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How to revise the Bright way

Book open Reading time: 4 mins

If you have an exam just around the corner, the chances are you have spent part of your time pondering as to the best way to revise…

And while it might seem that revision is a skill reserved only for those still in academia, in fact, understanding how you approach revision can actually tell you a lot about yourself.  Do you have meticulously well-organised set of notes typed out neatly into Word or do you like to create a gigantic spider diagram interlocking themes? Do you work best at the crack of dawn starting the day with a timed essay or are you more of a late riser/ night owl?

Mastering revision is all about playing to your strengths and personalising your approach. Much like when it comes to thinking about your career – you have to ask yourself what works best for you. What do you enjoy, when and how you do you thrive? It’s not just a case of simply copying someone you know, in the hope that it will work for you too. It’s all part of the process of learning who you are… and what stimulates you into action. A friend of mine hated revision not because of the work, but because of the organisation required to get there. Needless to say, he went on to do something creative, steering well clear of a career that required him to ‘manage’ his workload. Equally, the early riser who thrives on adrenaline and needs a mere four hours sleep a night to function well is now flourishing in the fast-paced world of PR and press communications…

First things first, when it comes to revision it’s vital that you have a complete set of notes. While everyone organises their thoughts differently on paper, it’s essential that you have ALL the information you need in a format that suits you.

Then it’s important to work out what makes the right stuff stick in your brain. Fleming’s VARK model divides people into visual learners, auditory learners and kinaesthetic (or tactile) learners. Using this model can help you plan your revision effectively.

If you’re a visual learner you like seeing information – so try to organise the information you need to remember into diagrams, mind-maps and tables. If you’re an auditory learner, you learn best through listening – so look for videos or lectures on the subjects you are studying, or try to arrange a time to meet with a friend and discuss or debate some of the ideas that you’ll be tested on in the exam.  Kinaesthetic learners like doing things – this is maybe the hardest for revision, but think about what you could explore: a museum, your surroundings or a place of work?

Next is to create a timetable and stick to it. The aim here is for functionality, not aesthetic perfection. A good idea is to give yourself a time limit for creating your timetable so it doesn’t eat into your proper revision time… Make sure that you are giving adequate attention to everything that could come up in the exam – it’s really important that you are strict with yourself so that you don’t end up spending two weeks on the first 5% of the content you’ve covered and then end up trying to cram everything else into the final couple of weeks. Try to come back to subjects a couple of days later – this will ensure that what you learn is transferred from your short-term memory to your long term memory – and will still be there when you come to sit the exam.

When creating your timetable you should be realistic.  Studies show that people can only concentrate for about 45 minutes – so work in blocks like this, schedule in regular breaks for lunch and tea breaks and try to take 30 minutes every afternoon to go for a walk in the fresh air. But again – everyone has their own approach and there is not a one-size fits all approach.

In an ideal world you should aim to complete all your learning a couple of weeks before the exam so that you have time to go over everything again – but if you get to two weeks before the exam and that has not happened, do not berate yourself. There is still time and you will just need to stay calm and reorganise your time accordingly.

And finally put what you’ve learnt into practice. It’s no good just staring at your notes or copying them out again – you need to test yourself by doing what you’ll have to do in the exam.  Setting yourself mini mind tests will highlight what you need to go over again. If you discover the gaps in your knowledge yourself and then take the time to fill them, chances are that knowledge won’t escape you again – and you’ll be confident to use it again in future. You have to apply a certain amount of self-discipline here, so be ruthless and adventurous in the ways in which you put yourself to the test – if you think it’s useful, it probably is!

And so, if you’re about to lock yourself away for a forthcoming exam, take heart that not only will putting in hard work now mean you are giving the exam your best shot (and thus no regrets)… it’s also one of life’s important processes to go through.

Keep healthy (start the day with a hearty breakfast), get lots of sleep and don’t go without TV/magazines or a relaxing cup of coffee with a friend in the name of a puritanical, revision-focused existence. There’s only so much you can do –and you should reward yourself when you’ve worked hard.

Any kind of revision is tough... and you’ll certainly have some glum and stressed out moments. But as hard as it is at times, do try to keep your chin up, your brain to the grindstone and your eyes on the prize – it will be worth it. You’re bright after all – and the chances are you are sitting this exam because you want to go somewhere... And that ambition, drive and discipline will serve you very well in life. Good luck.