Controversial Revision Advice - That Works

Mara Westley, a former Jumeirah College and Cheltenham Ladies College student, has just finished her IB exams. After being bombarded with advice on how to study and prepare for exams, this is what she found actually worked.
Controversial Revision Advice - That Works
By David Westley
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Every year, in the run up to their final exams, Year 13 students are bombarded with booklets of study skills and revision tips that, more often than not, end up in the back of their maths book. 

The final year is, undoubtedly, the most stressful of all a student’s years at school – the university admissions process is emotionally draining, the concept of leaving their familiar environment becomes increasingly daunting and, it is almost impossible to see past the exams on the horizon.

Personally, I found that one of the major causes of stress was when assessments began to pile up and my workload seemed to spiral out of control. As a result, volumes of revision guides thick enough to rival War and Peace were not only useless in coping with my anxiety but rather, detrimental to it.

Every student will revise in a different way and for that reason; it is futile to dedicate thousands of pages to describing the intricate art of mind mapping or to the importance of colour coding our notes. I speak for all frustrated students when I say that frankly, we’re fed up of reading the same stuff.

Below are my top three study skills tips. Watch out, they’re controversial. 

Playtime Comes First

Watch that episode of Grey’s Anatomy before sitting down at your desk for the evening. By doing what you want to do first, you put yourself into the right frame of mind to have a productive revision session later. Deprivation will only make you resentful towards your work and you’re likely to be distracted by thoughts about the things you’d like to be doing. Warning: Don’t spend your entire holiday prioritising leisure. Whilst I am advocating letting yourself have fun before facing work, I am not suggesting you forget to follow that fun up with some serious calculus.

Deadlines Can Wait

It’s a Tuesday and you’ve got two essays due the next morning and some revision pencilled into your timetable too. Do the revision first. You know that you will have to do the work due whether you have time to or not and, at ten o’clock, when your bed is calling to you, you’re likely to pass on those not-so-immediate chemistry notes. NB: This tip only works if you’re not the kind of student that passes on deadlines too…

Practice Doesn’t Make Perfect

Hang on - don’t put those past papers away just yet! There is no escaping the fact that there is a direct relationship between a student’s marks and the amount of practice they do. However, the way in which this practice is done is what differentiates between those who reap the rewards of their practice and those who are left disappointed.

There is absolutely no point in doing every last past paper since 1997 if you’ve got one eye on Facebook and the other on the mark scheme. Practice should be about clear aims, repetition and immediate feedback.

The best way to approach a past paper is to break it up into sections and address each question that poses a problem first with your notes and only later, with the mark scheme. Save the questions you found difficult, do them again a few hours later and then again a couple of days later. This ensures that the information is in your long-term memory and will only need to be refreshed once or twice before the exam.

My last word of advice isn’t a study skill tip but rather, a survival skill tip.

Avoid the stress-inducers. You know the guys I’m talking about. When you’re queuing up for your History exam, they’re reciting dates of events you’ve never even heard of. Take a step back, breathe and focus in on yourself. It doesn’t matter how much or how little anyone else knows. Take comfort in the fact that when you walk into that exam room, it’s all about you.  

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