In this article we provide revision tips on different techniques to help students identify and retain relevant information making revision sessions more productive. Being confident to try different techniques and identify which works best for you well before you have to use it for the real exams!
What to revise
Exams mean learning lot of facts but don’t overdo it! Download the specification for free from the exam board for the subjects you are revising for. This will simply state the topics you need to know and list what you need to know about them making your life a lot simpler. Before you start revising, use the traffic light system to “RAG” the spec. Write G (green) next to the topics you are fine with, “R” (red) next to the ones that you have the most trouble with and “A” (amber) next to ones in between. Revise the Red and Ambre topics first! If you can’t find your spec – ask your teacher and they’ll be happy to help.
Revision Mind Maps
A mainstay of science and geography teachers, this technique can be used to quickly sum up and link topics, facts or figures in any subject.
Here’s how it works: Start by drawing a bubble with a topic in it, in the middle of a page for a topic that you are trying to revise e.g. “oil” for GCSE chemistry. Draw a line from that bubble to another bubble and write the name of that linked topic in the new bubble. Fill the new bubble with the facts you need to remember, try to write in short bullet points not in full sentences to fit as much information as possible in a single page. Don’t worry about being messy.
Try colouring in the bubbles to group similar ideas. Nearer the exam time you can remake these mind maps with just the information you keep forgetting to store it in your short term memory, helping you to revise more effectively.
Made famous by Sherlock Holmes, in fact this “method of loci” was developed by the ancient Greeks and is popular for memory artists at the circus to remember any facts or figures.
To use it: Imagine a building you know very well with lots of familiar rooms and cupboards. Start by walking through the front door in your imagination and commit an item you want to remember to each room by forming an image between the item and any feature of that room. To remember the “fact”” simply walk through the room. When you get better at it – start using the cupboard too!
Make it fun. Turn it into a competition with your friends to see how many facts you can remember in a short time.
Whether you’re revising for GCSEs or A Levels, mnemonics provide a catchy way to remember very boring facts… take your pick from*:
- Physics – My Very Easy Method Just Speeds Up Naming Planets: Take the first letter of each word, to get the first letter of the planets, in order. Of course now Pluto is no longer a planet this one is slightly outdated – but hard to beat!
- Biology – Kids Playing Carelessly On Freeways Get Squashed: Otherwise known as the scientific classification of the species: Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species.
- Geography – Never Eat Shredded Wheat – Simple, but effective, this first letter mnemonic helps students to remember the cardinal points of the compass, in order.
- Chemistry – please (K) send (Na) Charlie’s (Ca) monkeys (Mg) and zebras (Zn) in copper (Cu) cages lined (Pb) with gold (Au) – an easy way to remember the order of the most reactive metals of the reactivity series (metal symbols show in brackets.
For more mnemonics, take a look at this article: The 5 Best Mnemonics
Revision Card Games
Make a game of it with friends or family. Make revision cards together (sticky post it notes work well) summarizing the most important features of a topic on each card. Screw them up, put them in a hat and pull them out at random – make a question up based on the card you have pulled out and get the other person to guess what was on the card.
Troublesome cards can be used as “toilet post cards”. Stick them to the wall and glance at them until they become familiar.
Pp’s Ms and COWs
If you don’t know where to start, pull out a past paper (pp) (they are free to down load from all exam boards as are the mark schemes) and try it. Don’t worry about getting a low score at the start. The more you do the better you will get. Correct your own work (COW) using the examiners mark scheme (ms) in a colour that stands out. Try to make new mistakes each time by creating a mind map of your previous mistakes.
Other Revision Ideas
If you are looking for something else, try downloading the free examiners report attached to mark schemes on the exam board’s website. These have interesting comments stating what most students missed out on whilst answering key Questions.
Start early and use whatever technique works best for you. Don’t be afraid of being different. Have fun with it, the more you do the better your grades will be.