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Revision Strategies

Revision is as much a fact of student life as Fresher’s flu or there being at least one student wearing pyjamas in your 9am lecture!

Despite this, it always seems to manage to creep up and leave you wondering how on earth you’re meant to do it…

Well, have no fear, because we’ve compiled a handy guide of tips and tricks to give you some essential revision strategies and help you make the most of your revision time and ultimately ace your exams.


Use the right exam revision strategy

Revision strategiesTo begin with you need to work out the best exam revision strategy for you.

There’s very little point in spending weeks using one method, only to find you barely remember anything, when you could have spent that time being efficient and revising thoroughly.

So, with that in mind – if any of these revision strategies don’t sound like they’d help, don’t do them and use ones that do!

Also, make sure you take a look at our general exam tips. These can apply to anyone, with any style of learning.

What kind of learner are you?

The easiest way to work out which revision strategies will work for you is to work out what kind of learner you are.

Some universities have tests you can take, but if yours doesn’t, think about how you remember things.

Audio-based learner – are you terrible at remembering written words but know the lyrics to a new song after hearing it once? You’re probably an audio-based learner.

Writing-based learner – do you forget anything you hear in a lecture but the reading the textbook makes it easy? It’s best for you to use written revision strategies then.

Visual learner – do pictures help you remember things? Try visual learning methods.

Kinaesthetic – What about walking round, using hand gestures, being involved in something (like experiments). Then you’ll likely be kinaesthetic.

This is of course a brief overview, and you may find a few of these helpful, or none – in which case, think about how you learn best and use what works for you.

Of course, before you start revising properly, you need to make sure you're in the right frame of mind.

Style-specific revision tips

Here are the different styles of revision in greater detail.

Audio revision strategies

  1. Associate certain music with certain topics and stick to it. This way you’ll have a sound ‘trigger’ to get you in the right frame of mind.
  2. Rewrite the lyrics to your favourite song to be about your revision topic.
  3. Record yourself (or get a friend with a lovely voice to do it!) reading your notes aloud, and then listen to them walking to university, cleaning, cooking, or doing any other activity you want to do!

Visual revision strategies

  1. Flash cards – write the question on one side, and the answers on the other. See how many you can learn, and maybe even get a friend to quiz you.
  2. Associate things with images, or diagrams. Even a flowchart of an answer can stick in your mind better than just text, sometimes.
  3. Use colour-coded notes.

Written revision strategies

  1. Write, write and rewrite your notes. See how concise you can make them whilst still retaining all the information.
  2. Flash cards – they’re efficient for both writing and visual learners.
  3. Handwrite your notes. Often, it’s the act of writing itself that can help with memory, typing doesn’t always have the same effect.

Kinaesthetic revision strategies

  1. Revise whilst doing something else – walk around your room, doodle or hold a conversation with yourself.
  2. Alternate where you learn – perhaps associate certain locations to certain topics.
  3. Make things – diagrams or models. Ensuring you are active is the best way to learn if this is your learning style!

Use your exam revision time efficiently

Now you’ve figured out your most effective exam revision strategies, you need to be able to utilise them to their fullest extent. Don’t make the same mistake a lot of students do and think that cramming for 24 hours straight is the best way!

Breaks are important too, and you need to find your optimum work-to-break ratio. For many people, this’ll be around 40 minutes work to 20 minutes break. Doing this will help keep your mind active, and you won’t end up reading the same sentence four times without noticing.

Make a revision timetable that incorporates these breaks, but don’t spend too much time making it. You don’t want to spend weeks designing the best revision timetable but then only spend a day actually following it! Do enough that you have a plan to stick to, and then stop procrastinating (yes, we all do it) and get on revising.

Tips to help your revise productively

Here are some tips to help make sure you get the most out of your revision.

Don’t spend too much time on something you already know

Now, here’s a very important and serious tip: don’t trick yourself into revising what you already know. Yes, it’s rewarding to feel like you’re succeeding at revision, and perhaps allow yourself an hour or two a day to go back over what you’re confident at already, but don’t only do this.

You want to find the subjects you’re not sure of and get better at them. One good way to do this is to look at past examples and find the questions you think you’d struggle to tackle, and then revise around that.

Allocate your time effectively

While it may seem old-fashioned, writing out a revision timetable for yourself and allocating blocks of time each day to the revision and assignments which are due will help you to settle in and get some real work done.

One of the biggest problems postgraduates commonly come across is having too much time in which to complete assignments; leaving everything to the last minute is a common symptom of this problem and can result in handing in work which does not reflect your best efforts, just because of lack of time. For this reason, it's important to set realistic goals for yourself, and to plan your day with blocks of time suited to each project you must complete.

Reward hard work

There's nothing worse than feeling like work is getting on top of you, so make sure to give yourself the occasional break. If you've just finished a monstrous assignment, or worked your way through your least favourite topic, be sure to treat yourself.

Whether this is a bar of chocolate, a meet up with a friend, a walk around the block or a more extravagant option altogether. Treats are important to positively reinforce the habit of working and will enable you to enjoy it more! They’re also good for your overall student wellbeing.

Ditch bad habits

Do you tend to wake up late in the day and go to bed in the early hours of the morning? Do you study while watching TV? Do you type your notes, and intersperse work with copious social media binges? Ditching these seemingly innocent habits can save you unbelievable amounts of time during your study sessions.

Focussing entirely on work during your allocated time will make you much more productive, and you'll really feel like you're getting things done! After you've worked solidly for a few hours, you will have no trouble watching a few episodes of your favourite show or catching up with social media while ditching the guilt that comes with glancing between your notes and your distractions.

Strike a balance

Studying as a postgraduate can give you a fantastic opportunity to really shine as a student, so be sure to make the most of it by striking a balance between your studies and your social life.

The work you do at this point in your life can make or break your future career, but although its importance cannot be overstated, nobody can survive completely buried in the books for too long without having some fun!


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