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

student revising on their laptop

Looking for ways to get going with your studying?

Stressing about the fact you've been putting off revision can make it even harder to finally start, but there's no need to panic.

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.

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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 show how they thought candidates performed on a particular paper. They're valuable as they can give you an idea of common mistakes students tend 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.

CharlotteHudders says: "Do past papers or practise questions and mark them! Then identify gaps in your knowledge and write a list of topics you need to revise. After that, make it a priority to go over these areas  you will save time by not going over what you already know well!"

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 and find the times where you could slot some revision in. Arrange a detailed timetable of when you will revise each subject, but remember to include plenty of breaks."

You won't completely stick to your plan, and that's fine – things change and you can adapt along the way. But once your plan's sorted, it's time for the hardest part... getting started.

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 won't ask you anything that isn't in the spec, so don't rely solely on your textbook.

"Download your specific specification and go through it, checking whether you have learnt everything in there. Tick all the stuff you've covered and focus on learning 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 on their laptop

4. Organise your notes

Your notes may well be the raw material for your revision. Check you've got decent notes on everything and ask your teacher if you've got any gaps to fill.

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

Organising your notes is only the start – the next step is learning them.

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 should test yourself regularly 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. It actually really helps, although I think that the practice is more important."

A lot of students find they need to use their notes in a different way to learn them effectively.

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 concise 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 and notebooks can all be useful.

RazzzBerries suggests using different coloured pens like this: "Write in either black or blue pen for the questions you know the answers to. Then, open up your notes and find the answers to the stuff you didn't know and write the answers in on the same sheet in a different colour."

While using stationery can be fun, it can also be quite distracting so try to use it in a way that helps you learn. 

colourful stationery

8. Make flashcards

You get double learning value from making your own card sets, as making them is active learning, and you can then use 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.

9. Create mindmaps

Mindmaps help you see how a particular topic is made up of different parts. They're usually in 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 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 – 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.

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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