R is for rubbish... and revision

Do yourself a favour this year and skip all the revision tips from so-called "experts". You'd be better off using the time to knuckle down to some serious work
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The Independent Online

People in education who float uneasily on a sea of acronyms will not appreciate another batch being chucked into the water. However, 25 years of teaching and research have left me only too well aware of what will be done in the name of revision during this peak period, and if inventing a suitably obscure vocabulary makes it more likely that someone will start taking revision seriously as a research subject, then the following might serve. No names, no pack drill, but the quotes are all taken from currently used revision material. Proof on file.

People in education who float uneasily on a sea of acronyms will not appreciate another batch being chucked into the water. However, 25 years of teaching and research have left me only too well aware of what will be done in the name of revision during this peak period, and if inventing a suitably obscure vocabulary makes it more likely that someone will start taking revision seriously as a research subject, then the following might serve. No names, no pack drill, but the quotes are all taken from currently used revision material. Proof on file.

MD: the Mysteriously Definite: This group includes statements which the author has found to be true, to such an extent that the humble reader is not to be allowed to share in the deliberations involved. "Revision periods should be no longer than one hour." Resisting for the moment the ominous Cinderella/pumpkin-like undertones, doesn't this rather depend on (a) what kind of revision is being done; (b) the concentration span of the person involved; and (c) the environment in which the person is revising?

"The best time to revise is the morning." The above factors also apply to the question of when it is best to revise, but a discouraging note is also sounded for people concerned with getting up, eating breakfast, going to school etc., in the mornings, i.e. the vast majority of the student population.

STOP: State The Obvious Patronisingly: This could easily fill the rest of the article, but a sample should suffice. "Don't try to study lying on your bed. You are more likely to sleep than study." "Read the instructions at the head of your paper." "Start examination days with a good breakfast even if you do not feel hungry." "If you know what you're looking for, you're more likely to find it."

STOPIC: Stating the Obvious Patronisingly In Capitals: A sub-species of the above, such as a useful tip for exam-taking: "STAY UNTIL THE END", or for making notes: "your notes should have important parts CATCHING THE EYE".

AP: the Astonishingly Pretentious: Perhaps a "self-evaluation" exercise, part of which requires the student to evaluate "self-image as a reader" and "self-image as a writer", as well as his or her "certainty/uncertainty about goals". My own favourite is the "chart showing the flexible approach to book use", a mind-boggling assembly of diamonds and squares linked with lines, the meaning and use of which is beyond the comprehension of normal mortals.

AD: Acid Drops: "Make a list of: (a) all the work-avoiding tactics that you employ". Enough said. Or, in the same genre: "Under-achievers - work to avoid punishment and embarrassment".

HI: the Hopelessly Impractical: Leading the field here (but by no means alone in it) is a scheme for dividing the day into 15-minute bits, according to a letter code which includes such items as 'd for day-dreaming', 'rec for playing records' and 's for "sleeping including dozing"'. 'Cs for consensual sex' and 'gl for going to the loo' are not included. Apart from the obvious point that life is just not that predictable and we'd probably all hang ourselves if it was, what is the timetable supposed to achieve?

Of course, much of the revision material used in schools is useful and relevant, including some of the other items in the material quoted above. But an appalling amount of tosh seems to have become mixed up in it, and the sooner we establish a reputable research niche for examination revision, the sooner we will know what we're talking about rather than spending quite so much time blundering about in the dark.

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