Planning Your Revision – Study Tips For Students
TIME AND NOTION
The first thing to do when it comes to revising is to make a plan. It is vitally important that you organise a timetable to ensure that all the subjects you need to revise receive adequate attention.
How much time will I need?
Quantify the amount of work required for each subject. You must have some idea of the size of the task in hand before you can divide up your revision time, as some subjects will require more attention than others. Study the syllabus for each subject so that you know exactly what you are supposed to have covered, and get hold of past exam papers. Most important of all, seek advice – if anyone knows what work is involved, your teacher will.
How much time have I got?
Once you have an estimate, measured in hours, of the total time required to complete your revision, work out how much time you can reasonably allocate to covering it, during both term time and holidays. Hopefully, you should end up with a surplus of spare time.
Now you are ready to draw up a timetable. Make sure you allow for breaks. The ideal arrangement is to have short bursts of twenty minutes of concentrated study, followed by five minutes of rest or a complete change of activity. In other words, for every two hours of study, allow for an extra half hour’s break time. Studying in short bursts optimises your learning rate for several reasons.
The feel-fresh factor
If you don’t take regular breaks, your brain will gradually start to switch off through boredom, overload, lethargy or fatigue. It’s like trying to read a long essay that has no full stops or commas. Your brain craves a bit of light and shade to maintain its interest and keep that feel-fresh factor.
Strangely enough, despite the fact that your attention may suddenly switch to feeding the cat or filtering the coffee, your brain actually carries on working by taking stock of all the information that’s just been fed to it. Although you may not be conscious of it, it continues to process, sort and save data, filing it away in your memory banks whilst you’ve got your feet up and are munching on a cream cake.
So don’t feel guilty or think that you’re wasting valuable time by taking breaks; allow your mind some time to “get its breath back” – but not too long!.
How often should I revise a topic?
If you have just been learning a new topic, the simple answer to when you should next review it is immediately; then 24 hours later, one week later, one month later, three months later and so on.
Let’s assume that the subject is biology, and you have just been studying the human respiratory system. Today is 1 January. After a short break, revise by refreshing your memory of the main points.
Afterwards, write down your notes – in the form of Mind Maps or the layout of a familiar location – on the next review date: in this case, 2 January. The following day, go over those same points again,
but this time your new review date will be 9 January. Now switch to a different subject and apply the same format, always adding a new review date at the end of each review session. Box off a section in the corner of your notes specifically for keeping dates.
It is very important to rotate subjects, for example by revising some biology, some geography, some maths and so on. That way you’ll maintain your interest with an element of contrast, rather than stagnating and getting bogged down in one subject.
Keep to your plan!
Having devised your timetable, keep to it! We humans are creatures of habit, which means we all too easily fall into the habit of avoiding tasks by using delaying tactics and allowing distractions.
Creating a timetable is like making a pledge: once you’ve agreed to it, it cannot be broken. Regarding it in this way will help prevent procrastination because you will not allow yourself the alternative of, “Well, never mind, I can always catch up tomorrow.”
You can turn this otherwise negative side of your habitual nature into a positive advantage by developing a study ritual. If you plan to work from 7.30 p.m. till 10 p.m., for example, give yourself a countdown of activity starting, say, from 7 p.m. This could involve doing a crossword, playing computer games or engaging in some form of physical exercise. It doesn’t really matter, as long as it
becomes a routine preamble for studying. I speak from experience. Having an active imagination, I am vulnerable to the lure of distraction
and am not naturally disciplined in the art of “getting down to it”. But I have found a very effective way of overcoming this problem.