Clock and notesCan’t get started on revision? Anxiety building as the days tick by and the dire warnings of family and teachers echo round your head?

Take a deep breath and fear not.

It’s really not too late.

Here’s some suggestions from our very own tame teacher to get you out of procrastination and into learning action.

And to make the suggestions super-helpful we’ve rated them for easiness (10 being totally easy) and effectiveness (10 being the most effective). But remember that different techniques work for different people and that you can combine these approaches to suit your own learning style.

Decide which works for you and get going. Procrastination ends here.

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Look at past papers

These will give you a clear idea of the task ahead. You’ll be able to find out the structure of the paper the wording of questions and the examiners’ favourite topics. You can also find mark schemes and Examiners’ Reports (their account of how candidates performed on a particular paper).

Easiness four effectiveness four and a half

Next step

Practise exam questions or plan answers to questions. Use the mark schemes to assess your answers. Work out where you lost marks and focus revision on improving these areas.


Examiners may change the way they ask questions and quite a few specifications are new and don’t have many past papers. In these situations you may have to make do with specimen papers.

Find past papers and Examiners’ reports

How to use past papers

Make a plan

Creating a day-by-day plan gives you a clear idea of the task ahead. It helps you prioritise and can prevent you running out of revision time. Plans can be as simple as a list of what needs to be done each week up to hour-by-hour colour coded works of art.

Easiness three effectiveness three and a half

Next step
Don’t expect to stick completely to your plan. Things change and your plan will need to adapt. Once you have a plan, don’t sit back and think the job’s done – get on with revision!


Making a plan isn’t revising. Don’t use planning as yet another excuse for procrastination. Use it for motivation by ticking off things once completed.

Make your revision plan

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Make a list of what you need to learn

Take a subject, break it into topics using the specification or text book so you have a useful list of everything that needs to be learnt.

Easiness three and a half effectiveness three

Next step

You’ve made a useful list – now crack on with the actual learning. Tick off what you’ve learnt and be sure to do lots of practise of past exam questions.


Having a list doesn’t mean you know everything in enough detail and are able to apply it to exam questions.

Organise your notes

Your notes may well be the raw material for your revision. Have you got decent notes on everything? Check they’re all there in the right order. Fill in any gaps – ask your teacher if you’re not sure.

Easiness three and a half effectiveness three

Next step

Once your notes are complete you’ll need to start using them to learn. This can be as simple as reading through a section, covering it and trying to remember what was there. Or you can use your notes as the basis for flashcards or mindmaps.

If your notes are in a really bad state you might be better off using a textbook or revision guide as the basis for your revision. Remember that organising notes is only the start – then it’s about learning them.

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Read through your notes

This is a very common approach, often used in combination with highlighting key points. If you do start your revision like this you’ll need to concentrate hard and regularly test yourself to check information is going into your brain.

Easiness two and a half effectiveness three and a half

Next step
The simplest way of testing yourself is by hiding the section you’ve just read and seeing how much you remember. Alternatively you could write your own questions or use past exam questions.


Just reading is rarely enough. Most students need to turn the information into another form to learn it really effectively.

Make your own revision notes

Find revision notes

Highlight your notes

Highlighting is a very common revision technique. It does help you focus on identifying key points. Some students develop elaborate highlighting techniques using different colour highlighters.

Easiness three and a half effectiveness three and a half

Next step

Use your highlighted passages as the basis for flashcards or for self-testing.


Highlighting alone is rarely enough to learn material in the depth you’re going to need. Some students use it as a comfort blanket as it seems easier than other techniques. Pages covered in highlighting are often difficult to make sense of.

See examples of revision notes

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Buy stationery

This is always a pleasure, especially if somebody else pays. Nice new pens, highlighters, cards, notebooks – they can all be useful.

Easiness four and a half effectiveness one and a half

Next step

Use the stationery to help you learn, otherwise it’s yet another excuse for procrastination.


Stationery gives you warm feeling but doesn’t teach you anything at all. Make sure your trip to the shop or online store isn’t yet another excuse for procrastination.

Love stationery? Join the TSR Stationery Society

Make some flashcards

You get double learning value from making your own card sets. You learn from making them and then you consolidate the learning by using them for regular testing.

Easiness one and a half effectiveness four and a half

Next step

Put questions on one side and answers on the back to make them really easy for testing. Try putting them in different piles according to how well you know them. Then you can focus on the ones you’re less sure of.


Flashcards usually don’t contain much detail. Make sure you practise past exam questions so you develop the detailed knowledge, skills and techniques you’ll be assessed on.

Make flashcards

See examples of flashcards

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Make some mindmaps

Mindmaps help you see how a particular topic is made up of different parts. They are usually in the form of spider diagrams but often more complex with several branches and sub-branches. Visual learners often find mindmaps really helpful.

Easiness two effectiveness four and a half

Next step

Make mindmaps to plan answers to exam questions or to create the ‘big picture’ of a topic. Test yourself on mindmaps by hiding different branches.


Some students just don’t find mindmaps very useful. They can also get confusing if they’re very complicated.

Make your own mindmap

See examples of mindmaps

Buy revision guides

Before you buy a revision guide, think why you want it and how you’ll use it. Are your notes inadequate? Is the information presented in a way that will help you learn? Does the book have extra features like quizzes, examiners’ advice and past exam questions?

Easiness four effectiveness two and a half

Next step

If the book has tests and past exam questions for practise, use them.


Ask yourself: Do I have what I need in my own notes? Do I need an extra source with even more information?

If you do decide to buy a revision guide, be very careful. There’s loads of exam changes going on so check any books you buy are covering exactly the right specification and were published or at least updated in the last year.

Find the revision materials made by the best students

IMPORTANT: However you choose to start your revision, make sure you test yourself regularly in different ways and get lots of practise at exam questions. Find out what you do and don’t know and focus on improving your weaker areas.

Which of these approaches works for you?
Does it all depend on the subjects you’re studying?
Do you start revision in a different way?
Join the discussion below!

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