Excellent Tips on Revision

Almost everyone knows how important revision is. The majority of students are very diligent about it, but it does not always work out as planned. As is the case with every aspect of one’s endeavors at study, it is important to plan revision time in advance and make sure the time available is well-organized. 

Revision serves the following purposes:

  • To ensure you understand the subject matter or topic you are being examined on
  • To ensure everything you have learnt is committed to memory
  • To get some practice in developing study plans and answering exam questions. 

In order to do this, you need to put your notes in order e.g. any essay notes, class handouts, and so on. These should be arranged into cohesive and convenient sets.

This article offers tips on: 

  • creating revision plans
  • ensuring revision is productive – effective techniques
  • continual revision, e.g., throughout every term and continuously during the year.

Creating Revision Plans

As with many things, the key to success is good planning. Here is some useful advice:

  • Draft a timetable for revision activities
    It is best to begin revising well before exams start – 5 or 6 weeks beforehand at least. Set realistic goals according to the time available to you and do not forget to include periodic breaks.
  • Look at revision tasks and balance them 
    Divide your topics up and allocate them to particular days, making sure there is plenty time for all revision tasks. Look at the available time and balance it out between your different subjects and/or courses. Try not to be neglectful about subjects you find especially difficult or easy.  
  • Identify all main subjects or topics 
    Work out which subjects or topics need revising for every course. As an absolute minimum, you should aim to cover double the number of topics, as there are questions to be answered e.g. eight topics for a four-question exam. Topics should be chosen according to:

    • A particular course’s content
    • Your particular abilities and areas of interest
    • Previous test papers
  • Organize all revision materials
    Most students collect a myriad of notes from lectures, seminars and classes as well as from textbooks and academic journals. Additionally, you may have reference materials, handouts and photocopied texts to go back over. On top of all this, you will need past test papers, course books, and so on. All these materials should be well organized in good time.

Making Sure Revision is Productive – Techniques

The three main methods of revision are:

  1. Taking and/or making notes
  2. Committing to memory
  3. Writing model or ‘practice’ answers.

The next section looks at each of these methods separately:

Taking or Making Notes

Please refer to the ‘Taking/Making Notes’ section on our writing service’s website for more in-depth information on this activity.   

During each academic term and indeed throughout the entire year, students usually take a lot of notes from various lectures, classes, seminars, and reading materials. Now that it is time for revision, your primary goal is to find the best ways to memorize these notes:

  • Physically arrange all notes in a logical, clear and sensible way so that you can easily navigate your way through them.  
  • Next, read through all your notes, highlight key words and phrases, and mark out important themes. 
  • Make up a color code system whereby you allocate specific colors to particular themes or topics. Color association is a good way for memorizing material and compartmentalizing it in the mind.  
  • Rewrite your notes in more concise form, narrowing the content down into portions that are easier to manage and digest. Your goal should be to condense each set of topic notes so that they fit on an index-size card. This transforms notes into a memory aid rather than several pages of information, arguments, facts, and figures.    
  • Mind mapping, concept maps, and spider diagrams are useful ways of condensing a myriad of information onto one page. They are also a good aid to visual memory.  

Remember that less is a lot more where note taking is concerned, at least for the purpose of revision! 

Committing Material to Memory

This is a task that cannot be avoided if you are to do well in your exams. You simply have to be able to remember your course material. Therefore, you need to find an effective way to do this. You may find the following techniques helpful:

  • Look three or maybe four times at your different topic notes. This should help fix them in your memory more so than a one-off approach.  
  •  Envision certain notes in your mind’s eye before looking at them. Then, while you are reading, any forgotten material will come to the fore.
  • Another good memorization aid is the Cornell approach. With this note-taking system, you simply cover half a page of detailed notes and try to recall the material from key words, phrases, and questions.
  • The mnemonics approach is another method you might want to consider. Here, you take the initials or certain letters from a word or phrase to create memory associations.

    • For instance, if your topic is ‘Shakespeare’s Most Famous Comedies’, you could use the word ‘TALL’ to memorize some of the names of the great writer’s works e.g.:
      T = The Merchant of Venice 
      A = As You Like It
      L = Love’s Labor’s Lost
      L = Love’s Labor’s Won
  • Get a mental picture of your subject or topic.

    • Continuing with the example above, you could form a mind’s eye picture of a Shakespearean character or play you have seen to make associations.
  • Mind mapping, concept mapping, spider diagrams and similar techniques are good for initiating visual stimulation so that points and lists can be remembered more easily. 
  • With notes condensed to a compact level, it is usually helpful to look over these at the last minute. However, please note that trying to learn new exam material immediately before an exam is not very helpful because it can cause existing knowledge to be replaced and it can cause the learner to panic and become confused. 

Writing Model or Practice Answers

A key element of revising is writing model or practice answers to expected exam questions. This method helps you memorize materials, improves your critical thinking skills, and provides exam practice.

Check out the Essay Writing section of our website and try to condense the process we describe into abbreviated form. You could use the following steps as practice:

  • Undertake an analysis of previous exam questions
    Look at the way questions are worded in previous examination papers. Can you see the problem, task and/or keywords? Can you tell which approach is required? To work out the precise meaning, try rephrasing the task or question in your own choice of words. 
  • Come up with ideas
    The majority of exam questions require five or six main arguments or points (at least) in their answers. Most times these should be obvious from your reading materials and notes. Otherwise, consider the “what,” “who,” “when,” “where” and “why” questions to generate ideas.
  • Noted authors and controversial opinions
    What is the most prevalent thinking on a particular topic? Does this thinking share any important similarities or developments? Your essay will be much improved if you can briefly sum these up, particularly if they help you figure out your own position. 
  • Look at the problem from every angle
    There are topics that should or can only be viewed from one angle. However, your essay should be better quality and you should get the attention of your examiners if you consider your topic from other perspectives, where appropriate or relevant. 
  • Double-check your work
    Once your draft answers are ready, go back over them checking for mistakes, irrelevancies, and ways to make arguments stronger.
  • Try writing in an ‘exam environment’
    For practice purposes, try writing at the same speed you would in an exam situation. If possible, ask for other people’s opinions on your answers. Your course tutor or friends may be happy to look over your work.     

Revise Throughout the Entire Year

Do not make revision an attempt at the last minute to compensate for previous neglect. It is extremely easy to forget earlier work when topics succeed each other at a rapid pace. It can seem there is little or no time for revision, but you should keep an eye on upcoming exams throughout the entire college year.   

  • Write notes so that they are well organized, easy to read, and comprehensible. File and label everything neatly. Maintain reading lists and reference lists. Keep a stock of previous exam papers and questions.
  • Make a note of any outstanding tasks and/or investigative work.
  • Avoid letting work build up. Even when you put time aside for catching up, it might not be possible to get the reading materials you need close to an exam.
  • Read back over your notes from time to time. Use them to get a view of your course as it is at any given point. Create links between what has already been taught and what is still outstanding.
  • End-of-course lectures are a good way of getting last-minute tips and advice.

If you find any particular element of your course especially confusing, take time to review textbooks, previous exam papers, and notes. Look at your course in its entirety and try to put everything into perspective. Talking to your tutors and attending introductory courses and lectures can also help.  

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