It's not too late: 10 ways to kick-start your revision

student working on their laptop

Looking for ways to get going with your studying?

If you're stressed about the fact you've been putting off revision, it can make it even harder to finally start. Anxiety builds as the days tick by and the dire warnings of family and teachers echo round your head...

But don't fear! It's not too late to get started, and we've got 10 ways to ease yourself into revision while still getting plenty of it done – just decide which ones work for you and get going.

More like this: when is the best time to begin revising for exams and how do you get started? 

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1. Look at past papers and examiners' reports

Past papers will give you a clear idea of the task ahead, the structure of the paper, the wording of questions and examiners’ favourite topics.

You should also make use of mark schemes and examiners’ reports.

Going through a past paper's mark scheme once you've taken the paper will show you where you’ve gained and lost marks, and help you figure out which areas you need to devote more studying time to.

Examiners' reports are their account of how candidates performed on a particular paper. They're valuable as they can give you an idea of common mistakes students have tended to make on the exam and how to avoid making them. 

You'll be able to find A-level and GCSE past papers, mark schemes and examiners' reports on the exam boards' websites. You can also find past papers and mark schemes on TSR here

CharlotteHudders says: "Do past papers/practise questions and mark them! Then identify gaps in your knowledge and after each past paper/set of questions, write a list of topics you need to revise. Then make it a priority to go over these areas  that way, you will waste less time by avoiding going over what you already know well!"

Students taking most GCSE and A-level exams in 2022 will also be able to make use of advance information released by the exam boards. You can find out more about what advance information is and where you can find it in this article

More like this: read our guide to making the most of past papers.

2. Make a plan

Creating a timetable helps you fit revision around other areas of your life. 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. 

_WOLF_ says: "Look at your week. Find the times where you could slot some revision in. Arrange a detailed timetable of when you will revise what. Remember to include plenty of breaks."

Don’t expect to stick completely to your plan. Things change and your plan will need to adapt.

And once you have a plan, don’t sit back and think the job’s done – make sure you actually get on with revision.

More like this: 18 procrastination-busting ways to stop stalling your revision

3. 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. 

_pxmudi_ says: "THE SPECIFICATION IS GOLD! The examiners would not ask you anything that is not in the spec. Do not solely rely on your textbook. The textbook has some additional stuff that you don't want to be wasting time if you think you have so much of stuff to get in to your head.

"Download your specific specification, print it out if you need to, and go through it, checking whether you have learnt everything in there. Tick all the stuff you have learnt and make sure you do learn the stuff you haven't."

Remember to go through everything in the spec in enough detail to be able to apply it to exam questions.

student working at laptop

4. 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.

Star Child says: "Notes. Notes. Notes. Write them out, rewrite them out, use colour, use different layouts, mindmaps, flash cards. But writing down the information is the key; that's the best way to remember."

Organising your notes is only the start – then it’s about learning them. And 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.

5. 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. 

nyxnko_ says: "For review, I usually just flick through my notes every night for a few weeks before the exam. I admit that I don't really prioritise this as I assume that I should know it, but it actually really helps, although I think that the practice is more important."

Most students find that reading notes is rarely enough, and need to turn the information into another form to learn it really effectively.

More like this: how to study effectively for your exams

6. Highlight your notes

Highlighting is a very common revision technique, and it help you focus on identifying key points. Some students develop elaborate highlighting techniques using different coloured highlighters.

Baza2002 says: "Make your notes easy to look at. Try and keep them consice so when you only have a bit of time, it's easy to spend five minutes revising."

You can also use your highlighted passages as the basis for flashcards or for self-testing.

7. Buy stationery

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

RazzzBerries suggests using different coloured pens like this: "Write in your normal pen colour (eg blue or black) for the questions you know the answers to. Then, open up your notes/textbook and find the answers to the stuff you didn't know and write the answers in on the same sheet in an alternative colour (eg green or red)."

However you use stationery, and however much you buy, remember to use it to help you learn, otherwise it’s yet another excuse for procrastination.

colourful stationery

8. Make flashcards

You get double learning value from making your own card sets, as making them is active learning, which you can then consolidate by using them for regular testing. 
elle360 says: "I was always that friend who’d whip out some flashcards at lunch because they’re such easy ways to learn bits of important information, like definitions or steps of a otherwise complex process."

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

Because 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.

More like this: ace your exams with these free online revision resources

9. Create 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 can be more complex with several branches and sub-branches. Visual learners often find mindmaps really helpful.

floofyjoonie says: "Use these for case studies incorporating what, where, when, why and how etc into them. Don't be overly detailed with them. If you cram lots of small writing onto them, you won't be able to revise efficiently."

"Don't spend too long decorating them. Get stuck in with writing it out first then go back and highlight/embolden/underline – this also gives you a chance to read over what you've already written! Use A3 paper instead of A4 as you won't have to worry about cramping words in."

You can 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.

More like this: six amazing apps to help you revise

10. Buy revision guides

Before you buy a revision guide, think why you want it and how you’ll use it. 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? 

Chxrlottegxrrett recommends Collins revision books: "They have free printable revision cards, ebook copies so you can see on your phone anywhere, summarised content and exam style questions with answers."

Ask yourself if you have what you need in your own notes, or do you need an extra source with even more information?

What revision methods work for you? 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.


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