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Have I left it too late to revise? - Exams

Smart Studying Tips & Advice

f you have left starting your revision until the very last minute you will need to prioritise. You will need to decide on your key subjects and main topics and focus on them. 

Some learning/revising is always possible, no matter how little time you think you have left, it is always possible to learn something! Make good use of the time you have left and only focus upon what is possible and ‘do-able’. There is no point in wasting time moaning about what you haven’t done and what you should’ve done. 

Revise at speed. Pick the important topics, revise and move on and quickly brainstorm the next topic. Focus on the key areas and centre your attention on a smaller variety of topic areas but understand them well. 

Revision seems like a simple thing but many of us fall into common traps when trying to get it right. Revision should be an ongoing process and in an ideal world you should plan to go over your notes several times a year. As a result, when you reach revision time of year you will be merely refreshing your memory rather than feeling like you are re-learning the hard work from throughout the academic year. It’s very easy to fill a page with highlighted words and sentences but this does not mean that you are understanding it. Planning to revise throughout the year is admirable and logical – however, old material can be deemed boring, hard work and time consuming.  

Good revision notes are quite personal. Whilst some favour long lists of dates, facts and topics, others prefer coloured mind maps, mnemonics and doodles. What you prefer is not important; what is, is that the notes are thorough, comprehensive and tailored to you and the style of the exam which you are going to take. When you create your revision notes, try and get into the habit of creating a summary too. These are mini sections that contain all of the important things you need to know. Your notes are something very personal to you, so do not feel the urge to compare yours to your friends – we all learn differently so your notes will likely look different to your fellow students. The summary is something accessible and more instantly digestible than your overall revision notes. 

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Tailor your notes to what works for you best. Some work better with bland lists of text, whilst others need colour and images to learn more effectively. Others can prefer even more unusual mediums such as recording information and playing it back as MP4 files on an iPod or in the car whilst travelling. 

It is important to mention that creating the notes in the first place is actually the real start of your revision. That is why shop-bought revision guides are less effective learning tools and cannot be substitutes for good first-hand notes taken at the point of learning the topics. Highlighting text takes very little brainpower, whereas paraphrasing and thinking through topics and writing down sentences and paragraphs can help you work out the areas that you need to spend more time working on. Copying, pasting and highlighting do not help you learn in the same way. Never forget, no one is going to scrutinise or judge your revision notes. They aren’t going to be published as you aren’t writing a textbook.  

Whereas writing your notes in your own way is fine, testing yourself one way and one way only is not a good idea. You have to test yourself in a variety of ways. Remember back when you were learning your timetables or vocabulary for a foreign language? You generally learned lists and sometimes you were not learning the words or answers but merely just the order. If you read revision notes in the same way and always in the same order, the same could happen. Use a variety of friends and family to test you, as everyone will have a slightly different technique and order of testing you and you will learn from a different perspective.

Still need help? We've also got some exam preparation tips for you to make the most of the time you have left. If you're a student at MidKent College, you can contact student support services for individual help and advice.

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