The first step to creating an effective revision plan, is to have a plan. Make a ‘realistic’ schedule that you’re able to stick to. As well as allocating revision time in your schedule, you should also schedule things that you like to do, such as chatting with friends, going for a walk, or washing the dishes (okay, maybe that’s not something that you like doing, but it’s something that you have to do, so schedule it anyway!). By scheduling in everything you will be doing around your revision, you’re able to see how much time you can realistically spend revising each day. If you don’t have any free time to revise, then put everything into your schedule, and move things around a little so that you do have some time. For more tips on creating an effective revision schedule click here.
If possible, you should dedicate one place in your house to revision, maybe the desk in your bedroom. Make sure you keep this area tidy and organised so you can quickly find things that you need during your revision. Once you’ve decided on your study zone, make sure that everybody in the house knows that this is YOUR study zone, and at certain times in the day you will require them to leave you to revise in this area.
There are lots of different ways of studying, and we all have different styles of working. If you don’t know which study style suits you best, then play around a bit at the start of revising and find what works best.
So far, you’ve got a study schedule, a study zone, and you’ve explored different studying styles to find the one that suits you. It’s equally as important to find the best time for studying. Some people prefer studying early in the morning, and others prefer later at night. Try studying at different times in the morning, afternoon, and evening on different days. Keep a journal over these days noting how you feel before and after studying. The time you felt you studied most effectively and felt most at ease could be the best time for you. The results could be affected by different external factors, such as, your sibling being loud one morning, or your favourite TV programme being aired while you’re studying. So, try this a few times, and the time which consistently feels the most comfortable and productive is most likely your best time for revising.
Of course, life has lots of different commitments, and these don’t all work around revision. If you’re only able to study best in the morning, but you’re unable to one day, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t bother. Studying can be productive at anytime if you’re studying in a manner that’s effective for you. See the above section about ‘Your Style’.
You’ve most likely been told that the best way to revise is by doing past exam papers, and it’s true. However, simply going through past papers is, unfortunately not enough to get you top grades. To make the most of past papers, you need to sit them under exam conditions, and then mark them. Once you’ve marked the past paper, look through it again and rate how you felt on each question from 1 to 10. Some questions you might have gotten right but actually didn’t feel very comfortable answering them, so you need to take this into account when rating how you felt (you probably need to revise a challenging topic more, even if you got the answer right). On the other-hand, there may have been some questions that you felt more comfortable on but got wrong, these would rate higher than questions that you got right but struggled on, because you’re more comfortable on the topic (and although you need to revise it more, you probably don’t need to commit as much time).
Once you’ve rated each question, it’s time to tackle the questions that you didn’t get right, or got right but struggled on. Make a list of the questions that you struggled on and the topic that they belong to (for example, dividing polynomials in Maths). Now schedule in a time dedicated to studying this topic more and getting to the bottom of why you answered the question wrong. You could spend this time talking to your teacher about the question, looking through text books, or finding useful online resources that are recommended by your teachers or peers.
Take your time
Have you ever heard the saying “Rome wasn’t build in a day”? What about, “It’s a marathon and not a sprint”? Well, both of these saying are alluding to the same thing. Taking your time on something nearly always comes out with the best result. It’s the same for your exams (and coursework), if you try and learn for the first time and revise the whole syllabus the night before an exam, you are unlikely to achieve your best result. Take your time, get to grips with each topic, and practice that topic, to make sure that it’s implanted in your memory for exam day.
Download the Specification
Make sure that you download and print off a copy of the specification for each subject in which you have exams. If you’re unable to print at home, ask your teacher to print a copy at school (or print in your school library). Make sure you download the correct specifications – different schools use different exam boards, so ask your teacher if you’re unsure.
Once you have your printed specification, tick off topics as you revise which you feel 100% confident you can answer questions on in the exam.
Some distractions are impossible to avoid. For example, if a giant monkey climbs into your room, you’re going to be pretty distracted! However, there are lots of common distractions which mean you’re not focusing 100% on your studying. This means that you’re much less likely to remember the material on the exam day. Common distractions include things like your mobile, TV, and computer notifications. You can get apps that stop you from being able to play on your phone during study time (see more here), or if you’re disciplined enough to not look at your phone, turn it on ‘do not disturb’ and put it away in a drawer. There are similar apps for your laptop or computer too. Turn the TV off, and make sure that any music that you’re listening to doesn’t have words.
One of the most important aspects of studying, is not studying at all! Sounds strange, but it’s true! You wouldn’t exercise all day without a break because your body needs time to recover in order to perform well, and it’s as important to do the same for your brain. If all you do is study, then you’re going to have a mental burn out, and come exam day your brain will be too tired to process anything. Make sure to take time every day to relax and do something that you enjoy (and if you read the first section on this page, hopefully you have scheduled this time in!).
Look after your body
Relaxing is a way of allowing your brain a vital rest to ensure you’re treating it well! It’s equally as important to treat your body well too. Take some time every day to exercise, even if it’s just taking a ten minute walk. Research shows that the best time to exercise is just before you begin studying or sitting an exam. This is because it gets oxygen to your brain (so exercise is treating your brain well too), and this allows your brain the chance to perform better. It’s probably not a good idea to run a marathon before an exam, but a brisk 10-minute run or walk could work wonders!
It’s also important to make sure that you’re fuelling your body (and brain) properly. Make sure that you’re maintaining a healthy diet and hydrating regularly (current research recommends consuming 2-litres of water a day) and this will help your brain to work at it’s best.