First off, before I start, have a quick motivational message:As you probably/maybe/don’t know, I’m in the middle of every British teenager’s favourite thing ever, GCSEs. Lucky me! I thought that as I’m getting in some much revision practice (what better thing could I spend my life doing?!), I might as well share a few things that I’ve figured out work for me, in case they help you at all…
I will be the first to admit, I am a master procrastinator. I almost feel like I’m so skilled at it I should put it on my CV. But, luckily for future me opening my exam results on 25th August, I’ve got a few methods of beating procrastination when it comes to revision.
First of all, deal with your phone/laptop/other electronic device that distracts you. The first option is to just turn it off and, if you need an extra barrier against just switching it on again, leaving it in another room. Preferably a long way away, with a good few stairs separating you and it. But what if, like me, you use said device for music or to time each revision session? If that’s the case, I recommend either putting your phone on aeroplane mode and, if you have one, using a Bluetooth speaker so you can leave your phone in another room and still hear the music – or at least leave it on the other side of the room. If you absolutely have to have your wifi on for some reason – for example, I use the free version of Spotify for my music – then change your settings so you either don’t get any notifications at all, or do what I did – change them all to just be icon badges (except, for me, texts and Facebook messages, though I have gone through and muted a load of FB conversations to stop them from being distracting). That way, you can still see when you’ve got a notification (or not, depending on what you prefer), but you’re not constantly being reminded and are therefore less likely to get sucked into spending three hours on the internet when you just meant to check something really quickly.If you’re going to listen to music, I recommend either listening to something very ~background~ and possibly instrumental (I recommend Lucky Chops, Ludovico Einaudi, 2Cellos, The Piano Guys and Vitamin String Quartet) or to a playlist full of songs you know really well. Otherwise, you (or at least I) run the risk of using a song I don’t know that I want to skip/know the name of as an excuse to get up and use my phone, which rarely ends well.
Another way I often procrastinate is by accidentally extending my breaks. By, like, two hours. Oops. One way to try and stop this is to set a time limit for your breaks, and set an alarm *without* a snooze option. You can still ignore it, but it’s less likely. Also, try to decide ahead of time what you’re going to spend your break doing – making a cup of tea, having a shower, watching one episode of your favourite TV show (but make sure it really is just one episode), texting a friend for ten minutes – and then make sure you do that, and only that. This way you have something specific to look forward to and are less likely to just waste your break on social media or procrastinating doing something else. Not that I’ve ever done that. Nope, not me…Also, write out what revision you’re doing at the start of each day, including what topics you’re hoping to target, and how long each is going to take, and when you expect to finish each session. This will (hopefully) stop you from spending the first ten minutes of each session deciding what to do and seeing when you *could* finish by will help to keep you motivated.
My Favourite Revision Techniques
Right, now onto the hard bit where, unfortunately, the odd bit of brain power is actually required. *sigh*. (though pro tip: chocolate and tea are good brain boosters. Or at least, they make the revision more bearable)I still don’t feel like I’ve fully figured out what methods of revision work best for me, and they definitely vary from subject to subject, but I have a few fall-back methods.
- For subjects like history and music, I’ll make a timeline covering everything that happened in that time period/showing everything that happens in each set work, because I find that helps me get the order of stuff straight in my head, and helps me to locate points I need for my music essays (because to get full marks in music you have to state AND locate, yay) and also helps me remember the structure of each piece. For geography, I’ve made mind maps for all of my case studies, and then done some diagrams for stuff like weathering, coastal processes, formation of a hurricane etc. For the sciences, I’ve got a mix of mind maps and note cards, partly because a load of my notes are from previous exams. I have remade some of my notes as mind maps, though, for example electrolysis and homeostasis, because I find that seeing it all together on one page instead of spread over four or five cards really helps me.
- Once I’ve made my notes, I then try and read them through and then, from memory, write down everything I can remember and see how well I did. Often, I’ll wait a bit until I’ve done another subject or something then do it to try and get it more long term memory and less short term omg I just did this I should know it. Also, when I’m marking these I often don’t tick stuff I got write but just correct mistakes and write in everything I forgot in a different colour. That way, I’m reinforcing it by writing it out again and also I can get a visual idea of how much stuff I can remember and how much I still have to learn.
- I’ll also get other people to test me, and make sure I note down anything I get wrong to look over again.
- Additionally, if I get a question wrong or just come up with a random question or topic I feel I need to revise, I’ll make a note of it on a Post-It stuck above my desk, which reminds me to go back and look over it.
- If there’s something specific you just have to learn – chemical tests, the reactivity series, particular definitions – it’s also worth being tested multiple times (with a few days inbetween each time) to check they’ve really gone into your long term memory.
- On the topic of definitions, if you have time then for subjects like biology or music when specific wording is really important or you might get questions such as “what is a sitar/hemiola/sonata form/other musical thing”, then it’s worth making a list of definitions and trying to remember them. Even if it’s only a one-mark question, every little helps, and you may as well lose the marks because you didn’t know the stuff rather than because you screwed up the wording.
- Use mnemonics to remember stuff – however stupid, or seemingly illogical, if they make the stuff stick in your head, use them! For example, one some boys in my chemistry class came up with for flame tests is
Love chemistry (lithium – crimson)
So you (sodium – yellow)
Play like (potassium – lilac)
Cristiano Ronaldo and (calcium – (brick) red)
Become a god (barium – apple green)
- Make an effort not to ignore the stuff you know you struggle with – often if I get something wrong multiple times when being tested I’ll remember it because I remember getting it wrong, if that makes any sense.
- This is a bit random, but try and revise in different places. Apparently it’s scientifically proven that working in different environments helps you remember stuff – if you’re always in the same place you get into a subconscious kind of mindset where you can only remember specific things under those same circumstances. For example, it always feels much harder to do a past paper under full exam conditions, because I’m so used to revising at my desk with music on in the background and a cup of tea.
- If you’re revising a language, I highly recommend Memrise for learning vocab, and if you have a speaking exam, remember that there’s a limit to the questions you can be asked – both in terms of time and content – and remember the teacher wants you to pass just as much as you do! On that note, if you ever think you’ve got no chance in an exam, remember that you have spent however long being taught that, so chances are there’s some knowledge somewhere in your brain that you can use – and however bad your teacher is, they won’t have taught you nothing over the last two years because amazingly, it looks bad for them if their whole class fails as well as being a pain in the butt for you.
- Finally, a couple of days before the exam, when you’ve done most of your revision, go through the syllabus and check if any topics make you go WHAT IS THAT I SWEAR I HAVE NEVER HEARD OF RETENTION VALUES EVER (ahem yeah that might’ve happened to me), in which case highlight them all and then go back through and look them up.
In The Exam
Finally, I just have a couple of tips for in the exam itself. Firstly, DO NOT PANIC! And if an exam doesn’t go as well as you would hope, stick it in a box and move on – don’t let it make you extra freaked out about the rest of your exams, because that will probably mean you don’t do as well.Also, read all the questions, really carefully. Don’t skip the intro bit at the start because HEY THERE MIGHT BE A SNEAKY QUESTION IN THERE LIKE COMPLETE THIS DIAGRAM OF COVALENT BONDING THAT YOU WALTZ STRAIGHT ON PAST (not that I did that in a past paper this morning nope I’m not bitter not at all). And finally, if there’s a question you have absolutely no idea about, leave it till the end and then come back to it, then read the question again, see if there are any clues in the question itself or even elsewhere in the paper, and try and think if you can see any links to another topic that they might be asking you to apply knowledge from. Just try not to leave any gaps, because even if you think you’ve written complete bullshit (aka every English essay I write ever), the examiner might be able to find some marks in there. Oh, and DO WHAT THE QUESTION SAYS AND DON’T WRITE OUTSIDE THE BOX because that’s just a stupid and really irritating way to lose marks.
Now, go revise.