Can't get started on your revision? Too stressed about the fact you're not revising to actually get started on doing some? Anxiety building as the days tick by and the dire warnings of family and teachers echo round your head?
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 a bunch of it done.
Decide which works for you and get going. Procrastination ends here.
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). TSR has a bank of past papers here.
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.
Here's how you can make the most of past papers.
Warning 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.
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.
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!
Warning 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 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.
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.
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.
Warning 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.
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. You can find ready made notes on any topic here.
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.
Warning Just reading is rarely enough. Most students need to turn the information into another form to learn it really effectively.
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.
Next step Use your highlighted passages as the basis for flashcards or for self-testing.
Warning 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.
This is always a pleasure, especially if somebody else pays. Nice new pens, highlighters, cards, notebooks – they can all be useful.
Next step Use the stationery to help you learn, otherwise it’s yet another excuse for procrastination.
Warning 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.
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. You can make your own flashcards for free here.
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.
Warning 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 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.
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.
Warning Some students just don’t find mindmaps very useful. They can also get confusing if they’re very complicated.
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?
Next step If the book has tests and past exam questions for practise, use them.
Warning 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.