Revision is not something that should be challenging or difficult. However it is time consuming and for those unused to it can be daunting at first.
Before you begin...
Create good conditions to study in. Find a quiet place to study and keep the background noise to a minimum.
Have everything you need to do your revision to hand so you can settle into it without having to stop to find any equipment or books.
Doing your revision
Active or Passive Revision?
Active revision means involving your eyes, ears and hands in a variety of ways. Revising actively is the best way to make sense of the material you are revising and also helps you to remember it.
Passive revision involves reading through your notes and books. Do not rely on this method alone, you will get bored.
Active methods of revision include writing revision notes, reading notes aloud, recording key points onto you phone and listening back to them, discussing topics with a friend, testing yourself, getting others to test you, rewriting notes, trying past examination papers and using revision websites.
Revise with examinations in mind
Get hold of the syllabus for each subject from your teachers and then use this as a the basis for organising your revision. For each subject make sure you know how many papers you have to sit, how long each paper is and when the examinations are. Practice under examination conditions with past papers.
About revision timetables
There are many good reasons for using revision timetables.
- to avoid a last minute rush before the examination;
- to set up a routine and discipline yourself;
- to share revision time between subjects;
- to keep up with your revision;
- to spread out your revision;
- to get the right balance between revision and leisure time;
- to avoid wasting time trying to decide what to do for each session.
Where do I start?
Start by making a topic checklist for each subject. We have created one which you can download. You do not have to revise this list in the order it is written, it can help boost your confidence if you begin with a topic you feel more confident in and then move on to a topic you are less confident in. After each revision session tick off the topic from your checklist. This will help you to see the progress you are making.
Organising revision sessions
Organising your time
Set a definite time when you will start and finish each revision session. Keep your revision sessions to a reasonable length. Between 1 and 3 hours is about right.
Most people are more alert in the morning so try working on difficult topics in the morning when your mind is fresh.
If you are going to listen to music while you revise, play it at a low volume and choose something that will not distract you.
Improving your concentration
If you find it difficult to concentrate for long periods of time, start with short sessions and gradually build up to longer sessions.
Make sure you have regular breaks. A good guide is for every hour you work, have a break of 10 minutes. Get up and walk away from your desk. Get a drink and/or a snack to keep you alert.
Get plenty of rest. Teenagers need between 8 - 9.5 hours sleep a night.
It is very helpful to vary the topic or subject during each revision session. Even switching your revision method can help to keep your concentration.
Clear your desk or the space you are working in of everything but the relevant materials and equipment so it is free from things that may distract you.
Give yourself something to look forward to or some kind of reward after a revision session.
Sitting the examinations
The night before
Only attempt to do light revision using your revision notes and try not to do any totally new revision.
Get all of the equipment you need for the examination ready the night before. Pack your bag and make sure your uniform is all laid out or hanging where you can easily find it. This will help to avoid rushing and searching for things first thing in the morning.
Try to get a good night's sleep.
On the day
Get up with plenty of time.
When you leave home make sure you have got all of the things you may need for the examination.
Try to get to school early, so that you are not rushing in and then straight to the examination.
Ease yourself gently into the examination and resist the temptation to start answering the first question immediately.
Do not worry about your classmates who may already be writing and only think of yourself and how you can best perform in this paper.
If necessary take a couple of minutes to write down anything you are afraid of forgetting.
If you have a tendency to freeze in examinations or someone who finds that your mind goes blank, it may be better for you to start writing as quickly as possible so that you can get your ideas flowing.
Read the instructions carefully
Read the whole paper through carefully, noting all the instructions about the number and choice of questions.
If you have a choice of questions, select and mark those questions you feel confident that you will be able to answer well.
Decide on your question order then start by answering the questions you know you can answer well. This gives you more time to think about the difficult questions and boosts your confidence.
Budget your time
Always take a watch in with you.
Before the examination, work out roughly how much time you can devote to each question or section. This will depend on: how much time you have for the whole examination, the total number of questions, the type and difficulty of each question and the marks given to each question.
Do not fall into the trap of spending the most time trying to answer the questions about which you know very little.
Tackle the questions
Read every questions at least twice, picking out the key words.
Think about the question and analyse it before you get into your answer.
Get a sense of how long and detailed an answer is expected.
For essay-type questions outline the main points you intend to include in your answer. Without an outline you are likely to stray from the point or forget important points.
Remember to stick to what the question is asking, and if you feel you are getting a little lost refer back to the question to make sure.
Coping with stress
Talk about it
Think about the people you know who will listen to you and talk to them. Listeners can be friends, family, teachers or others.
Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of maturity and strength that you realise when you are having difficulties and to feel confident enough to share those difficulties with others.
Take time out to have fun
During the revision period make sure you give your self some time to do the things you enjoy. Do the things that relax you and take your mind off your studies.
Do some exercise
One of the best ways of dealing with stress is to exercise. It will relax and calm your muscles as well as helping to clear your mind.
Exercise provides a way of releasing a great deal of muscle tension which stress produces.
Thinking you may fail drains away your confidence, makes you worry more and makes you less enthusiastic about working hard.
Do not tell yourself things like "I'm useless at this subject" or "I haven't got enough time to revise properly". Replace this unhelpful thinking with statements like "This subject is difficult but I have had difficult subjects before and understood them" or "I can get my revision done in time when I plan a proper revision timetable".
Relax your muscles
Start by tensing and then relaxing the muscles around the head, face, neck and shoulders. Then work down your body tensing and relaxing your arms, hands, chest, back, stomach, hips, legs and feet.
Eating well reduces the overall stress on the body and can also make you feel good about yourself. Try eating a variety of foods.
Use breathing techniques
Here is a step-by-step approach to helping you relax:
- Sit comfortably and close your eyes.
- Breathe in slowly through your nose to the count of ten.
- Hold this breath while you count to ten again.
- Now let out your breath while you count to ten once more.
- Repeat this three times.
You can use this technique at any time you feel nervous, such as on examination days.
Use mental imagery
Mental imagery is a bit like a day dream and can help you relax your mind.
Start by getting yourself comfortable. Close your eyes and start to breath deeply, concentrating all the time on your breathing.
Now form a picture in your mind of a pleasant scene such as a tropical island, a valley, a woodland area. Try to include smells and sounds.
Explore the scene and enjoy the surroundings. When you are ready, slowly open your eyes.