There are many ways in which students choose to study for exams, some revision techniques have been around for years and years. Re-reading notes, summarising, creating diagrams, keyword association, getting buried in piles of post-it notes and highlighting copious amounts of text are just some of the commonly used revision techniques students turn to in the hope they will be able to remember vital pieces of information come exam day.
The big question is… do these exam revision techniques actually work? Firstly it is important to point out there is a difference between memorising something temporarily and learning with the intention to commit to long term memory. Under the pressure of impending exams students often resort to exam revision techniques that rely on short term memorisation, which although useful at times, do not always produce the desired results. In order to retain the information over the longer term, students must commit to learning the subject matter, embedding it into their minds using more refined techniques. Take a look below for some top tips to get you started.
Practise over and over, it’s an obvious one, but the fact is repetitive learning actually works. Repetitive self-testing is particularly good, especially when using things like flashcards or challenging yourself to write down everything you know on a blank piece of paper. These methods work by forcing the brain to recall material on the spot, mimicking exam conditions and preventing the mind from wandering while identifying any obvious knowledge gaps.
Everyone knows it is not a good idea to leave study to the last minute, exams are stressful enough without adding to the pressure by being disorganised. Creating a revision timetable is a good way to ensure an even distribution of study time leading up to exams, spreading study sessions over a good period of time allowing the opportunity to revisit the material periodically will aid retention.
Revisit Previous Exam Papers
Usually readily available on request, past exam papers are not only a good way to have a practise run through, they will often follow a very similar format to the real thing, enabling you to get a feel for the types of questions likely to be asked. However keep in mind there is the possibility new exams may differ greatly from the past, only use as a complementary form of study and revision in conjunction with other techniques.
Build On Existing Knowledge
Merging or connecting new information with existing knowledge is also a useful study technique. Use what you know to form the basis of what you don’t know, elaborating on study topics stimulates the learning process, enabling a deeper understanding helping commit the information to memory.
Research has repeatedly shown taking regular study breaks can actually increase revision efficiency. The body needs time to relax and recoup, ready for the next session. Exercise is also an important factor, physical activity increases blood circulation, carrying extra oxygen to the brain, reducing sleepiness and helping counteract the effects of stress.
When looking for study techniques keep in mind applying a one-size-fits-all approach is not always going to work, different learning styles suit different types of people, not everyone is going to respond well to visual aids and some may find it essential to add in a listening component. Finding what works for you personally is the best place to start when revising for exams. Good luck!