My Revision Tips

Taking heavy, essay-based subjects, I’ve had to learn how best to revise – this year is especially hard because for English Lit, I have a closed-book exam. If you don’t know, this means I have to know two novels and a collection of short stories inside-out, memorise a variety of versatile quotes and know the exact structure and sequence of everything within the stories.

Our teachers have this idea that if we simply read the books enough times, then we’ll have somehow magically memorised them. I’m pretty sure that only works if you have an eidetic memory. Me and a friend are spending much of our revision time making our own revision guides, kind of like the ones you buy, but the benefit of doing it yourself means you can put in exactly what’s relevant to you and your course and get rid of the other stuff.

I don’t think giving advice about my course in particular would help anyone, especially with the changes to education happening at the moment, because my course doubtless won’t exist next year. But the revision tips will still hold.

Obviously there’s the old method: flashcards/index cards. I have tried this, but it can take a really long time to do this. If you have the time to go through every topic you have and make a card for each set of key words or subtopic, or whatever it is, then that’s great. But what I found was I’d have enough time to get them written down, but then I’d have no time to look at my cards to revise from them. If that happens, you’re then just stuck with a load of cards you’re never going to read again that didn’t really benefit you; by the time you’ve written the last card, you’ll have forgotten the contents of the first.

If you go on Microsoft Word (I use this as an example because it’s what I use), they actually have template designs which I’m finding increasingly useful. Most of these I’ve never used, but the Report Design (Blank) is a staple. If you’re picky and English like me, you’ll have to change the language at the bottom from English (US) to English (UK), or you’ll start wondering why it’s trying to tell you ‘travelling’ only has one ‘l’. On this template, though, it gives you a good framework for writing a structured guide. It has a neat way of numbering topics according to your heading (screenshot, right).

The screenshot is one of the texts I’m doing this year, and I’ve got 15 pages on this revision guide. Surprisingly, it didn’t take me too long, which is a good thing. Once you’ve printed one of these you always have a concise, tailor-made guide of everything you need to get you through the exam, and you can annotate it/highlight it/read it or whatever. Much faster than index cards.

Another tip is to use Audible, or another method of listening to audiobooks. It’s a great way of saving time while still learning the content of the novel, but in a different way to the conventional method of actually re-reading a text. Plenty of people prefer listening to books than actually reading them, and I tend to do a bit of both. Put it on at night before you go to sleep, if you want. Anything helps.

When it comes to my other subjects, history and geography, then pictorial and colourful guides are what I find most useful. Detailed timelines are great for history, but writing concise summaries or important details about different events as they’re listed instead of simply names of battles etc. Having the image of the sequence in which events occur is sometimes equally as helpful as having the knowledge about what happened. In geography, if you can visit the places and features you’re studying (as I did in Iceland), then that’s a brilliant method. If not, then try to find them on google images – the cheap way!

If any of this was helpful, I’m glad – I just hope it makes some sense… I would try to give advice regarding science/maths, but it’s been a year and a half since I studied any of them. I doubt it’d be helpful! See you on Sunday…

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