REVISION: SOME TIPS AND HOW THE LIBRARY CAN HELP YOU
DON’T PANIC! (thank you, Douglas Adams – good advice for boys as well as galactic hitchhikers)
GET THE TIMING RIGHT Research has shown that the best period for recall and understanding is 20‐60 minutes, so work in chunks of time – not too short and not too long. Don’t spend too long on one topic; if you switch studying between ideas, go back over them in different orders and think about the links between them, it will help your recollection. Take regular short breaks – even if you feel it’s going well. Recall dips a long way in the middle of a longer session – with breaks, you get more beginnings and endings and more recall. After a learning period, review time is essential to allow your brain to integrate all the things you’ve learned and to transfer them from short‐term into long‐term memory. If you have a short break, recall from the section just studied will increase and your brain will be more ready to learn in the next session. To boost your recall even further, do a quick review of what you have read at the end of the session – maybe by flicking through the flashcards you’ve made or drawing an outline diagram, or just stretching out with your eyes closed and running over it in your mind. STAY HEALTHY Resist the temptation to use fizzy or energy drinks or coffee to keep you focussed – take breaks and get some fresh air instead Don’t have too much sugary stuff – you’ll get a rush of energy and then a crash. Have fruit or nuts instead. Drink plenty of water. Get enough sleep, especially the night before the exam. If you’re wound up, take an hour to chill before bed – have a bath, read a favourite story or watch something relaxing (but don’t start shooting aliens in a game! it’s too exciting). TFF
BE PREPARED You can’t revise things that aren’t there. So take time to make sure that none of your notes are missing. Ask a teacher or friend to help you fill any gaps. Make sure you have all your pens and anything else you need for your exams ready the night before. REMEMBER, IT’S YOU THAT MATTERS Don’t take any notice of friends who say they have done loads on one topic, or none on another. You know what you need to do and which topics you need to work most on. Listen to your teachers, but make up your own mind about what you need to do, and the best way for you to do it. Use the strategies which suit you; we don’t all learn in the same way so try a few of these ideas and see what works best, or use a combination of two or more things. Most of us respond well to visual techniques, and benefit from using colour, shapes, patterns and mindmaps for revision notes: in the exam, close your eyes and visualise the page as an image. Write or highlight notes in different coloured pens, add patterns, symbols and doodles, or turn information into a comic strip, infographic, timeline or sketch. Some people respond well to auditory clues (sounds), so if this is you, try playing a specific piece of music when revising a topic, and “replaying” the tune will trigger your memory. (Don’t hum in the exam!) Say things aloud when revising, or record yourself and play it back later. Try chanting lists in a rhythm, or even making up a rap or poem. There are also those who remember the movements they made when learning something, and they may benefit from being active when revising – this can mean moving about, but can also TFF
mean cutting up revision notes to make a jigsaw and practising putting it back together until you can do it in your head in the exam, or using plasticine to make a 3D image of something you are trying to learn. USE BOTH HALVES OF YOUR BRAIN Allan Ajifo CC-BY-2.0
Although different parts of the brain are responsible for different functions, research has shown that they don’t work independently of each other; there’s no such thing as a right‐brained or left‐brained person: the right side of your brain is traditionally thought of as the “creative” side, responsible for visual and spatial understanding (rhythm, colour, patterns); the left side is associated with logic and responsible for language, numbers, lists, analysis, association. If you can use both sides of the brain together when you learn, it will be most effective. HELP YOUR BRAIN TO STORE AND RECALL INFORMATION You need to store information but more importantly, you need to be able to recall it when you need to. Your brain is programmed to remember: the first and last things it encounters in a learning session things which are associated or linked things which are outstanding, exaggerated, humorous or unique TFF
things which appeal to your senses things which appeal to your interests patterns and sequences The ideas which follow are all things which work for people – try a few and see which work for you. You may find that some work for you in some subjects, but others are better elsewhere. USE MINDMAPS
Vitaly Kolesnik (CC BY‐NC‐SA 2.0)
Start with the central idea or topic and radiate out. Use keywords for key areas – like chapter headings – and then sub‐ topics. Use colours to code and emphasise. Use images to stimulate creativity in your brain and create associations. Vary text size, width of lines. Use arrows and other links to show connections and create movement. Use symbols to code related items. Use numbers if you need to remember things in order. Don’t worry if it gets messy! TFF
USE MNEMONICS These are words, pictures, sequences and other things which help you recall information. You can use: sentences (Never Eat Shredded Wheat – compass points in order) – rhythm helps poems (Thirty days hath September, April, June and November....) shapes and pictures (a dromedary’s hump is like a letter D; a Bactrian camel’s is a B) stories, especially if they make you smile (a French chicken says “oeuf” when she lays an egg; a Spanish one says “huevo” – like heave‐ho) acrostics and acronyms, using key or initial words to spell out another one (SMART targets are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time‐based) These all act as triggers and links between the two halves of your brain, and between new and old information stored, working with your brain’s strengths. You can make up your own mnemonics using your own imagination – make them as silly as you like! USE SEQUENCES Number labels on a diagram, or arrange them alphabetically. USE “LOOK, COVER, WRITE, CHECK” Just as you used it for spellings in primary school, you can use it now – especially for lists, verb endings, vocabulary, formulae. You can use a similar technique to learn the labels for a diagram, by filling them in on a blank version. Or you can write or sketch what you can remember about a topic. Don’t forget to check that you’ve got it right!
USE FLASHCARDS AND JIGSAWS You can make flashcards with headings on one side and details on the other. Use colour, images, etc to make them stick in your memory. Handy to carry with you. You can make online flashcards too: there are free websites and apps which allow you to make the “cards” on your computer and access them via the web: if you have a smartphone you can use them on that too. USE TEACHING If you can explain something to someone else, then you know it! Get someone to test you or just use them as a sounding board. Or set each other quizzes – some websites which help you do this are listed below. REPEAT Aim to review and repeat a topic several times – ideally five – at regular intervals. The more you go over it – even if it’s just a quick reminder – the more your brain will link it to other information and fix it in your memory.
WEB TOOLS TO TRY There are links to all of these and more on the Library’s Revision and Exams page on Firefly: http://intranet.rgs‐guildford.co.uk/skills‐for‐learning/revision‐and‐exams Some of these sites are for age 13+ only; if you are too young, be sure to talk to your parents first as they will have to create an account for you to use. Flashcards – include the ability to view on a phone app www.cramberry.net www.quizlet.com Revision Games and self‐testing www.getrevising.co.uk – make cards, quizzes, wordsearches or even podcasts for free. https://bubbl.us – mindmapping
FURTHER READING & BIBLIOGRAPHY Buzan, Tony. 2003. Mind maps for kids: the shortcut to success at school. London: HarperThorsons. Buzan, Tony. 2007. The Buzan Study Skills Handbook. Harlow: BBC Active. Cherry, Kendra. 2018. "Left Brain vs. Right Brain Dominance: The Surprising Truth." Verywell. Accessed April 16, 2018. https://www.verywell.com/left‐brain‐vs‐right‐brain‐2795005. Cottrell, Stella. 2006. The Exam Skills Handbook : achieving peak performance. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Darvill, Andy. "Revision tips." Andy Darvill's Science Site. Accessed April 16, 2018. http://www.darvill.clara.net/revtips.htm. Smith, Megan, et al. The Learning Scientists. Accessed April 16, 2018. http://www.learningscientists.org.