Testing times for students everywhere

When it comes to revision you should focus on quality over quantity, says Jessica Moore

Jessica Moore
Thursday 07 July 2016 09:33

It's exam season and, while you'd probably rather be out drinking and dancing, there's revision to be done. Self-knowledge is the key to success here. Are you bright-eyed first thing in the morning or do you concentrate better after a lie-in and a hearty breakfast? Does background music help you focus? Do you like to revise in groups?

Jack Oliver, 21, who is studying at UEA,yearns for distraction-free space. "So being at home with six other students is not conducive to work," he says. His campus library gets busy, however: "So I tend to do reading-based revision outdoors and go to the library in the evenings when it's a bit calmer." Find what works for you.

As for a revision plan: "Just getting stuck in is fine," says Peter Langley, founder of GetRevising.co.uk, which provides free online revision tools. But he warns that without careful consideration, "there’s a danger that you won’t balance your time sensibly".

Whether you devise an elaborate, colour-coded schedule or rely on simple lists of aims, Langley stresses that the more realistic your plans are, "the more likely they are to be helpful".

Analyse what you need to cover, setting clear goals for each session and definite times to start and stop working. Remember, one hour's intensive revision is more productive than procrastinating for three.

As for material, revisit your lecture, seminar and reading notes and organise them. This should highlight what you don't know while re-enforcing what you do. Practice papers can also help you prepare and identify gaps in your knowledge. Ultimately, aim to refine each topic to an index card, spider diagram or an alternative aide memoire that works for you.

Note too that revising for university exams is different from A-levels and GCSEs. As Oliver says: "You don't have a teacher or parent on your case, so it's down to you."

Examiners also expect a more complex understanding, looking for creative arguments around a range of debates and concepts. But while the demands may be greater, your focus is narrower. "In a sense, it's easier than revising for a range of subjects at GCSE; you can zone in on one or two topics."

If you're feeling anxious, attend revision classes, ask tutors for support, and talk to a study adviser or university counsellor. It's important to revise well, but it's also crucial to give yourself a break.

Get some exercise, see your friends, eat well, sleep – and keep your eyes on the prize. If you put in the effort now, you'll be dancing at the bar before you know it – this time with a degree under your belt.

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