, or writing it out. I found this one here which looks quite good. It is so important to find out how you learn, because if you are using visual tactics but you are a audio learner, then you are wasting time on revision that is not going to work. Once you find out your type you can research some techniques matched to your type, then you can begin working smarter, not harder. If you hate revision (like most people) then chances are you would like to cut down the time you have to spend doing it, making sure you’re doing effective techniques can reduce the time you need to revise for, so it is worth it!
Use active recall! Active recall is honestly my saviour. Many people think revision, and go straight to writing out notes from a text book. This is not active and to be honest for most people this technique is just a time waster, not an effective revision technique. Active recall is making yourself recall information so you are taking an active role in revision, as opposed to a passive role of writing out notes where your brain is not actually doing any work. An example of active recall is writing yourself questions and then answering them out loud without notes. I learnt about this technique from this video from Ali Abdall, I actually think this video was the reason I decided to start properly revising haha! I combine this technique with notion now, but for my GCSE revision I used this technique by writing out a list of questions for each topic on a word doc ( I put answers on a different page) and printing it out. This saves so much time as it completely cuts out the writing notes section, as I just wrote my questions straight from the textbook, is arguably more effective as well! That’s why I am such an advocate for active recall as it is time saving and more effective in helping you to remember things!
Develop a revision routine. Sounds obvious yes but it actually makes a lot of difference, I have found this from personal experience. I do not have a strict revision timetable right now, however in year 11 I created a timetable detailing what subject ( and what topic, eg English-Macbeth, or Biology-cells) I’d be doing when. It was not the strictest timetable, I tended to write down what topics I’d be doing after school, but not which order or anything. This really helped me get into a solid routine and ended up making it easier and less time consuming as I knew what I was doing when, so didn’t spend the time procrastinating trying to pick a subject to do. Little and often ( spaced repetition, another concept I learnt about from Ali Abdall, is great when combined with active recall, Ali talks about this in a video here ) is great as only requires you to study a subject for a small amount of time, as long as you do it often. If you get this technique right by using your timetable, research this as there are certain gaps you should leave for best memory retention, you’ll be coming home to maybe 5 20 minute revision sessions, as opposed to 3 hour long sessions. I don’t know about you but I struggle to focus on a subject for a long period of time, that’s why I love using little and often, it works great for exam prep without being super stressful cramming sessions.
Blurting. Admittedly, I have only used this a few times recently, but when I used it for GCSE’S it worked really well, especially for English Literature. Blurting is a revision technique where you pick a topic, or a chapter of revision or something, and you take a piece of paper and you write everything you know about this topic. Essentially blurting out your knowledge on a topic onto a page in no particular order. After you have finished, go back in with a different colour and fill in any knowledge gaps with the help of your notes. The use of a different colour can help you guage how much of a topic you know. I personally use my whiteboard for this as it makes the whole process quick and easy. As you can see, things being quick is abit of a theme for me with revision because I, like most people I’d imagine, dislike revision and making things as quick and easy as they can be makes me more likely to do it! Not only is this technique quick, it’s also active not passive! That’s one of my main focuses of these tips, your brain needs to be doing the work for it to actually stick in your brain! Writing out notes requires zero brain power, blurting requires focus and recall.
This last one is a little bit obscure but it was actually what made me think to do this post. You need to find something to motivate you ( this is not the whole tip I promise it isn’t as basic as this) because even though you cannot rely on motivation all the time and the foundation has to be discipline ( I discuss this more in one of my previous posts about building habits click here to read it) it always helps to have something to motivate you. Sure it is great to have a goal like, getting a certain set of grades or getting a certain future, but I’m talking about more little motivation, that you can find in everyday life. For example, I was revising an old unit the other day and I started imagining that on Monday, we were going to have a surprise test on this unit to see what we remember. Sounds bloody weird I know but it actually made me work. I kept picturing how everyone else in my class had probably forgotten to go over this topic we covered a while ago, and I imagined my satisfaction and happiness when I did substantially better than the whole class in this imaginary test. This could be the most pathetic shit I’ve ever heard but it actually made me motivated? I know it is not good to compare to others performance but it is undeniable that being top of the class is a great feeling. This is just an example of a little piece of motivation I found but it can really be something as little as imagining how you would feel if you got asked a question in class about this topic you are currently revising, and how good it would feel to fully understand it and give a confident answer ( This could be a big motivation for my readers who hate speaking infront of a class). Just find a little feeling that would make you feel great, and use that as a push to motivate you. Sometimes you need that short term boost of motivation, as that long term goal can feel out of reach and slightly unreal and disconnected from you, if you find an everyday motivation this can help you get through each individual task.
So that was my top 5 revision tips for students! I have found these tips have really helped me develop a good revision system that not only works, but decreases the time I need to spend reviewing content before I remember it and can recall it easily. If you want to explore any of these concepts further I know that Ali Abdall has quite a few different videos on active recall and spaced repetition ( I sound obsessed haha but his videos have seriously changed my revision) and I’m sure there are various youtube videos on blurting and the other techniques.
Do you have any good revision tips? Feel free to share in the comments as I’m sure they could help everyone 🙂