Everyone dreads revision. It exists to be despised. But there comes a time (or several times) in everyone's life when you have to do it to get where you want to in life.
Motivating yourself to revise is one of the toughest things you have to do at school. To make it worse, there is no immediate benefit: You have to sit there for hours on end, going through endless, illegible notes (most of which are probably incomplete) for an exam that is still some time away, and to get results that won't matter until months after you have sat the exam.
The fact is, though, that the exams do matter. The results do matter. Revision does matter. Now, we don't want to scare you (as one of the best ways to revise is to relax). But at least if you really put your mind to the revision, and then don't do as well as you expected, at least you will know you have given it your best. Otherwise, you may regret it for the rest of your life!
Remember also that everyone is on your side. If you need help, ask a teacher, ask your friends or your parents. It is also good to go to all the revision classes at school, even if you think you know it already!
Let the tips begin!
1. Plan ahead
Before you do any work, sit down and plan what you are going to do between now and the exams. It is often a good idea to revise the areas you find most difficult first - get them out of the way and build your confidence in the subject. Creating a timetable is always useful.
2. Make summary notes
Gather all your material for the topic area and reduce them into brief, clear notes. Then summarise those, and then again and again until you only need a few keywords to remind you of the whole topic! (The S-cool! summary revision notes are a good place to start). You can then carry around a sheet with all the keywords wherever you go.
An effective way to make sure you remember certain things is to invent mnemonics. For example, Peter Went For His Early Morning Jog or MR E RING.
3. Understand how your memory works
Some of us are better at remembering things than others. However, here is a trick that should help...
If you learn something new, in general it will already start fading in your mind after a few hours (unless it is particularly exciting). However, if you revise it again in the next four hours, it will take about 24 hours before it starts to fade. Revise it in the 24 hour period and it will last for four days, then one and a half weeks, then one month, and so on.
By setting out your revision schedule to make the most of this (learn something, revise it again after a few hours, revise it again in the next couple of days, and so on) you will be using the way your memory works to your advantage!
4. Put aside specific hours in the day for revision
If you set aside the hours in the day you are going to revise, and let everyone else know what these are, you can make sure you are not disturbed. You can then get into a 'revision pattern' - where your mind expects to be revising and is therefore more receptive to the material.
5. Try not to revise more than two subjects a day
Don't feel that you need to revise a whole topic in one go. As well as keeping a fresh head, going back the next day to finish revising the topic will renew your knowledge and hopefully help you retain the information for longer.
6. Eat properly
While you are using up energy revising it is important to eat properly so that your body and your mind are fit and ready for the exams. Fish, eggs and milk are high in protein which is used by your brain. But you will need energy as well. Nuts and bananas will are good sources for this (chocolate is another good source of energy, but the effects of eating a bar of chocolate last far less than eating, for instance, a banana).
7. Take lots of breaks
Your mind will only be able to concentrate well for short periods of time - the first 15 minutes of revision are thought to be the best. Make sure you stop for a few minutes every 30 minutes or so. During your break, a good thing to do is to sit back for a few minutes, close your eyes, relax, and just think about the things you have just learnt.
8. Use diagrams
Visual stimulus is very important when trying to stay focussed on your study. Colourful pictures and writing will help you stay motivated to learn and also keep the material in your head for longer.
9. Test yourself
Or, get someone else to! Ask them if they can flick through your notes and ask you some questions. If you can't answer any of their selection, note the topic down so you can re-learn it after.
10. Revise for "you"
You will probably hear your friends boasting about "how little revision they did last night" - and if you admit you have been revising you have fears of being the Swot of the class. In fact, however, your friends are probably working just as hard as you. In any case, you know how much you need to revise so just do it, and don't worry about what the people around you are doing. Everyone will get what they deserve in the end...
11. Get hold of some past exam papers
If you ask, your teacher should be happy to get hold of some recent past papers for you to look at and check your knowledge against. If not, then at least put you in touch with your exam board. Study the papers and familiarise yourself with its layout and the types of questions asked.
12. Get into the habit of planning your answers in rough
When you read the questions, underline and circle the key words to help your understanding of it. Then draw a quick (but detailed) spider diagram, listing all the important stuff to include in your answer. Finally, stop avoiding that awkward first paragraph! Focus and get on with it, writing as quickly as you can without it becoming illegible.
13. Try to sleep well
It can be very difficult to sleep in the periods leading up to the exams. The trick here is not to worry about it and get into a routine. Don't go to bed too early if you are worried about getting to sleep - it does not help. Instead relax before going to bed (the S-cool! trick is to have a cup of camomile tea which is a natural way of making you relax).
14. Don't do any work the evening before your exams
If you really can not resist then carry around some summary notes (see point 1) and glance at them now and then just to keep your confidence high. But really, trust us. If you have given the max until now then you will not learn anything you don't already know in the last evening. The extra marks you will get through having a relaxed mind will more than offset those few extra marks you get from the tiny extra amount you can learn in one night.