At the start of the school year, exams seem a million miles away, but before you know it you’re sitting in rows in the exam hall with the first all-important paper staring up at you from the desk. However, the task of revision is often met with dread and procrastination. For example, five minutes into revising, you find yourself logging into Facebook to check your newsfeed for the umpteenth time, or you convince yourself that spending an hour creating a music playlist to ‘get in the zone’ is more important.
With the pressure of exams looming, how can we ensure students are focused, prepared and confident to perform their best?
There are some obvious tips that students can easily incorporate to ensure they’re at the top of their game. For example, eat breakfast! The Guardian found that around 27 per cent of boys and 39 per cent of girls skip breakfast some or all of the time. Having breakfast kick-starts your body, not to mention your brain functionality, and research has found that by not eating breakfast, students’ attention spans can waiver, as well as their ability to recall information. Therefore, I can’t stress enough just how important it is to give your body its food for thought!
Having gone through it all ourselves, we’ve shared some of our top tips for effective revision…
Jackie: I recently attended a revision evening for my daughter’s school and the main message was ‘little and often’. They advised that students should aim for blocks of 20 minutes revision at a time, with a little break in between. Even if you were to sit for two hours revising, it’s really only the first 20 minutes that sinks in.
That doesn’t seem so bad! But make sure you put away all distractions and that includes your mobile phone – even having it within your eye line is incredibly distracting and can throw you off task in a matter of seconds – and really focus for a solid 20 minutes. It’s amazing how much you can learn when you put your mind to it.
Lottie: Exam season can be really stressful and when I was doing my GCSE’s, I found myself focusing purely on revising, rather than taking some time out to socialise with friends or attending my training sessions for rowing. However, I quickly learned that you really do need to maintain a balance; as soon as I picked up rowing again and began seeing my friends regularly, I found I was managing my time better and, in turn, revising more successfully! I was far less stressed too, as having a life outside of school and revising provides an outlet for you to relax and, I guess, just “be yourself” (rather than some overly stressed student!) So I really recommend maintaining a balance when you’re going through your exams – make sure you control revision, don’t let it control you!
It is important to start revising early; giving yourself enough time to spread revision out and take breaks in between will maximise the effectiveness. After all, footballers don’t just practice the night before a match, just like singers don’t learn their words the day before a performance. These things take time to learn and memorise so allow time to prepare, which leads me to the next point…
Jackie: The best plan we have had through both my girls’ exams is a revision timetable. It saves the panicking amount of different subjects there are to revise for (mainly for GCSE).
Revision timetables are a good way of organising yourselves so that you don’t find it overwhelming and stressful. Set out your subjects in order of your exams but try not to focus on too many each day; that’s just going to be information overload! Draw up 20-30 minute sessions to ensure your concentration is at its peak and don’t forget to also factor in short, regular breaks to refresh!
Jackie: Other great ways to help students revise is the use of online revision tools. For example, My-GCSEscience is fantastic, if you don’t understand, you can go back over each module. Another useful one we’ve tried is MathsGenie, which is a free GCSE and A Level Maths revision guide and resource bank for students and teachers.
Liz: For me, revision needed to be as visual as possible. When I was doing GCSE maths, I made A3 posters on all the theories and equations I’d need to know and stuck them all over my room. Even when I wrote notes, I’d make them as eye catching as possible. For my first year of university exams, I’d spend days writing out notes in different colours, so that depending on the question, I could remember the points related to that section and colour. Just the act of doing this was also really helpful, as the act of writing things down and making the consideration of which colour to use ingrained it in my memory, and this was reinforced every time I read the pages I’d displayed around the room.
Visual aids can be incredibly useful, acting as a trigger and an association when reading specific keywords or phrases during an exam. Did you know that colourful notes are easier to memorise than plain black and white so don’t hold back in being creative!
Likewise, talking out loud or creating associations can be really useful. I remember in my maths lessons my teacher would get us to sing along to nursery rhymes but change the words to maths-related content and it worked! To this day I can still remember how to work out the area of a trapezium! There are now study apps like Studytracks that actually combine revision and music, helping students learn curriculum material by putting it onto current music tracks, aiding recollection and retention of content.
As well as singing along or speaking out loud to help memorise information, sharing what you’ve learnt can be really effective. When teaching others, it is believed that we retain around 90 per cent of information, therefore, sit with your friends or family and tell them what you’ve just learnt. Recalling the information you’ve just learnt helps you develop a deeper understanding of the topic, and therefore it’s more likely to stick around in your long-term memory!
Of course, everyone has their own learning style so revise in a way that best suits you but most importantly, try to be organised and give yourself enough time to prepare so that you enter that exam hall full of confidence and bursting with knowledge!
Share your top revision tips with us in the comments below or tweet us @MangoMarketing