Saving the students: 10 effective last minute revision tips

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Welcome again to another blog post.

As most students and parents or carers already know dooms day…. I mean the exam period is almost upon us.

So I thought that it would be helpful, for me to write up the top ten most effective last minute revision tips that have worked for me as a student, and what I have used in my seven year teaching career to help students who left most of their studying too late.

Disclaimer: I am no way saying that following these ten tips exactly will make one turn from an E grade hopeful to an overnight A* big head, I am saying that these tips have worked for myself and for many of my students before. Of course everyone is different and learns differently, so try them out and see if they are effective for you!

Tip 1: START NOW!

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A lot of students do not use the time they have before their exam (regardless if its months, weeks or a few hours) properly. Most students I have taught have this idea that they must first be organised and buy all the revision books, have their class notes ready, get their coursework finished and out of the way and have a revision planner or diary that is perfectly colour coded to death on how they will use every minute of their days. Now I am not saying that being organised does not help, but the more time that is spent preparing instead of actually DOING, is time wasted which you won’t get back. So my best tip is to just start NOW, and as you go along you can make your revision plan or tweak it, because life does throw some unexpected situations at you. And when you start it would most likely be a painful and awkward time, with questions like, “I don’t know anything?!” or “when did we ever learn this in class!?” but keep at it and you will get into a good routine that will help to build your knowledge and confidence.

In addition to that, research generally shows that the earlier learning or revision is started the higher the grades in which the students tend to get in their exams, so start NOW there is no earlier that.

Tip 2: Remove ALL distractions

Psychologists recognise three types of memory systems used by the human brain: 1) short term memory, 2) working memory and 3) long term memory. Ideally during our studying we want the most of our learning to go into our long term memory so that this information can survive until (and hopefully beyond) our exams and that we can recall back quicker and more accurately. However working memory is very important as that is the system we use when we are immediately learning or doing something.

This memory system co-ordinates where this new information will go. So your studying environment is critical. Due to the fact that any outside stimulus that is not our studying material will make our learning go from the working memory into our short term memory or worse to becoming completely lost. So things such as our mobile phone, laptop, music, your overly friendly pet dog, loud family members, the TV have to be gone or at least out of your reach during your studying. If you know that you will grab your mobile phone from that top shelf that you struggled up to put it there, then give away those distracting items to trusted family members or friends.

Tell them that this will distract you and for them only to return these things to you after you have completed all your studying for the day, or what I did after I finished all of my studying (which was three months without my Nintendo gameboy advance and my desktop computer- still to this day I don’t know how my mother hid my huge tank of a desktop computer!) And make sure it is someone who will not be swayed by a chocolate bar or bribed by you doing their chores for a week or money in an early exchange for your distracting possessions, be strict on yourself now it will help you in the future.

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Tip 3: Use effective memorising techniques

There is no way around this tip or no easy short cut to do well in your exams you mist memorise the contents, facts and information or skills that you will be tested on. Simply just reading your textbook or notes is not the best way. Some ways that are proven to be effective are to:

  • Make funny or interesting associations so for example if you want to know what the difference between a cation (positive ion) or an anion (negative ion) is then you can think of a cats face and how it makes you happy, so that you remember cation is positive! Or if you have a date in history to remember see if it reminds you of something you like such as your mums birthday or when England won the world cup! Another example is in chemistry the acronym OIL RIG: O= oxidation I = is L= loss (of electrons) R= reduction I= is G= gain (of electrons).
  • Read your notes three or four time then cover them and write them out again on a fresh sheet of paper, then compare and see how much you correctly remembered this is a fantastic revision technique that keeps more information in your long term memory.
  • Teach someone, or talk to yourself about what you learnt. Make a poster and stick it in your room or over your mirror so that you look at it multiple times a day. Make a song and sing it to yourself that way you will remember it for longer, the more silly or personable the better you will remember this information.
  • And lastly make cue cards and take them with you everywhere, so when you have some free time such as waiting for the bus, or waiting for your takeaway pizza you can refresh some of your subjects, do this EVERY TIME you have a few minutes that you have spare and it will add up throughout your day.

Tip 4:Tell your family and friends

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It is really important that you use your family and friends as support in these mentally taxing times, tell your family clearly that you doing some serious revision, and when your exams are. This is so that they can better support you, for example by delegating your chores to another sibling, regularly checking up on you to see if you are revising properly, , making sure your study area is quiet and tidy or they can watch out which exams are coming up so that they can wake you up or ensure you sleep early. Please do not be one of those people who has to blast it out every eight minutes how you are studying and then spend more time advertising that fact than actually studying or laughing at some of your friends Facebook profile pictures.

Tip 5: Record yourself and listen to it

If you have a lot of information to cover, or your subject is very theory based, then a great way to remember these huge amounts of information is to record yourself. Have your notes in front of you or a text book that you like and understand and read it out loud and at a good speed, make sure your pronunciation is clear. Then instead of listening to music when you are travelling to school or cleaning up your room listen to that recording. Also listen to it just before you go to bed as that is the best time to absorb information and you will retain this information far better in the morning than if you just spent your bedtime scrolling through Instagram memes when you told everyone you are asleep. Yes I see you!

Tip 6: Take short breaks

There is a large body of research that shows taking short breaks after intense studying actually improves your long term learning and memory. So lets say after every hour of GOOD QUALITY studying is done, take a ten minute break, and when I say ten minutes I MEAN TEN MINUTES, not ten minutes turning into a three hour netflix marathon or the best two hour nap of your life.

Set an alarm for that ten minute break or ask your family members or friends to start your break time and end it too. During your break its best to look at greenery or nature, so take a short walk, or do some push ups or sit ups and then get back to studying. Doing active things like that in your short breaks helps to reduce eye stress and helps to get your heart rate up slightly so that you are alert, which then puts you in a better position to keep your concentration for longer.

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Tip 7: Find or make the right environment

This is similar to the distractions tip, but the area in which you study in is of great importance. Make sure that you are studying on a proper desk, not your bed or in the living room with your siblings playing Overwatch or call of duty loudly. Have a well lit environment and tidy, so that you can see your work and so that it is not so dim or dark that you feel like going to sleep. Have it at a good temperature so that you feel comfortable and with as little noise as possible. I highly recommend that you keep one area that is your revision spot, and have all of your books, notes, revision guides and stationary or equipment that you need there so that you do not have to run around grabbing this and that which can lead to distractions. I found that having my study base in the same area really helped to focus better on my revision and aided me to getting some quality learning done.

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Tip 8: Stick little notes EVERYWHERE

Visual reminders are effective in helping to get you to see and repeat over and over again the key points that you will be tested on. For example some students found it very helpful writing definitions of important keywords or formulas that they will have to use and then stick them around the house or around their study area. So stick them in places that you know you will visit often throughout the day, NOT in the basement or the shed! Sticking some on the fridge, bathroom mirror, wardrobe, around your bed or head board of you bed etc are great areas as you will visit them more than once a day so you will be reading and looking at these notes again and again which is great as the more you repeat a piece of information the more likely that it will stay in your long term memory.

Tip 9: Do lots of past exam papers

This is one of the best and most effective revision tips, and all of the students I have ever taught the ones who I saw complete lots of exam papers compared to the ones who done a few or none at all was astounding! The students who spent time completing many exam papers and checking them or marking them on average went up by three grades (e.g from a D grade to an A grade) compared to their mock exam results, than just one grade by the students who did not do this (e.g. C to B). And the reason for this huge difference is simple, practice makes perfect. Different exam boards present questions differently, so it is best to get yourself familiar. Also by doing exam papers you can cover most of the subject content, whilst learning it at the same time, don’t be disheartened after doing your first few papers and you get a low or a poor grade, as you do more you will gradually improve. The best thing about doing past papers is that you can also see which areas of the subject you are weaker at or what types of questions you are not getting the marks in. That way you can better focus your time on these areas of weakness and thus have rapid improvement in a shorter period of time. Do exam papers following the time limit and check your answers afterwards, and mark yourself fairly do not give yourself 4/5 when in reality the way you answered that question is 0/5.

Tip 10: Pack and organise your bag the night before your exam

This may seem like an obvious tip, but you will be amazed by how deeply it can affect students. Some of the students that I know personally who have not done this simple bit of organisation had such chaotic time and stress in their exam. So to avoid all this stress check your timetable to make sure you know exactly which exam or exams you have the next day, then pack your bag accordingly, make sure you take only the stationary or equipment that you need, there is no point having such a heavy bag. Take a few short key notes or cue cards so that you can do some last minute revision before going in your exam. Take water with you and some fruit or food that will give your body and brain the boost of energy it needs. I personally used to take bananas with me and found eating it about 15 minutes before my exam really helped to make me more alert and awake. Maybe a cereal bar works for or some mango slices? Try to avoid taking or eating sweets, candy or chocolate as these will just give a temporary short boost of energy and then a crash later so you will crave more or worse feel very hungry.

Having your bag ready with some revision material, some food and drink and your needed equipment just helps to take off any extra and unwanted stress on that day, it helps to keep your mind focused on what is important which is your exam that unnecessary things such as if your have your calculator or you are feeling thirsty in the exam, which can again lead to distractions or stress which really limits how much information you will remember for your test.

So those are my best and most effective tips for last minute revision. Of course not all of them may be what suits you or your learning style. However I would say from my own experience of using these tips and sharing these tips with my students they have proven successful if you are yourself dedicated, motivated and consistent. At the end of the day you have to sit and complete the exam no one can do your exam for you. So be positive and have confidence in yourself, take these steps and just think about and imagine a few months later opening that envelope on your results day and seeing the grades that you want or were dreaming of and that wonderful feeling of joy that you will share with your friends and family. I am going to be honest revision is not fun, but put in the hard work now, even if you feel that you have left it too late or that you do not have enough time, remember start NOW, doing something is better than doing nothing and then having regrets.

I wish all the best to the students who are sitting exams, and I wish that they have as less stress possible during exam time.

I would love to know what revision or studying tips really worked for you, I am interested in learning new methods myself and hopefully sharing it with my students.

Miss Moga

*Please note that none of the used pictures are mine nor have I made them, if they belong to you and you would not like them being used on my blog please contact me and I will remove them.

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