The exams you’re dreading are fast approaching (sorry). But are you actually revising effectively or are you wasting your time? Are you revising at all yet? Are you reading this to procrastinate from the revision you should be doing?
Lots of psychological research has shown us what is and isn’t helpful when revising, so here are our top tips for exam season.
Look after yourself
It’s so basic. Get enough sleep. Exercise. Eat healthily and regularly. All the things that your mum probably nags you about. If you don’t do these things, then how can you expect to be on top form when you’re revising?
“exercise reduces feelings of stress and anxiety”
In particular, studies have shown that students who skipped breakfast couldn’t recall as much information or couldn’t concentrate as well as those who didn’t.
Also, importantly, extensive research shows that exercise reduces feelings of stress and anxiety, which could be distracting you from your work.
Ditch the music
Unfortunately, research has shown that listening to music during revision reduces how much information you can remember.
Of course, it can drown out the evil individuals who talk in the library (you know who you are) but if you’re like me, realistically you spend more time choosing which song to play next than you do actually working.
Interestingly, studies have implied that extroverts, the social butterflies who are more comfortable surrounded by other people, are not affected by music as much as introverts, the quieter, less outgoing individuals. Saying this, listening to music still doesn’t seem to help revision in any way.
Lose your phone
Turn it off and put it away. Get your flat-mate to hide it. Leave it at home and revise somewhere far away from it. Anything to stop yourself from using it.
“Phones are a huge distraction from revision”
It can’t come as a surprise that phones are a HUGE distraction from revision. One study showed that even just the sight of a phone was enough to ruin a person’s focus.
As much as you may want to text your mates back about your weird flat-mate, or who got off with who at TP last night, you’re going against the science. It’s painfully clear. Studies have shown that the uni students who used their phones more got worse grades than students who didn’t.
How else are you going to work out what you don’t know yet? It’s one of the revision tips with the most research behind it.
Think of a way to test what you know. Make a worksheet for yourself and photocopy it as many times as you want, then answer it every day before your exam. Write out flashcards with a question on one side and the answer on the other. Read them until you can get all the questions right. Do all the past papers you can!
“Test yourself… it’s one of the revision tips with the most research behind it”
Teach someone else
You can’t teach someone anything if you haven’t understood it yourself.
Use this as an excuse to go for coffee with your pals, and teach each other parts of the syllabus that you have a hunch will come up in the exam. You could even make a game of it – be creative!
Stop using highlighters?
Here’s a surprising one. Lots of research has shown that using highlighters can actually hinder your revision.
Effective revision is supposedly about being able to make links between information you have learnt. If you think about it, you can’t properly understand facts in isolation, you have to know the context, how things work and why they’re important etc etc.
Highlighters do the opposite of this, they single out words or phrases, and because of this they apparently reduce the chance that you can recall the information.
If you’re going to take anything from this article let it be this: don’t cram all your revision the night before your exam!
It’s something that we were told time and time again at school, something we know deep down is never a good idea, but we still for some reason do it anyway.
“don’t cram all your revision the night before your exam!”
The research is really clear that spreading revision out over time, rather than cramming right before an exam, is the most effective way of getting it to stick in your brain. Even if you only do an hour every morning of the holidays, you’re much more likely remember more than cramming the whole syllabus the night before.
So now you know how psychology says you should revise. You’re ready to turn off Netflix, put your phone away and begin re-learning what you didn’t really listen to in those 8.30 lectures. Good luck!
Find this article helpful? Check out ‘Boosting your Brain’ for ideas of exam-season brain foods!