Revision: the grand plan is the first in the series of 'how to prepare well for exams' articles, which aim to help you make best possible use of the time you have left so that you enter the exam room fully prepared.
You’re only weeks away from that crucial exam, and you want to make sure that it all to comes together on time for the big day. That needs serious planning to make that happen with a minimum of stress. Even if you normally manage your life on the spur of the moment, you should plan this.
- A plan keeps you on-track
- A plan reduces stress (yes, you won’t stick to it 100%, but you’ll build a bit of slack for that into your plan)
- A plan reassures family (who can be another source of stress)
General things to bear in mind
Every one is different, so there’s no ideal plan we can give you, but here are some points which we know help:
- Make sure that you know what your teachers want you to do before you make detailed plans - it would be a real pain if you duplicate revision they are going to do with you, or revise the wrong topics etc. In addition teachers will be able to suggest more interesting ways to revise
- If you spend too much of your time on one subject, either because it is your favourite one or because it is known to be weak, the other subjects will suffer. It is very common for students to get their best results in subjects they found difficult - because they neglected their stronger subjects during revision.
- Before you can revise properly, get your files sorted out. Use a copy of the exam board's specification to put notes in topic order. If you've got gaps (material mislaid or missed), fill them now - copy from friends etc. If your school hasn't already given you copies of specifications (=syllabus) you can of course download them from exam board websites (along with past papers, examiners' comments etc). Essential stuff!
- Combine this with the first revision run through. Read all your notes carefully but without trying hard to remember them. This stage reminds you of the big picture. It shouldn't take you more than three to six hours.
- Then comes main revision: the hard grind, when you learn the details. More about this below.
- Finally, read through it all again. Aim to finish the hard grind a few days before the exam, so you can use the final days for this last read through. Repetition is a key part of good revision! If you made some form of condensed notes as part of the hard grind these will come in handy now.
The hard grind of learning your stuff
- This is the main time of learning detail.
- Use the exam board specification to divide the task up into a lot of smaller topics (it's easier to get started and to see your progress if you divide one monumental job into a series of smaller do-able tasks). Make a provisional timetable for which topics you will cover each week.
- At the start of a week, look at the topics you've planned to revise and decide which topics you will revise each day. Each evening decide when you will fit in the next day's topics.
- Build in some unallocated study time because you may get a bit behind.
Arrange your life around revision
Check out these ideas for building revision into your life. Click on the + for more details of each.