Education: It's never too late to mug up on excuses: Lost your notes? Exam coming up? Don't worry. Follow these hints by Jonathan Sale on avoiding revision, and you, too, can be an unqualified success

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The Independent Online
There is absolutely no point in revising. Everyone knows that. By 'everyone' I mean everyone who, left with one precious weekend before the first exam, decides on Saturday morning to stay in bed rather than get up and open a textbook.

With two of my three children facing the Big E, I am becoming an expert in reasons why revision is a no-go area in a young person's life. There ought to be a GCSE in 'Avoiding Revision': candidates, if they bothered to turn up for the exam, would be required to look out of the window for 90 minutes, or less if they felt like it, while twiddling with the volume control of their personal stereos.

I know where they get it from. Hey kids, I've been here, too] O-level, A-level, scholarship exams: you name it, I've not revised for it.

My university tripos was slightly different: I revised hard, but had omitted to do the vital groundwork in the previous three years. ('It says here, you can get a 2:1 in English on a total of six weeks' work,' said a friend of mine happily, waving an article from the student paper as our finals loomed. 'Yes,' I said, 'you wrote it.' (Annoyingly, in his case he turned out to be right.)

For those who are new to the world of revision, here are 20 excuses that you can cut out and stick on your wall next to the Nirvana poster.

1. You know the subject so well that further study is unnecessary. In fact, consulting a reference book would merely cause confusion, thus causing you to drop a grade or two.

2. You are so ignorant of the subject that the paper in question has become a lost cause. Further consideration of it would be throwing good money after bad, which would hinder you from steaming ahead with your strong subjects (assuming you have any).

3. It is too early to start revising. No one wants to peak too soon. You are quite old enough to know when the vibes are right to really go for it.

4. It is too late to start revising. Why did no one - parents, teachers, education pages of newspapers - tell you to get your academic act together? You are too young to handle this trip by yourself.

5. Relax. The important thing at this stage is not to become bogged down in detail, but to keep your mind clear. The inside of your mind is, in fact, so clear that it contains vast spaces of emptiness uncorrupted by information.

6. There now, look what they've done. Your parents, teachers and education correspondents have nagged so much you're far too worried to concentrate. It's their fault you will get an E instead of a C.

7. Exams are irrelevant anyway. When Winston Churchill took the Harrow entrance paper, all he could write down was his name; still, he got that right and didn't he do well? No one wants to know your history marks when you go for a decent job, such as stand-in Midnite Hour DJ on Radio Essex.

8. Exams are irrelevant (Part II). Life is more a matter of continuous assessment than examinations. Preferably, it is a matter of no assessment at all. The only people who need qualifications are hospital doctors, who take so many exams they practically have to answer a paper on 'Retirement Studies' before they can hang up their stethoscopes for good. No one is bothered by an N in Economics A- level when you are applying to be deputy fashion editor on Scallywag magazine.

9. Exams are irrelevant (Part III). Knowledge is something you dial up, not lumber your own brain cells with. Think information technology. Should you need to know the foreign policy of Louis XIV, you can call it up on a CD-Rom disc or virtual reality headset. Not that you will need to know anyway, when you are assistant PR person for the chief hairdresser of The Word. The day they start a GCSE on the guitar solos of Primal Scream will be the day you run happily into an examination room.

10. Your notes are so good you have it all wrapped up. No more work is necessary. You have written on one page of A4 all the crucial points, each of which is the trigger for a stylish dissertation on whatever the examiner throws at you.

11. Your notes are so hopeless that there is no point in revising at all. They are either a jungle of scribbles, or have been distilled so much that, instead of containing the essence of the subject, they state merely 'Ammonia - not to be sniffed at', or 'Modern politics - a lot of it about'.

Apology. I was supposed to provide 20 excuses, but this is as far as I got in the time. Also, I lost my notes. And I never did my homework in the first place.

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