Not sure how to start revising? Steal this plan from Grace

09 May 2019,
By Grace R., Student at Oxford Brookes University

Revising for summer exams can be quite confusing. How, exactly, should you tackle the content? I went in search of the most popular planning and practical revision tips to see how they worked out for my flatmates and friends.

Most people, by the time they reach university, have experienced exams across GCSEs and A-Levels and they know what works for them. So, if you know what revision method works best for you, stick to it!

But if you’ve never found that magic method, that special technique that you can rely on each time, this one’s for you.

But if you’ve never found that magic method, that special technique that you can rely on each time, this one’s for you.

Here are the things my friends and I do to make exam revision easier and more effective.

Create a detailed list of everything you need to know

One of the most common tips was to start as early as possible when prepping for exams. The more time you have to prepare, the more likely you will be to remember the detail.

When beginning to revise, it is best to formulate a plan that makes it clear what you need to revise, when, and in what detail.

  1. Find the module syllabus
    Make a detailed list of everything that might come up in the exam. The more detailed the better. I do this in a simple spreadsheet.
  2. Create columns named Notes, Flashcards, and Understanding
    As you finish your notes, and then your flashcards, mark them as complete so you can easily see what you have left. It is very satisfying ticking them off as you complete them!
  3. Colour-code your level of understanding
    Colour each aspect of the syllabus red, orange, or green to show how well you know the topic. It is a great way of seeing which areas you need to focus more of your time on. By the time of your exam, all sections should (hopefully!) be green.

How I make a revision schedule

A weekly plan for me may look something like this

Once you have created a detailed spreadsheet of what you need to remember, it is time to create a revision schedule. I like to make ‘big goals’ for the month, but then create weekly plans with the detailed structure of each day.

Firstly, put in all of your prior commitments and lectures, and then fill the gaps with revision time. Doing this means you no longer have to waste time thinking about what you should be revising, you can just sit down and get to work!

My revision process: The upside-down pyramid

What works best for me? Writing down all my notes initially and then reading over them daily. Once I understand my notes, I create flashcards with the most important information on them and use these to test my knowledge of the details. I have two piles of flash cards: one for the things I understand; and one for those I do not. I then focus on those which I don’t understand fully and work through them until I do.

If an aspect of the module is particularly difficult, I create mind maps with key words and put them up on my wall so that I can constantly refer back to them. It’s like revising without even doing anything! In the week before an exam, I work on exam technique and applying what I know to the structure of exam questions. To start, I go through past papers with my notes open so that, if I am unsure, I can refer to them to create a ‘perfect’ answer. This is a great way of consolidating information as you practise your exam technique. As I grow more confident, I do past papers without the aid of my notes to simulate what it will be like in the exam.

Here’s what my revision process looks like:

How my student friends tackle revision

I also asked some of my friends what works best for them when revising. Here’s what they said.

“I remember all my information by creating mind maps with lots of key details needed for each aspect of my exam and then practice lots of past exam questions!” -- Jack

“I lived and breathed Quizlet. I spent the three months before my exams creating flashcards for all of my exams and learnt the content off by heart. I definitely did as well as I did because of it.” -- Gabriella

“Me and my friends have revision evenings in the library together and teach each other topics. It makes revision a little more fun and it really helps you to remember the facts when teaching to someone else.” -- Emily

From me and my friends, best of luck for your revision and exams this summer!

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But if you’ve never found that magic method, that special technique that you can rely on each time, this one’s for you.
By Grace R.
Student at Oxford Brookes University