Revising for exams is never the most enjoyable part of any course of study. However, these 7 revision tips will help you organise your learning better, make life far less stressful and give you a mindset for success:
1. Organise and chunk down
Effective revision involves and includes effective use of time. You’re studying to a deadline, after all, and deadlines are successfully met through clear and careful organisation and by allocating the right resources and amount of time to each stage of the job.
So, plan your study day. Download one of the daily or weekly study planners from The Organised Student and allocate chunks of time to each revision topic or sub-topic. Your time chunks should reflect your concentration ability; at higher levels of learning you should easily be able to focus and concentrate for between 45 minutes to 2 hours without needing a brain break. Use a productivity timer/app such as Focus Booster to track your use of time.
Plan regular breaks during your study day to hydrate yourself, stretch, snack, get some fresh air and allow your brain to assimilate your learning. 10-15 minutes between each study chunk should be enough, allocate longer (45 minutes to 1 hour) for lunch and dinner breaks. Allocate some ‘Reward’ time in the evening after your study day is complete to relax, unwind and do something non-study related.
2. Turn off your distractions
Yes, your phone does have an ‘off’ button. Use it, and use it wisely! If you have to keep your phone switched on, put it in another room if you’re revising at home so it only distracts you if someone calls. If you’re revising in the library keep your phone in your back, not on the desk in front of you.
Now is not the time to watch videos of cute bats (my favourite!), cats or dogs doing daft things or to suddenly decide your main priority in life is to be a political activist. Ask yourself this question; do you really need to pay attention, and in doing so distract your brain and lose your focus, to a constant stream of ‘someone just did something irrelevant/insignificant/unimportant and needs to share it with the world’ Facebook updates?
Switch off any constant Social Media or email feeds that are on your computer so you can focus just on what’s important and in front of you. Save checking Facebook and Twitter on your phone for during Reward time or, if you’re a member of a study group on Social Media, check and post updates during your break times only.
If you’re not getting enough done and you can’t figure out why, download the Unlocked Learner’s Daily SMARTer Planner and use the ‘Realistic Reflections’ column to help you become aware of how you’re actually spending, or wasting, time.
3. Prioritise your most difficult learning
Start your study day with your most difficult topic(s), not the easiest. Yes, this is counter-intuitive because your effort minimising brain will want to seek out and stick to the easy stuff. However, the topics you understand the least are the ones you need to spend more time on not less.
Allocate the first study chunk of your day to your most challenging topic. If even looking at the content fills you with dread, close your eyes, take 3 long deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth and repeat the positive learning mantra in tip 7, below. Review your class notes first, then progress to covering small chunks of the material you need to learn, preferably using multisensory strategies – see tip 5.
After completing the first study chunk of the day on your most challenging topic, take a break, then allocate the next study chunk in your day to an easier topic.
4. Hydrate your brain
Your brain is made up of 77-78% water. Hence, it needs water to function properly. If you regularly get headaches, feel tired and/or struggle to focus, you’re probably dehydrated.
Your baseline hydration intake should be 1 litre per 25 kg of body weight so aim to drink as much of that amount as possible. Herbal tea and watered down fruit juice can count towards that intake. However, caffeinated drinks such as coffee and tea as well as so-called ‘energy’ drinks or anything else containing chemical sugars cause dehydration. They also give you a short-term sugar-fuelled energy boost which creates an energy slump later on, leaving you feeling tired and drained.
If you know you don’t drink enough water, use an app such as WaterMinder to set reminders during your study breaks. Or, if you have an iPhone, tell Siri to remind you to drink water at certain times of day.
If you don’t like drinking plain water, chop some fruit or cucumber into small pieces and add that to the bottom of your glass then top up with fresh water. If you’re reading this thinking, “it’s OK, I already buy flavoured water”, bear in mind that many commercially flavoured waters contain incredibly high levels of sugar usually in the form of chemical sugar substitutes, along with other ingredients that are actually toxic to the human body.
5. Replace read-repeat rote-learning with multisensory strategies
Read-repeat rote-learning study strategies are, at best, boring. Applying visual, auditory and/or kinaesthetic learning approaches will make your study sessions more interactive and creative. You may even start to enjoy and have fun with your revision, and brain will love you for it which means it’ll remember more!
If read-repeat rote-learning strategies are the only way you know how to learn, click here or scroll down to fill in the form below to get immediate access to the totally free ‘Guide to Multisensory Memorization Strategies that work!’
6. Maintain a positive mindset
We get in life what we focus on. Simple as that.
If you’re constantly repeating to yourself statements such as “I’m going to fail”, “what if I fail?”, “I’ll never learn this”, “I’ll never pass this exam” then your focus is on failing the exam and failing to learn enough to be able to pass the exam; in other words, you have a failure mindset.
So, change your focus. Start repeating positive statements to yourself. Imagine yourself on the other side of the exam having passed it. Even having it passed it with a great result. Develop and maintain a positive, success mindset.
7. Repeat the mantra
To help with number 6, above, before you start your study day stand in front of your desk/study space, place your hands on your heart and take 3 long deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. If you can, make each inhalation and exhalation last for a count of 5.
As you’re inhaling repeat to yourself “I will learn as much as I can in the time I have”; as you exhale imagine yourself on the other side of the exam, having passed it. Repeat this mantra 3 times, moving your emphasis and focus onto different words in the mantra as follows: “I will learn as much as I can in the time I have”, “I will learn as much as I can in the time I have”, “I will learn as much as I can in the time I have”.
If, at any point during your study day, thoughts of failure start to creep back into your mind, or you start to feel anxiety or panic rising in you, stop what you’re doing and repeat the breathing and the mantra above.
I wish you all the very best of success with your revision.
If you have any other great revision tips that you’d like to share, comment below or post them to the Unlocked Learner’s Facebook page.