Top revision techniques to help you pass your exams
Effective revision is crucial if you want to perform well in your exams.
Below is an outline of some revision techniques you should consider using when studying.
Many of these revision techniques can be explored in further detail on this website.
Read our post about the purpose of revision.
Mind maps feature in most students’ revision tool kits.
- Help you remember information
- Allow you to see an entire topic at a glance
- Are fun and easy to create
You benefit from the process of creating the mind map and from regularly revisiting the finished result.
Read our post about how to create and use mind maps.
Timelines are an effective method to help you revise events or information that can be sorted into a chronological sequence.
- Help you remember the information more easily
- Allow you to see the bigger picture more clearly
- Help you understand a topic
You benefit from the process of creating the timeline and from regularly revisiting the finished result.
Read our post about how to create and use timelines.
Spice up your revision schedule by revising with some friends.
Working with others can make your revision more interesting and provides the opportunity for you to test and help each other.
Keep groups to a maximum of around five carefully chosen people.
Read our post on study groups to learn more about the benefits and drawbacks of this technique.
Flashcards are a great tool to revise vocabulary, keywords and other subject information.
The key term or question goes on one side of the card whilst the answer or description goes on the back.
This allows you to both learn and keep a check on how much information you can remember.
Read our post about flashcards to learn how to create and use them effectively.
One the one hand it’s probably a good idea to re-read your class notes as it may have been months since you last studied that topic.
On the other hand, you need to understand that re-reading your notes is not a very effective revision tool when used in isolation.
For this reason, just reading notes shouldn’t be the main focus of your revision efforts.
Read our post about this and other ineffective revision techniques and mistakes.
There are several memory techniques that can be really effective when revising.
- Visual mnemonics (creating an image to help you remember information)
- Word mnemonics (associating the information with a single word or phrase)
- Memory journeys (remembering by associating items to landmarks within a well known journey)
These techniques work because they are based on the understanding of how your brain and memory works.
Read our post on memory techniques to understand each of these in more detail.
Distributed practice means revisiting material multiple times, over the space of many days and weeks.
Working this way complements how our memory works and is far more effective than intense revision in a short period of time.
Use distributed practice with all of the techniques you decide to use.
Read our post about how your memory works to understand why distributed practice works.
Read our post about creating a revision timetable (to organise your distributed practice)
Summary notes (index cards)
Summary notes are rewritten condensed versions of your regular notes.
Summarising your notes will:
- Help to ensure you understand them
- Help you to remember them
- Give you useful notes to use with other revision techniques
Lots of students like to use index cards for their summary notes.
Read our post about summary notes to learn more about this technique.
This is a classic tip that still has some merit if you are struggling to remember certain key terms or other information.
Write the information onto sticky notes and place them in prominent places you visit around your home.
Hopefully, the daily reminder will help you remember a few of them.
Create a song
Isn’t it amazing that you can remember song lyrics for years.
This might not be for everyone, but singing can help you to remember and recall information for your exams.
Now, you obviously can’t create a song for everything you need to remember, but it might work for a bit of information that you are really struggling with.
This revision technique is similar to that of sticky notes except instead of visual reminders you use audio reminders.
Record yourself talking about key terms, dates or other important information and then repeatedly play it back.
It’s a great way to make use of periods of time that might otherwise be unsuitable for revision, e.g. your journeys.
Teach other people
Teaching others what you know is an effective way to revise and reinforce your learning.
It requires you to organise your knowledge in a new way, which is great for your memory and recall.
You could teach other students as part of a study group, or just find a suitable family member.
Good revision cannot just be a passive experience, you need to regularly test yourself.
You need to make sure that you are remembering and understanding the information correctly.
As well as the feedback on your progress, testing is also beneficial to the memory process.
Do past papers
To prepare properly for your exams you need to test yourself with realistic questions.
The best way to do this is by downloading and completing past papers for your subjects.
Performing well on a past paper will give you some reassurance that you’re on the right track.
If you struggle, use the results to highlight where you need to improve and next focus your efforts.
Prepare model answers
For various reasons it is sometimes possible to predict some of the type of questions you will face in your exams.
Often, these questions also require a typical type of response, with a similar structure to the answer.
With this in mind, spend time preparing what you would include in your answers if such questions do come up.
If the range of possible topics for that type of question is low, prepare a good answer for every possibility.
If the range of topics are high, think more about the structure you must follow to get full marks.
Find arguments for and against
It’s no secret that accessing higher marks will require you to do more than simply recall facts.
Once you are secure in your subject base knowledge, think next about how you may be asked to apply that knowledge.
In order to do this, make sure you can find reasoned arguments for and against an idea or object etc.
YouTube isn’t just the home for annoying content creators, there are also millions of helpful videos on the platform too.
If you are struggling to understand a tricky concept, take a moment to see if there are any help videos available online.
It might be that someone on YouTube explains a topic either better than your teacher can (through visuals and animations etc), or simply from a different perspective that resonates more.
It’s never been easier to be proactive and help yourself.