With exams just around the corner, students often wonder how to revise for exams effectively? We have looked through the research to find how students can improve their memory, mood and concentration. Here are 10 simple tips that are the best ways to revise.
Eat Breakfast – Over 60% of teenage boys and 70% of teenage girls regularly skip breakfast. Eating breakfast, especially cereals rich with complex carbohydrates, helps boost your concentration and memory over the course of the morning. Eating breakfast will help facilitate their morning revision session.
Don’t listen to music – Students who revise listening to music recall less than those who revise in a quiet environment. Music with no lyrics is better than music with lyrics (regardless of whether you like the lyrics or not). The reason for this effect is that processing music takes up some of your brain’s processing space (known as the phonological loop), leaving fewer resources available for you to recall the information you are trying to remember. This negative impact of music on memory has been shown to have more impact on introverts than extroverts.
Do past papers and space out study sessions – The ‘What Makes Great Teaching Report’, by The Sutton Trust, highlights how doing past papers and spreading out revision are effective strategies to help aid learning. They also highlight how some popular strategies, such as highlighting key passages to memorise them and cramming revision into one long session, are not particularly helpful. For a more in-depth review of strategies that help facilitate memory during revision time, we think this blog by @HuntingEnglish and this one by @Turnfordblog are excellent.
Put phones away - Having your phone out and in sight, even if you are not using it, can make you perform 20% worse than if you had put your phone away. That is the finding of a study, which found that “the mere presence of a cell phone may be sufficiently distracting to produce diminished attention and deficits in task-performance, especially for tasks with greater attentional and cognitive demands”. The implication couldn’t be clearer; out of sight really is out of mind.
Drink water regularly – Drinking water has been shown to help improve both memory and concentration. If students wait until they feel thirsty, their concentration levels have already dropped. As well as during revision, evidence is starting to emerge that drinking water in exams can also help students achieve better marks.
Get fresh air – Taking a break in a field or a park will improve your concentration much more than if you go for a walk in a busy urban environment. Students from the University of Michigan found their performance on a boring task improved by 20% if they took a break in natural surroundings. This is because natural environments replenish your brain, whereas urban ones require your brain to stay alert, further draining your mental resources
Take Exercise – Researchers at Bristol University have found that people perform significantly better if they work out for 45 minutes at lunch time. As well as improving their mood and ability to deal with stressful situations, their scores for their perceived concentration levels were 21% higher on days that they exercised.
Keep a diary – To state the obvious, revision time can be very stressful as the pressure of upcoming exams increases. Keeping a diary is an effective way to help capture negative thoughts. Recognising these negative thoughts is the first step to managing them and improving meta-cognition, something the Sutton Trust highlight as being a particularly effective strategy for pupil premium students. We blogged on this topic in more detail here.
Regular bed times – Going to bed at a regular time is the number 1 tip by The Sleep Foundation. Research shows that having a regular bed time helps the cognitive development and performance of young children. Research into teenagers and sleep patterns has also found that those who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to fall ill.
Sleep 8-10 hours a night – Most people don’t get enough sleep, with the majority getting less than 6¾ hours a night. Teenagers need more than adults, with GCSE and Sixth Form students needing up to 9½ hours. Not getting enough sleep has been linked to a reduction in working memory, attention and decision making, with students who regularly get a good night sleep achieving higher grades than their sleepier peers.