Revision and studying is all about balance. As well as manage your revision, you need to make sure you’re eating healthily, taking regular exercise and staying connected with your friends and family. Locking yourself in a room for 10 hours to cram as much information as you can in one sitting is not healthy or productive.
With end of year exams just around the corner, here are 10 tips ways to transform and improve your revision, helping you succeed in your exams whilst staying healthy and happy at the same time.
1. Start early
Preparation is key. Revising for a short amount of time every day or every other day is far more effective than leaving it all to the week before and trying to cram in as much as possible. Believe me, having to pull an all-nighter in the library days before your exam is not fun or healthy. Revising over a longer period of time will allow your brain to store the information into your long-term memory. Preparing early also means you have more time to speak to your lecturers if you have any questions. They definitely won’t appreciate you asking them the day before the exam!
2. Create a detailed plan / timetable
I love creating schedules with my highlighters and gel pens about when I am going to get things done! Even if you don’t stick to the plan exactly, it gives you a rough estimation of when you want to begin and achieve certain things by. Creating a plan of action will prevent you from procrastinating until the last minute and having to rush all of your revision (well, hopefully!).
3. Create your revision space
I envy people who can revise in noisy places like the kitchen or in front of the TV! Personally, I require a proper revision set-up with a desk and chair and lots of coloured stationary like flashcards and post-it notes. With many university buildings and parts of the library still closed, it’s important to be prepared and plan where you are going to do your revision. If the weather allows, you could also consider doing some outdoor revision sessions for a change of scenery.
4. Find out what your preferred learning style is, and prepare your revision materials accordingly
Some people only need to read over their notes and can remember all their revision material, these people have what’s called a photographic memory. Unfortunately, only very few people who have this ability, and the rest of us have to put in many hours to make mind-maps, revision cards and other materials to help us with our revision!
To improve the effectiveness and the efficiency of your revision, it’s important to revise in the way most suitable for your unique learning style. Here is a simple learning style questionnaire which will help you identify how you study best.
If you’re a visual learner you may like to use mind-maps, diagrams and flashcards. If you’re an auditory learner you may like to make voice recordings of the revision material, watch documentaries and Youtube videos, or turn your revision material into a rap or song. If you’re a kinaesthetic learner, you enjoy active learning and you probably couldn’t think of anything worse than just reading over a load of old notes! Suggested activities for kinaesthetic learners include creating flashcards and going over them while doing something physical, like running on a treadmill or walking round the house. Kinaesthetic learners should also take frequent breaks to ensure the brain and body is stimulated during revision sessions.
Most of us are actually a mixture of all the learning styles, and it will take us many attempts to find the right method(s) which work best for us. I’ve found that the best way of revising for me is to make flashcards using lots of different colours, and talking through the material to myself. Anyone who sees me doing this probably thinks I’m mad but by talking it out loud I find it really sticks in my head!
5. Exercise regularly
Exercise is the perfect revision break! Exercise of course has many benefits both physically and mentally, and in the build-up to important exams, we want to be as healthy as we can! Getting your blood pumping and heart rate up in-between your revision time will increase your motivation to study and productivity levels, and also help you sleep better at night.
Here you can find my recommended fitness videos which you can do at home without any equipment. If your revision is making you feel stressed or anxious, yoga is a particularly excellent way to workout and relax.
6. Nourish your body
Healthy body = healthy mind. A balanced diet will provide you with more energy to help you feel focused and productive in your revision time. Think about what you are eating as how you are fuelling your brain to succeed in your exams. Consuming a lot of caffeine in the run up to your exams can have negative side effects such as anxiety, and consuming too much unhealthy food will also make your body feel fatigued and tired. Aim to have a healthy, balanced diet in the build-up to your exams (and beyond!).
7. Schedule breaks
Don’t force yourself to sit down and revise for hours and hours on end – this is not an effective or time-efficient way to study. Research suggests all kinds of strategies for break-taking, but realistically the brain cannot concentrate on one thing for any more than 15 minutes. I would advise taking a short break every 15 minutes, perhaps to check your phone, make a cup of tea or go to the toilet. I would also suggest taking longer breaks every 1-2 hours, such as going outside for fresh air, calling up a friend, or switching off from revision and onto something else such as a different piece of uni work. Breaks are just as productive as actual revision time, as they give the brain a chance to absorb all the information you have just been revising.
8. Practice with friends
Revision doesn’t have to be a solo activity. Talking about the content and questions with your peers is a great way to share ideas and test your own knowledge. It can also be really helpful to explain what you’re revising to friends or family who have no idea about your subject area or exam question, because it helps you practice explaining terms and content in simple terms. If you can’t explain your content simply, then you probably need to go back and revise it to understand it better yourself.
9. Prepare the practical things
Preparing the practical things in advance will make you feel much less nervous about revising and sitting the exam on the day. There’s nothing worse than not being able to sleep the night before the exam because you’re worried about what the traffic will be like in the morning or panicking you might sleep through your alarm.
Having the piece of mind that everything is organised for the day of the exam will help you channel your energy into your revision.
Make sure you’ve written down in your diary/calendar and planned:
- When the exam is
- Where the exam is
- How you are going to get to the exam – Will there be parking? How long is it going to take you to get there?
- What materials do you need for the exam – pens, pencil case, calculator.
- Where are you going to stay the night before?
- What are you going to eat the night before and for breakfast on the day?
10. Get a good night’s sleep
Not only do you want to get a good night’s sleep the night before your exam, but you should also aim to sleep properly in the weeks running up to your exam. The better you sleep, the more productive and energized you’ll be in your awake hours. I find early in the morning is the best time for me to revise as my brain is bright and awake first thing. In the evening I am usually too tired and find my revision stresses me out more. Sleep also gives the brain an opportunity to absorb and retain all the content you have been revising. Here are some tips on how to improve your night’s sleep.
Good luck with your exams!