It has widely been discredited as an effective revision method for the majority of us, and yet still come revision time all we can think to do is take a pile of books, a large notepad, and just read through a year’s work, taking notes until we have a mental breakdown sometime around 3am. We all have terrible experiences of this , and many of the world’s great geniuses past and present agree with us that this is not a good way to create or remember anything. Jay-Z, modern genius author to such era defining tunes as ‘’03 Bonnie & Clyde’, for example, never writes his rhymes down before entering the recording studio, preferring instead to keep his ‘memory muscles’ honed. And on the most extreme end of things, serial inventor Yoshiko Nakamatsu (holder of 3,000 patents including one for the floppy disk) finds that his best ideas come when he is seconds away from death by drowning.
Whilst we definitely don’t recommend getting a friend to hold your head underwater to help you remember key dates or statistics, hopefully these examples show that you have to find a method that suits you when it comes to revision. It doesn’t have to be drowning, but equally it shouldn’t just be drowning in books. Without wishing to sound like those awful motivational speakers that tour round sixth forms, many of us are more visual or creative learners, which means we have to be more crafty with our revision; that is, both cleverer and literally more crafty, using our best artistic mindsets to create learning aids that we really remember.
It is easy to find your creative revision style. Just think about what you’d rather be doing than revising, and see if that can be made revision themed. If you’re a huge music fan for example, why not try making a song about from that long stream of facts you need to memorise. Although the evidence that music helps you learn is mixed at best , this takes a new spin on it by making the music part of the revision itself.
This is particularly effective if you choose to base it upon a hugely popular song - that way every time you hear that song played on the radio you’re getting an impromptu revision session. This may feel like a stupid thing to do, but your brain is far likely to remember a piece of information if it can attach to something it already knows rather than having to learn something cold. So learn anatomy with Ariana Grande, court cases with Calvin Harris or statistics with Sam Smith.
Or for our visual learners, our bloggers, scrapbookers or Tumblr-ers, variations of these can be incredibly powerful memory tools. Try writing a blog about your topic as if you were explaining it to someone who knows nothing about it. This is a great way to order your thoughts into their most coherent possible order ready for the exam. Or create some sort of visual collage, either online or on paper to solidify your knowledge, featuring images, key facts and brief pieces of information in patterns primed for later recall. A friend, for example, remembers key political acts by assigning them with images of pets in Halloween costumes, and delights in recalling, for example, the Human Rights Act (1998) as ‘dog in spider costume’.
Whatever it is you love doing creatively, be it recording podcast, making YouTube videos, designing posters, this can be adapted to your revision, not only making it more fun, but actually being far more effective than cramming. Plus, you’ll never hear Iggy Azalea’s ‘Fancy’ the same way after you use it to ace your exams.
Useful Links Planning Your Postgrad Revision
Postgrad Tips for Working Out While You Work
Organising Your Day
Developing Your Skills