9 top tips for better exam revision

The science behind studying more efficiently and effectively…

DO… eat breakfast

An estimated 27% of boys and 39% of girls skip breakfast some or all the time. It’s not called the most important meal of the day for nothing: research has found that skipping this meal significantly reduces your attention and ability to recall information. Simply having a bowl of cereal will give you the concentration and memory boost you need.

DO… put your phone away

Evidence shows that if you spend more time texting and using social media you’ll get lower grades. Researchers found that the mere sight of a phone was enough to reduce a person’s ability to focus. OUT OF SIGHT IS OUT OF MIND.

DO… start early

Committing something to memory takes time. Spreading out your revision sessions on a particular topic (e.g. one-hour sessions over 10 days) is more effective than spending the same amount of time in one go (i.e. 10 hours in one day). This effect, known as “spacing”, helps because it allows time in between revision sessions to forget and re-learn the material.

DO… test yourself

Testing yourself is one of the most effective ways to improve your ability to recall information. Testing yourself also helps you check for any gaps in your knowledge. Practice papers provide a good starting point, as well as quizzing yourself at the end of your revision session.

DO… share your knowledge

After you have tested yourself, teach the material to someone else. This has been found to help aid memory and recall: it is known as “the Protégé Effect”. Teaching someone else requires you to learn and organise your knowledge in a clear and structured manner.

DON’T…  go highlighter crazy!

Quite often, students end up highlighting whole chunks and passages of text, which can give the appearance of having worked hard, but is of little value. You’ll learn and recall information better if you connect it to other pieces of information. Highlighters don’t do this; they isolate single pieces of information.

DON’T… listen to music

If you study in a quiet environment, you’ll be able to recall more than if you revise while listening to music. Extroverts, and those with an exceptional ability to control their attention, are not negatively affected as much: but it doesn’t help. At best, for these students, it just doesn’t hinder them as much as everyone else.

DO… get fresh air and exercise

You cannot work all day, every day. Nor should you! Revision has to be about quality, as well as quantity. Going outside and getting some fresh air helps you feel refreshed and better able to focus afterwards. Doing a little bit of exercise helps you deal better with stressful situations: reducing anxiety and increasing self-esteem.

DO… get plenty of ZZZ’s

You are encouraged to work hard and revise a lot before your exams: however, there comes a time when you need to stop and go to sleep. Knowing when can be tricky. Keep regular bedtimes. Don’t go on your mobile phone in bed, but if you do, turn down the backlight.