This article was written by the Great British Mag editorial team on 6 January 2021.
Preparing for an exam? Then use these proven revision techniques to stay focused and motivated.
Create a revision friendly space
Start by creating a comfortable and practical place to revise that is peaceful, free of distractions and has good natural light. Research shows natural light helps us focus and reduces stress levels.
Organise everything you will need for your study session. That includes plenty of water and a snack because, after all, who can study on an empty stomach? Playing music can also help you focus, and academic studies have shown that Mozart, Beethoven and Bach are ideal revision companions.
Relearn the basics first
When you’re revising it’s better to start with the basics, even if you think you know them well, before moving onto more complicated information.
This technique is called “layering” and the principle behind it is that if you learn something stage by stage you will remember it better. It is especially helpful in an exam situation because if you get nervous you can recall facts layer by layer, so remembering one thing should unlock connected knowledge you have on the topic.
Watch video tutorials
Watching a video that explains or demonstrates something is an amazingly effective way to learn and there is no shortage of YouTube videos as well as other free online resources that you can tap into to help you revise.
Turn your notes into mind maps
Mind mapping is a technique whereby you turn your notes on a topic into a diagram. There is one central topic with branches running off it that are either single words, short phrases or visuals that help the user remember key points.
This technique has been popular for hundreds of years – apparently, Aristotle was a big fan – and is proven to help users learn and remember complex points. Mind maps are also perfect for last-minute cramming just before your exam, as you can quickly recap on things without having to read dense notes.
Research shows that one of the best ways to learn and retain knowledge is to teach others, so this technique can be used brilliantly to help you prepare for an exam and also become popular amongst your peers.
Offer to deliver a mini-lecture on a complex point to your fellow students or, if that sounds too scary, prepare a lecture for a virtual audience and record it yourself. We guarantee this technique will help you master the topic.
Learn by association, rhymes, and songs
Learning by association or creating songs and rhymes is an extremely powerful technique
If, say, you were trying to remember the colours of the rainbow, you would create a phrase using words that begin with the first letter of each colour. For examples, “Richard of York Gave Battle In Vain” would help you remember red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.
Revise in short bursts
You might be pleased to hear it’s been proven that studying in short bursts and taking regular breaks is a much more effective way to learn and retain information than learning for hours on end.
The optimum study time is 20 minutes with a five-minute break to absorb what you have just learnt.
Try recording yourself talking about a topic you’re revising. The process of having to articulate what you are learning will help you understand where your weak spots are, while speaking your notes out loud will help the information sink in better than just reading your notes.
Recording your notes has the added advantage that you will be able to listen to them anywhere, so whether you are on a journey, on a walk or doing household chores, you’ll be able to revise.
Revise multiple things in one study session
If you are sitting multiple exams over a short period of time, regardless of whether the topics are linked or completely different, try studying different things in a single study session rather than just focusing on one area.
Research shows the brain adapts well to learning different things in intense, short bursts of, say, 30 minutes. This technique improves recall, compared to learning the same thing over a longer period.
Do past test papers
Past papers are a great way of testing how well your revision is going and understanding what will be required in the exam without being in real exam conditions. This will mean you’re able to identify and focus on your weaker areas during revision and also help you manage your nerves on the day of the exam.
Test, revise, and repeat
Test yourself regularly to make sure things are sinking in. Don’t just assume that they are! You will find doing test papers and vocalising what you have learnt will highlight your weak areas.