If you have an exam coming up, you may find that you are desperately short of time for some vital revision. This is the case for the majority of students and we have all been there. But there are some revision mistakes you can avoid making to ensure your revision is both effective and organized. Here are 8 revision mistakes to avoid and suggestions about what you should do instead.
1. You think that cramming will work
You may think that intensive revision during a long period of time will be effective. It is actually a waste of time and energy. Studying for long hours will tire your brain and there is no guarantee that you will remember the facts in the long term, although in the short term, you might. UCLA researchers have found that cutting back on sleep while studying for long periods of time results in academic performance being negatively affected.
The best thing to do is to build in short revision periods as you learn. This consistency will pay handsome dividends in the long term because it helps to move material from your short term memory into the long term memory. This will make the final revision so much easier.
2. You think that revising with friends is always a good idea
In many countries, studying and revising together with other students is very popular. It may work for some students but the fact is that each student has a different learning style. Some learners are visual learners while others do better with auditory material. Their timetables may not suit you and your capabilities are bound to be different. On the other hand, their perspectives on certain topics may help you discover different viewpoints.
Group work is not always a good idea, but you can profit from it if you do it right. The Open University recommends that you try to teach others in your group what you have learned. It is a great way to test how well you have revised and how effectively you have mastered some concepts, ideas or facts. If you prefer revising alone and find other students’ presence off-putting and distracting, then opt to go solo.
3. You are not familiar with the exam tasks
Many students fail to study carefully the actual questions they may be asked. There may be open essay type questions, multiple choice options or discussion topics, depending on the subject matter. It is always a good idea to download past papers, so that you know what to expect when you get into the exam room.
This is an essential part of a revision plan because you will be focusing on what you actually have to do with the learned material on the day of the test. But you have to revise thoroughly. There is no point in simplay working through loads of past test papers, hoping you might get the same questions. Answering exam questions is not the same as memorizing and revising knowledge.
4. You do not make enough breaks
Some students never make proper breaks during their revision time. They go for hours and think that drinking coffee or even taking study stimulants will keep them going. This is not the best use of their time. Most experts now say that around 40/45 minutes is the ideal study time block. After that you should have a break by going for a walk or doing some stretching exercises or even relaxing with a computer game. Breaks should be about 10 minutes long. But again, remember that individual learning styles can vary.
5. You are not getting the support you need
Many students fail to involve their family members or friends in a supportive way. They do not warn them that they should not be interrupted. They never bother to tell them that their final revision time is precious and that they need a proper diet, regular mealtimes, enough sleep and exercise. The most useful tactic is to get them all involved so that they know your timetable and also know why this exam is so important for you.
You can also ask them at certain times to give you a thorough test of your knowledge by getting them to interrogate you. Show them your notes and ask them to give you the third degree! This may work for you and it also involves your family much more.
6. You have not checked your optimal routine
Everybody says that you should study early in the morning when you are most alert. But this is not true for everyone. You need to make sure that your routine fits in well with your daily circadian rhythms or your sleep-wake cycle. The best solution is to actually find out what might be the best time to revise as some people actually perform better as the day wears on.
Do the BBC quiz here to make sure you are on the right track with your revision schedule. There are also useful revision timetable planners online. Find out about these and see whether they can help you if you have problems in getting your revision time organized.
7. You underestimate the importance of physical exercise
A lot of students actually cut down their exercise regime while revising. This is the worst thing they can do. Your brain is tired but your body is not! In addition, the movement will improve your blood circulation and that means your brain will get more oxygen which will help to improve its performance during this critical time. Always go for a walk or run when your brain starts to get tired.
8. You do not test yourself on a regular basis
I know a lot of students who do not regularly test themselves on what they have learned and do not know whether they have really revised sufficiently. This is a big mistake as reading over notes again and again is just not enough. This is what Ed Cooke, the British memory champion, recommends.
He suggests that students should test themselves at intervals of say, 10 minutes after the first revision, then more tests an hour later and then after a day or two. This is the only way to ensure that the knowledge is stored in your long term memory.
If you avoid the above mistakes, you will be able to revise much more efficiently and save loads of time as well.
Let us know in the comments what techniques you use to make your revision less painful.
Featured photo credit: 272/365 Outdoor Revision/Stuartpilbrow via flickr.com