Quite often we encourage our students and children to revise vigorously for examinations, but we never tell them how best they should do it. After several requests from many parents and students on how best they should do it, I have put together some of the well thought measures that can be of help.
a) Draw up a revision timetable
Research shows that concentrating for 40-60 minutes works best, because your concentration is much higher. I, therefore, recommend taking short, frequent breaks. I also advise to mix the order of the subjects. After every break you should either change topic or subject.
Physical activity is very important during major breaks, in particular during intense study time. Even going for a small 30-minute jog after a day of revision will make a huge difference to your wellbeing. Physical activity increases heart rate which makes the blood circulate faster. This in turn ensures that brain gets more oxygen which increases productivity whilst reducing tiredness and stress.
b) Find a quiet space
This is a pretty straightforward one: you desperately need a place where you can be uninterrupted for a few hours. Your room, local or your school/university library will do. Be careful with revising in a coffee shop or bar. It is a popular option, however it does not work for everybody and people often get distracted!
c) Get down to it in the morning
You have to make a start at some point and doing it sooner rather than later is a very good idea. Try to stick to a given revision schedule and start revising in the morning — research shows that you are more likely to do all the planned work if you start early, because as it gets closer to the evening, there is bigger tendency to get outside.
d) Spice up your revision
Use a bit of colour! Drawing colourful learning maps will help you to memorise facts. What is even more interesting is the fact that colourful notes are easier to memorise than plain black and white ones. Give it a go! You may also use mind maps.
e) Do plenty of past papers
Ask your teacher for some past papers or google them yourself. Most exam boards nowadays put a lot of emphasis on exam technique and simply familiarising yourself with it before the exam can often save you time and help to earn marks at the exam. A lot of examiners do not bother with inventing terribly innovative questions once you have done three or four past papers chances are that some of questions that come on the day will look familiar.
f) Make summary notes
Making notes is by far the best way to memorise lots of information. We all have been there, sat down reading a textbook and lying to ourselves that the time is being used productively — it is not! The best way to memorise information is by making notes over and over again. It may be incredibly tedious but the thing is that the most successful candidates often make as many as three sets of the same notes in a run up to the exams which help them to memorise the required information.
g) Reward yourself
It is not all about the work; you need good breaks too. People who manage to find the right balance between study and leisure are the ones who get the top marks. For instance go to a cinema with friends after a productive day of revision or treat yourself to something sweet. Work hard, play not-quite-as-hard is the motto here.
h) Use your family and friends
Ask people around you to test you and give you feedback. You should already have made handy revision notes. Let a friend or colleague test you on what you believe you have read. This is not only a good way to revise but also a good way to have a break from the hard work.
i) Think positive!
At the end of the day, it’s not all about studying. There are plenty of people who did well in life without 100 per cent in every single exam, or who were actually pretty useless at school and university. Your life isn’t over if you don’t ace the exams, so take the pressure off yourself.
Following these tips you will get loads of work done, feel great about yourself and still have plenty of time to relax with your friends and family. Good luck, now get down to those notes!
The writer is a lecturer at Kigali Institute of Management