Exam revision techniques
Tried and tested exam revision techniques, such as mnemonics and revision cards, to help you prepare for your exams.
Revision can be tough. But if you're prepared and approach it methodically, it doesn't have to be a difficult task. This page outlines several different revision techniques to make your exam revision more manageable.
The best advice is to start early. Attend your lectures and classes, keep extensive up-to-date notes and complete any reading or work you must do in enough time. This will give you the foundational knowledge along with effective notes that you need to elevate your revision.
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- How to revise for exams
Not all revision strategies work for everyone, and many people like to find the techniques that suit them. To do this, get to know your learning style by assessing your strengths and weaknesses and work out which of the corresponding strategies suit you.
Note that even though you may have a specific learning style, any of the following techniques might work for you. It’s always worth giving different strategies a go to see which is best.
Auditory – do you learn well through hearing information or speaking information aloud, such as through recordings and group discussions? Revision strategies that might be suitable include:
- Studying with others
- Recording yourself reading notes and listening back
Kinesthetic – do you learn best via practical strategies, such as personal experiences and simulations? Try revision strategies such as:
- Revision cards
- Turning information into diagrams
- Learning different things when walking to various environments
Reading and writing – if you find processing written information the easiest, such as through reading or writing exercises, revision strategies that work well could be:
- Reading textbooks
- Using flashcards
- Rewriting notes by hand
Visual – if you find it easiest to learn through visual information, such as diagrams, pictures, maps and charts, revision techniques could be:
- Colour-coding notes
- Turning information into flowcharts
- Using flashcards
Below we cover some of the best ways to revise for exams, including:
- Study buddies
- Be the teacher
- Past papers
- Exam practice
- Memory strategies
- Revision cards
When revising with other students, you can help each other to understand different topics. Studying in a group can be a great motivator when you look out for and encourage each other.
Often, each member of the group will have different strengths – for example, you may be able to help a fellow student get to grips with the topic they're struggling with that you find pretty simple, and vice versa. And by discussing questions from past papers, you can see how people approach the problem from a different perspective.
Be the teacher
Often known as the 'protégé effect', teaching someone else topics that you know can help you solidify your understanding. As a teacher, you have to know the subject more than your student does. This technique demands you identify gaps in your knowledge so that you can clearly explain to your 'student' what the topic is all about and answer any of their questions.
Even if you don't have someone to teach, you can prepare and practice as if you do.
Previous exam papers should be available from your department tutors. You can read through these to understand what kind of questions you're likely to see in an exam and prepare accordingly. In addition, if you compare papers from over the years, you might see patterns in the kind of questions that come up, giving you a good idea of what to expect on exam day.
How long will the exam be? How many questions will you have to answer? What are examiners looking for in your work? Get to know exactly what happens on the day of the exam (by asking tutors or students who've previously sat it), so you can avoid any unwanted surprises.
When you know what to expect, recreate the exam scenario and practice sitting it. Answer past paper questions in the amount of time you'll have on the day, and don't be tempted to look at your notes or use the internet. This will test you and help you see which areas you find most difficult and need to work on.
When revising, test yourself to see how much you remember about a topic by covering a section of your notes and writing down everything you can remember. Anything that you missed or wrote incorrectly you can spend time learning about again.
A mnemonic is another memory strategy to help you remember details. You can create your own mnemonic that's based around a phrase or an acronym. A classic example is using the first letter of each word in the phrase "Richard of York Gave Battle In Vain" to remember each of the colours of the rainbow: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo and Violet.
Another example is "How I wish I could calculate pi". By counting the letters within each word, you have the first seven digits of pi (3.141592). How = 3, I = 1, wish = 4, and so on.
Flashcards help you memorise what you need to know for your exams. Write down on a set of cards the information you're revising, such as names, dates and definitions. Use coloured pens and drawings if you like. A5-sized cards are good as they’re compact enough to carry around.
This is a good method when revising case studies for subjects like law and business. You can write a name on one side of the card and the details of the case study on the reverse. Test yourself by only looking at the 'name' side and see how much you can remember before turning it over and checking.
Similarly, you could create Q&A revision cards to test what you can remember. Write down a question on one side of a notecard and the answer on the flip side. Get a friend, fellow student or family member to test you by reading out randomly selected questions from your stack of cards that you must then answer. Anything you can't remember, you can spend time learning again.
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- Exam revision tips