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Planning your Revision : When and Where to Revise

In the last article, Before you Revise, we looked at motivation and linking revision to things you like. Now that you are as motivated as you are likely to get, we need to decide on when and where your revision will take place.

You already know there is no magical way to make revision painless (apart from learning and revising everything all the way through your course), but by having clear reasons to revise and linking it to positive thoughts we can make it easier and greatly increase the chances of it actually happening.

I've never met a student who really enjoyed revising for exams so, if you hate it, you are not alone. I've met some who loved the topic and enjoyed reading about it, but actual exam revision just doesn't seem to be as attractive as chilling with friends, sleeping, being with boy / girl friend or playing sports. Revision should not mean that you have to give up all the things you enjoy. Except in emergencies (the exam is tomorrow and you've not started revising yet) you should make sure you still have time for what you enjoy - that's very important. If revision replaces all the things you love doing, you will instantly hate revision!


Where you revise

The place you choose for your revision is very important. If you pick a cramped, cluttered, noisy spot with loads of distractions (TV, brothers / sisters, food) you won't concentrate, you won't learn effectively, and your revision will be far from effective.

Your revision space needs to be ...

Big Enough

A desk or other flat area with room for at least two open text books, a notepad, pens and pencils, mug of coffee or other drink, elbow space when writing, a revision book, and enough space for a dictionary or other 'occasionally needed' book. In addition, if you plan to use your computer during revision you obviously need room for the keyboard, mouse and monitor. Don't try using an infrared or wireless keyboard on your lap - it's just too much hard work when you are trying to be efficient.


Clean Enough

image of the geo-rat at an empty deskThe area needs to be clean and clear so you have room for everything that is important, and don't have non-important things getting in the way. For example, a cup of coffee is fine, but three half empty mugs waste space, increase spillage risks and reduce the 'professional' image of your area. Yes, I did say 'professional image'. Its one of those things to do with how your mind works, like business men wearing suits or plumbers wearing overalls. If your work area looks businesslike, efficient and dynamic, you tend to treat it that way and work to those standards. If it's a total dump, you don't bother.

A clean area also makes it easier to find things and it tends to impress parents. Its back to that mind thing again - if you look well prepared for your revision they will be happier - and happier parents means less stress all round... right?


Quiet Enough

When ever I say that you need a quiet area I am instantly swamped with cries of 'But I prefer music when I work!' So, right at the start I'll tell you that your own music is fine. OK. No problem with your music, but it is usually best if you pick music that's relaxing, not totally new to you, and not too loud. Remember that your brain is going to be working hard (and that may be a totally new experience for it!) so quiet and relaxing music can actually help. If you have to concentrate on the music however, you are using up brain space that should be concentrating on the revision. Incidentally, research has shown that listening to music whilst revising really does help people. The best music to listen to is relaxing classical stuff - not impressed? - well, try a little and see if you get on with it. After all, trying it won't kill you.

Apart from your own music, you need to avoid noises that will distract you. These include younger brothers and sisters playing, other people's radios, the television and your mobile phone. If you can't get away from the sources of these distracting noises, playing your own music through headphones is the perfect solution.


No Distractions

We have covered this in terms of clutter and noise, but of all the issues surrounding revision, I think that distractions is the most important. Putting it simply, if there were no distractions, you'd have no problems revising. Preferring to do other things is the one and only reason why people don't revise for their exams. By finding the right motivation, having an efficient work space, quiet music and a set timetable you will reduce distractions to a minimum. A good revision timetable will ensure that you still have time for football, clubbing, chilling or whatever, so you won't lose out by revising.

I risk upsetting a few parents and teachers here, but canceling normal life and replacing it entirely with revision is not an effective solution for most people. You will HAVE to give up time to revise, but you will need to be able to escape from it as well. If you revise hard, you deserve to play hard too.

This doesn't mean that you can quote me as an excuse to do no revision and just carry on as normal, but if you honestly have been revising hard, your eyes, your brain and your body will need regular breaks.



When To Revise

Timing is important for revision. Have you noticed that during the school day you get times when you just don't care any longer? I don't mean the lessons you don't like, but the ones you find usually find OK, but on some occasions you just can't be bothered with it. You may have other things on your mind, be tired, restless, or looking forward to what comes next. Whatever the reason, that particular lesson doesn't get 100 percent effort from you.

The same is true of revision. Your mental and physical attitude are important. If you try to revise when you are tired or totally occupied with something else, your revision will be inefficient and just about worthless. If you approach it feeling fresh, alert and happy, it will be so much easier and you will learn more, faster.

However, if you make no plans and just slip in a little bit of revision when you feel like it, you probably wont do much revision! You need a revision timetable so you don't keep putting it off :-)

When you create your timetable, be realistic. If you don't get up until 9am, don't con yourself by planning revision starting at 8am, and if you play football every Saturday morning, don't pretend that you will cancel it and revise instead.

The first things to do are to work out how much work you need to do, and how long you have got to do it. Large amounts of work and very little time is bad news and WILL mean a lot of revision and a cut back on the other things you enjoy doing. By planning ahead - that means starting in March for the June/July exams - you can plan your revision around regular short sessions and times most convenient to you.

The best timetable will feature frequent revision sessions at set times of the day. Getting into a routine is important because you need the revision to become part of your life for the next few months. If it becomes just another part of your day you are more likely to do it. If it remains as an 'outsider' you wont give it the time it requires.

Pick times of the day that suit you best. Ideas include picking times when you are alert, fresh and not pushed for time. Choose times when other distractions are at a minimum. If you have study leave, working during the day is ideal as the house it quieter than in the evenings, and the daytime TV tends to be rubbish anyway. Try not to squeeze sessions into gaps between other things that have rigid start and end times because this stops you working on after your planned deadline. If you get into a revision session and it's going well, you will lack concentration if you are constantly clock watching because you have to be somewhere else soon.

Break your revision down into smaller parts that fit into convenient times of the day. This makes it easier to remember what you've done, less tiring to do, and easier to plan.


Step By Step

So ...

Reward Yourself After Each Session

When you finish each section of your revision, give yourself a small reward. It doesn't have to be anything huge, just find something you like, and don't do it until you finish. It will give you an added incentive to get on with the study. For example, have a sticky bun on stand by, but you can't eat it until you've finished, or agree with friends that you'll have an evening out when you've all completed a set amount of study. Now might even be the time to take up a new sport or hobby so you have something to take your mind off revision between sessions.




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May 16, 2006