|Revising for an exam
With recent developments in psychology, “study skills” has become a field all of its own, so much so that now knowing how to study can be almost as difficult as studying itself.
However, thinking specifically about revision (looking over what you have studied in order to prepare for an exam), all the different theorists agree on a number of points.
- Planning: this is crucial. Don’t just try to fit in five minutes here or ten minutes there when you can. As early as possible, draw up a revision timetable and stick to it. Decide what you are going to study and when. Remember, little but often is a good thing to remember – don’t try to study everything in one go!
- Time: everybody has their own high and low points in everyday. Think about the time when you are at your best. Perhaps it’s in the early morning, just before lunch, in the afternoon, or even late at night. Identify your optimum point in the day, and make sure you are using that time to revise.
- Location: choose the place where you study carefully. For most people, the ideal place is a quiet, well-lit room, where you have your own desk or table. However, sometimes this isn’t possible. If it isn’t, try using your university or college library. If you can’t do this, at least make a “do not disturb” sign to put on your door for a few hours everyday!
- Methods: revision is an active thing, not just a passive one. It’s not enough just to re-read the notes you made during your course, or look through the key textbooks again. As you revise, make new notes, or at least update your old ones – perhaps using a different coloured pen. Mind maps are a great way to make revision notes.
- Groups: some people prefer to study on their own, at their own speed and in their own time, but a study group can be a great idea for those who are not so self-motivated. Working with other people who have followed the same course or who are preparing for the same exam can help you to share ideas and compare your knowledge with others.
- Take regular breaks: don’t try to study for more than 90 minutes maximum without getting up and changing your location for at least 20 minutes. Go for a walk in the garden, have a cup of tea, or read the newspaper. As you get closer to your exam, try and take one whole day in which you relax completely and don’t even think about exams or studying.
- Avoid last minute “cramming”: don’t wait until the day before the exam and think that you will be able to pack everything into a few hours. This will only cause overload on your short-term memory, create a build-up of stress that could end in a panic attack or going “blank” and forgetting everything.