We cannot guarantee that these will work for you – but they have been helpful to other students in the past. It is usually good to take some advice when planning several months of demanding work, and that is what this is for. Planned revision, tactics for revising well, time out to rest and relax – these seem good things to encourage. Only use any of the approaches described here if they seem sensible and would work for you. If you have plans which already work for you and you are happy with them, then do not change them. Best wishes for the coming months and for your good success.
1 PHONE A FRIEND
Working by yourself on revision can seem a lonely place to be – so talk it over. That is – do the work together. One person asks questions and the other gives the answers. Find someone who is very good at something that you are not yet so good at – and ask them what their secret of success is, and then copy it. Ask advice and give advice – make it positive. Share your answers. Let someone watch you do some work well and make sure that they ask, ‘How did you do that?’ We remember things better when we can picture who taught it to us and where we were at the time.
There is a lovely African proverb: ‘It takes a whole village to raise a child.’
2 GET SOME EXERCISE – BE ACTIVE!
It is good to be in a sports team and it is good to be physically busy. Twenty minutes each day would be good. It gets the blood flowing well, which a hard working brain really needs. It helps release endorphins which is our brain letting our body know that things are good. Get into a pattern, a routine, and then try to day-dream while you are exercising.
There is an old and wise Latin proverb: ‘Mens sana in corpore sano’ – a healthy mind in a healthy body. They knew that the one helped to create the other.
3 EAT SOME CHOCOLATE!
Who would have thought that chocolate would be so good for us? Now here is the bad news: we are not talking Cadbury or Galaxy. We are really talking about the dark chocolate which is 70% cocoa or more … but it is very good for our health in all sorts of ways. Don’t overdo it, and do share it with friends.
There is a proverb on my daughter’s fridge: ‘Chocolate – here today, gone today.’
4 HAVE A PLAN AND WORK HARD THROUGH IT
Most things are better when they are well planned, but do not spend too much time making the plan! Look at your evenings and weekends. Look for those good chunks of time – an hour or two. Plan your revision to follow the pattern of the exam timetable. Don’t fall into the trap of revising the things you already know well – you have to plan to tackle the harder topics too. Divide all big tasks into a series of smaller ones – then take on the least pleasant ones first.
Don’t just sit there reading it through – work hard and make your brain want to remember it. Some tips for how to do that are the last page of this guide.
There is an English proverb: ‘Sir, I have a cunning plan…’ Well, just a plan that works will do.
5 TAKE TIME OUT
We are not at our best when we work too many hours without a break so plan your time off, your down-time. Maybe it is sport which will give you that, or dance, or shopping, or a walk. Plan it into your week and do not feel guilty when you are not working. Clear your mind and really enjoy not working when you are not working.
There is a tempting Spanish proverb: ‘How beautiful it is to do nothing…’ !
6 KNOW HOW TO
Most people feel more anxious when we are not sure what to do. So – become an expert. Know the exam timetable – what is on when, how long the paper is, how many questions. Make sure that you know from each teacher what you have to show that you can do to get high marks – and then rehearse it, learn your lines. Allow your growing expertise to replace any anxiety, and be quietly confident.
There is a sharp modern proverb: ‘Failing to prepare is preparing to fail …’ Its opposite side would be ‘Succeeding in your planning is planning to succeed…’
7 EAT A BALANCED DIET
This is always important, but particularly when we are facing challenges. We need to keep fit. So – protein, fruit and veg as always. Eat oily fish ! (Tuna etc) but any fish will do.
Big warning – DO NOT USE ENERGY DRINKS …there – you have been warned. They are the wrong sugars and the high caffeine dose is not at all good for a brain that wants to work well – it impairs the connections. So not much coffee either.
The night before an exam, go for some carbs, longer lasting ones. Eat a banana – it may not boost your grades but it is very tasty!
There is an ancient medicinal proverb: ‘An apple a day … ‘
8 SLEEP WELL
As the evening gets later, then do the things that help you to wind down. Make sure that you have worked hard and that you have taken some exercise. Work out at what time you will fall asleep most easily. Six hours is your minimum, no more than eight – so that’s seven then! Some say that teenagers need 9 ½ hours’ sleep each night …
This is not a proverb from the National Sleep Foundation: ‘Make your room a sleep haven. Keep it cool, quiet and dark.’
9 LESS SCREEN TIME
Too much time in front of a television or computer screen or even a mobile is not good for us – too much rapidly changing visual stimulus. Particularly true of computer games … not helpful for the learning brain …
Instead you could: sing; listen to music; draw; stroke the pet dog or cat; dance; read a joke book (laughter is so good for us); do some gardening; play chess; bake a cake …
There is an unusual modern comment which is not a proverb either: ‘Computers are useless. They can only give you answers.’ (Pablo Picasso)
10 THE POWER OF THE POSITIVE
It is hard to be stressed when you smile – so practise smiling at other people. It is good for everyone. Practise being kind – do kind things – it is so good for everyone.
It is hard to be stressed when we are breathing out – so breathe out slowly. Six deep breaths in and slowly breathe them out – this is good for us.
Try to keep a good perspective on yourself and on this year – there are so many very big things in the world, and not all of them are lovely, but so many of them are.
There was a famous preacher in the 19th century and he was asked what had made the difference in his life. He used an image to explain it:
‘All my life as a Christian, I felt as if I had been a goldfish swimming in a small goldfish bowl. Then I realised that I was swimming in an ocean … ‘
‘Be still my soul – the Lord is on your side, your best and heavenly friend …’ – words usually sung to the Sibelius tune ‘Finlandia’.
There is a helpful modern saying, which says: ‘Success is achieved by those who try and keep trying with a positive mental attitude’
How To Revise Well
Here are some tips in no particular order – the best way is to try them out and see which ones help you to work most effectively …
- Transformation is really good – make it into a song or bullet pointed list or a limerick or a tongue-twister, a pie-chart – changing what something looks like may well give us two ways to remember it.
- Make up an acrostic/acronym – where each point gives you a letter of a word, real or made up eg Richard of York Gave Battle in Vain – leads to ROYGBIV – which are the colours of the spectrum in the right order – Red, Orange etc. The ones that you make up are the best for your brain.
- Take the blank page challenge – revise a topic, then walk away from it, do something else. Next time you are going to revise the same topic, take a blank piece of paper and write down all that you can recall. Compare what you have written with what you need to know – see where the gaps are.
- Space it out – work on a topic for half an hour, then do something else. Go back to the topic after about half an hour and then work through it again. Take a bigger break from this topic – maybe 48 hours – and then try it again. It is an idea called optimal spacing … work out your own best pattern.
- Turn your topic into a story and tell it to your friend/fish/dog/cat/parent …
- Mind maps – some learners find these really helpful in getting a whole topic onto one side of A4 – and it is very good because it is visual as well as verbal.
- When I am learning lines for a play especially Shakespeare, I have to walk around and I have to say them out loud. Revision does not have to be sitting or silent.
- What’s on the tray? The old memory game when there are a series of objects on a tray – tea towel on the top – remove it for 20 seconds – how many can you remember? Use the same visual technique with your chosen topic.
- Get on the Internet – BBC Bitesize is excellent. Don’t forget our Moodle. There is a lot more available – check in with your teachers about which are the best for each subject.
- We tend to be very good at remembering gossip and stories – so turn your revision topic into a story which you visualise, with the key points becoming characters in your story.
- Question and answer is good – work with someone else.
- Teach someone what you have just learned.
- Make it into a cartoon/collage/poster – something a bit creative can help to memorise thing