Another wonderful ‘teen voice’ blog, this time written for us by 18-year-old Lucy. It’s so useful to see things from a teenage perspective, and when it comes to the controversial subject of revision, it sometimes helps to hear advice from a peer rather than a parent! So a big thank you to Lucy for her top 5 tips on how to revise.
Advice on exam revision
Exam revision is not fun, no matter how you do it. It’s a pretty obvious statement, but the sooner I accepted that harsh reality my attitude towards it improved, and naturally my grades did too.
“The best students not only work hard but they also work smart.”
As you get further along in your school career, exam revision gets more and more important. I think a common theme you see in any school year is that the students who haven’t revised begin to struggle. In my experience, the saying ‘hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard’ is very acute in regards to exam revision – but there is a caveat. If you take revising to mean reading through a textbook and highlighting the odd sentence, or making pretty flashcards only to look at them five minutes before the exam, you can be doing a lot of hours of revision and still not do very well come exam season, despite feeling like you have done a lot of hard work.
The best students not only work hard but they also work smart. There are a few tips and tricks that helped me to revolutionise the way I revised. They helped me not only do more effective revision but to cope with knuckling down and doing the hard work.
1. Learn the exam spec
The number one tip I would give to any student revising for GCSEs or A-Levels would be to learn the specification back to back. When you know exactly what you need to know, the giant textbooks and 1000’s of pages of notes you have made over the last 2-3 years seem a lot less daunting. I always found knowing where to start was one of the hardest things with revision and the specification breaks up the subjects very nicely.
Methodically going through the specification and thinking about which topics you are good/not good on can help you divide up how much time you should spend doing what. Once you know what you ought to be spending your time revising, you can focus on actually doing the revision itself. It may seem like a lot of fuss to a teenage brain which just wants to skip to the revision itself to feel more productive (I know that’s all I ever wanted to do). But you only need to do it once to see the benefits and it will become an integral part of any future revision.
2. Ask for help
Another tip that I would give is to ask teachers for individual help at any chance you get. With my A-Levels, I struggled with maths revision in particular, until I asked my teacher if there was any time he had free in his week to go over some techniques I couldn’t quite remember. In about five minutes he managed to explain to me three things which I had tried to work out from the textbook for at least an hour each. It can be a little embarrassing to ask for extra help, but it is so worth it that once you start doing it you simply don’t care!
It can save so much time that it really is one of the smartest ways that you can revise, and what you’ll often find is that teachers will jump at the opportunity to give you extra help. Teachers tend to care about their students and want them to do well. In the digital age in which we live it has never been easier to send them an essay plan or answer you’d like them to check. It should end in a lot better grades and happier teachers, not to mention less frustrated parents trying to explain the stuff they learnt decades ago (probably using a different technique to the one taught now).
3. Plan your breaks carefully
Something unorthodox that I picked up when doing revision for my exams was picking a Netflix comfort show to watch when you are scheduled for a break. There are loads of 20 minute Netflix comedies that I have watched over and over that helped me completely take my mind off of the work before I was ready to start again. I found that for me, 20 minutes was the perfect amount of time, and because I had watched the episodes before I wasn’t wondering what would happen next when I was halfway through a new topic.
How much work you do and how often you do it should obviously be tailored to the student. But finding a routine as I did, that helps you do as much quality revision as you can, is definitely something to be thought about. Nobody is going to be able to do five hours of good quality revision with no breaks. Stopping anytime you feel bored or like you’ve earned it rather than planning your breaks can be a recipe for disaster.
My mum loves to tell her stories of how I would say I was going upstairs to do some revision, only to come back down ten minutes later thinking I had done at least an hour. Timing how long you’re working and breaking was so important for me personally, that I would urge others to try and find a routine for them that works as well as this one did for me.
4. Get outside once a day
Another tip that helped me to deal with the workload of exam revision was making sure I got outside and went on a walk for at least 30 minutes a day.
If you haven’t already heard the science behind how good this is for your mental health, it will amaze you. The fresh air, light exercise and vitamin D was a life-saver when on study leave. It provides you with a new environment to help you free your mind from the stress of exams and the monotony of going back and forth from where you take your breaks to your desk. Again, it may not seem to be of much use to a lazy teenage brain already overrun with having to deal with exams and their life beyond school, but I found it to be so worth 30 minutes of the day that I would always advise making time for it.
5. Work together
My final tip would be to allocate at least some time during your revision to doing it with a friend or parent. Teaching someone new to the subject is proven to be a great way to revise a topic, as in order to explain it you must properly understand it yourself. Flashcards were a great thing to do at the end of the day when I was too bored and tired to do any more revision on my own. I spent many hours with my parents/friends getting them to quiz me on small facts like names and dates that I had to learn. By the time I actually sat my exams I think they knew more of it than I did!
Doing some of your revision with someone else is great because it also takes away that sense of loneliness that can come with revising on your own all day/night. You can even make games up and, if you are as competitive as I am when there’s something you can win, you’re even more likely to try and remember what’s on the card for the next time you play.
“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” – Albert Einstein
Thank you so much, Lucy for this great advice on exam revision. It’s great to hear how you worked it all out. If you’re currently revising, then good luck – we wish you the very best in your exams!
Louise & Anna x
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