Revision hints and exam tips: now that you've found enough time, what should you do with it?


Before the exam

  1. The brain recalls what you learned first and what you learned most recently in any session, so you are likely to remember more if you split longer sessions up with short breaks.

  2. Tell someone about it. Once you think you've mastered something, try to explain it simply to a colleague or a friend. This will highlight what material you've really taken in and will add another layer to your memory of it--you will remember what you told them more easily than the bits you left out.

  3. Be imaginative with revision notes. Don't write reams of notes on top of the notes that you've made during the course. You'll never read them. Try alternatives such as making mini-flashcards by transferring key formulas or points to index cards. You can carry these with you and read them whenever you get some spare time. Colour coding different subjects can also help.

  4. Form revision groups with others doing the same papers, but don't allow these to become a social event or a chance for one person to depress everyone else by proving they can recite textbooks by heart.

  5. There are a number of memory techniques to improve your recall.

    * Mnemonics--simple phrases or codes that trigger your memory for formulas or lists. These can be packaged in a rhyme, an acronym or a word that spells the initials of the words you need to remember--eg, "Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain" reminds you of the order of the colours in the rainbow. Many of these already exist, but you can always make up more. Some people also find it easier to remember things if they number them.

    * Mapping--a visual technique that links key facts to sum up lots of information. Each chunk of information should be represented by a single tag, so choose these carefully. While most mind maps grow from a single point, this is not essential. A map that shows a process is likely to be linear, whereas one that shows a concept may grow more like a tree. Your map is supposed to stand out in your mind, so consider how you use colour, typefaces, arrows, pictures etc.

  6. Practice questions--trying past exam questions not only shows you what you know and where you need to improve, but it also helps you to get used to the exam format and language. Practising in exam conditions also helps you to get your time management right.

    In the exam

  7. If you have problems finishing in time, prioritise the sections that carry most marks. Remember that the easiest marks are usually those for the main points in each...

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