Practical Tips for Exams and Revision
|Do you prefer to study first thing in the morning, or late at night?|
|If you revise for long periods at a time (say 2-3 hours) are you really taking it all in?|
|When do you take breaks? Regularly, or when you are on the brink of madness?|
|The brain works best on small chunks, repeated often. So 15 minutes per day on a topic is going to be better than 1 hour every 4 days.|
Research suggests that the ideal place to revise is the room where the exam will take place, because different parts of the room will serve as reminders (accessing cues) for different parts of the revision. However, this is unlikely to be possible! The next best thing is to revise in lots of different places to get a wider variety of 'accessing cues', so get used to revising in different places in the library, common room, or around your house.
'Accessing cues' include parts of your room, the pieces of music you listened to when you were revising, and even moods. By trying to recall or recreate these cues, it is claimed that you will recall the revision associated with it. It could be a song lyric that reminds you it was Descartes who said "I think therefore I am." (or Monty Python who said "I'm pink therefore I'm spam.") Whatever...
Revision needs to be active, so don't just sit there reading and re-reading your notes! You will remember far more if you make your revision an active learning process. Here are some strategies which people find useful. You may, too:
|Ensure you have plenty of past exam papers - these are useful aids to revision as long as you get the answers!|
|Draw diagrams or pictures to represent the facts you want to learn. You'll find they stick in your mind better than pages and pages of notes. Ask your teacher about the powerful "7 Monkeys" technique.|
|Alternatively, try using a Mind Map (see below). Write a topic title in a box in the middle of a page, and add branches which structure the details of your revision. These tend to represent the way the brain deals with information, and is easier to remember because its very visual.|
|Try using Mnemonics. This is a way of remembering information by using abbreviations, words or phrases. An example is the way we remember colours of the spectrum, i.e. Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain. They can be as personal as you like (you're more likely to remember them that way), and composing them can be great fun!|
|Revise with others, discussing a topic. Its probably best to avoid testing each other though, as this can be a demoralising experience.|
|Reward yourself! Set yourself a target, and the promise of a reward when you reach the target, like a bag of jelly babies, the pub for last orders, or even watching Strictly Come Dancing ( if you were desperate).|
Remember to make your revision time as active and enjoyable as possible, just so long as what you are doing is constructive.
Here are some tips for taking those dreaded exams:
|Don't panic! If you've prepared, you'll be fine.|
|Listen carefully to all the instructions. There might be some you weren't expecting.|
|Fill in your personal details. Read ALL the instructions, and check how many questions you have to answer.|
|Allocate your time, including enough to read through the paper at the start, and time to plan your answers and check them through at the end. You might want to allocate more time to those questions which carry greater marks.|
|Read the question carefully, answer the question that is on the exam paper even if it is not quite the one you had prepared for. Find out what RTBQ means!!!!|
|Be strict with your time. You can always go back to a question at the end, and you won't score many marks if you don't answer enough questions.|
|If you do run out of time, you might gain some valuable extra marks for providing a plan for an answer that might have been!|
|Ever had that all important fact on the tip of your tongue? Maddening, isn't it? Sing yourself a song, doodle, or do anything to unblock your mind. Try writing out the alphabet... the first letter of the word you're looking for might be the trigger you need.|
|Don't forget to turn over the last page for the examiner's hidden last question. If I had a pound for every student who told me after the exam that they'd missed the question on the last page, I'd have...ooohhh...at least a fiver by now.|
|Benefit 1 The brain is thought to organise experiences more like a memory map, rather than 'linearly' as in a book.|
|Benefit 2 You can get lots of relevant information compressed onto one diagram or map.|
|Benefit 3 You will recall a lot more for the exam
because your revision has been personalised by the act of making the map.
Mind Mapping:A Technique for Innovative Brainstorming
(Don't try to read anything on this map - it's just an example to show you how it looks!)
1: What is a Memory Map?
Uses words and/or pictures to organise your thought
2: What are its benefits?
Lets you 'see'
d) A way forward
e) Not necessary to think logically
f) Making connections that aren't obvious or linear
g) One idea triggers others
h) Thought chain reaction
i) Sometimes, the crazier the better!
Truly innovative ideas can stem from this technique
3: So how do you do it?
1: Take a blank sheet...
2: Write and/or draw the topic you wish to address in the centre...
3: As you think of different aspects relating to the topic write them down, or draw them with a line connected to the centre topic...
4: Thoughts relating to these aspects are then drawn out in a tree like structure ( or it could be a 'spider's web!)...
5: You can add or jump between aspects as thoughts arise...
6: You colour the text/lines and add pictures/sketches to gain insight and aid recall.
4: When do you use memory maps?
1: When you wish to be creative, innovative
2: When you want to make sense of the spaghetti in your mind
3: When you're revising difficult topics
5: What to use them for?
Limited only by your imagination, but try making a map for any of these topics that you find difficult:
Here's a memory map to help you to organise your revision...
The information below comes from the Open University site, but it is just as relevant to revising for school exams.