For students to revise effectively they face two challenges. The first, is knowing what good revision actually looks like. The second, is then bridging the gap between intention and action so that they actually do it. This blog explores how to help students do just that.
What Does Good Revision Look Like?
The science of learning has shown us that some revision styles are more effective than others. The least effective side of things includes strategies such as re-reading notes and highlighting key passages. So what are the most efficient and useful ways to revise:
Retrieval Practice – this is having to generate an answer. This is consistently found to be one of the most effective ways to revise. We also have tips on nine ways to use Retrieval Practice and how to harness the Testing Effect.
Spacing – little and often is better than all at once (essentially one hour a day for seven days is better than seven hours in one day).
Interleaving – mixing up your subjects or type of problems you answer, so you have to think deeply about the material.
Pre-Questions – trying to answer questions before you study the material. Evidence suggests this can improve performance by up to 50% in certain situations.
Elaborative Interrogation – asking ‘why is this true?’ makes you connect new knowledge to existing memories, thus solidifying it in your brain.
Reading Out Loud – far more effective than reading to yourself. Sometimes referred to as ‘The Production Effect’ as it takes more effort.
Teaching Others – Also known as ‘The Protégé Effect’. Knowing you have to teach someone else makes you learn the material more thoroughly and clearly.
Distraction-Free – listening to music or having mobile phones nearby has been found to compete for attention and usually reduces learning.
Sleep – An essential part of solidifying memories in our mind, most students may not be aware of just how important this is.
A fascinating study recently found that how students talk to themselves has a significant impact on how they perform. In the study, students who asked themselves questions ‘will I do well?’ performed significantly better than those who said ‘I will do well’. This is because asking yourself questions forces your brain to come up with answers. It acts like a call to action and helps you to actually do the revision you need to.
So what questions can students ask at different stages of their revision?
Before You Start
- How much time do I have? (good for ‘spacing’)
- How can I spread out my revision? (good for ‘spacing’)
- Can I vary the subjects I revise in one day? (good for ‘interleaving’)
- Can I mix up the type of questions within a subject? (good for ‘interleaving’)
- Have I removed potential distractions? (good for ‘concentration’)
- What questions can I answer before I start revising? (good for ‘pre-questions’)
- Have I done any past papers? (good for ‘retrieval practice’)
- Who can quiz me on this topic? (good for ‘retrieval practice’)
- Why is this true? (good for ‘elaborative interrogation’)
- Have I read my revision notes out loud? (good for ‘the production effect’)
- Who can I teach this to? (good for ‘the protégé effect’)
- Do I have a good bedtime routine? (good for ‘sleep’)
- Am I getting plenty of sleep? (good for ‘sleep’)
So there you have it. The most effective ways to revise and a call to arms about how to start doing so. Good luck for exams everyone! For more information check out our page on the best ways to revise.