Effective Revision

We all know a handful of people who can walk into an exam after only a brief glance at their class-notes the night before and still come out smiling. Sadly, these people are few and far between, and most of us have to do without their special powers. For us to come out smiling, we know we going to have to do some old fashioned, well-planned revision. So here's a quick guide to getting started with your revision, written by one of our site editors.

Exams. Why, oh why?

I'm sure there are very few people out there who can honestly say they like exams, but that doesn't mean they don't serve a purpose. Exams help to consolidate what you've been learning all these years. There have been many exams where I've walked out on a high because everything had just "clicked". Finally I'd "seen the light" and started to really understand what my teachers had been going on about. Exams also help to make connections between topics and help to demonstrate that learning objectives are being met. Teachers can measure how effective their teaching strategies have been and make improvement if standards are low. Also, exams offer a real opportunity for you to gain a sense of achievement. If you can get through this, what else can you do?

Why all the planning?

By sitting down and spending a little time planning your revision, you could save hours, days, and even weeks worth of time in the long run. You will also prevent last minute 'crisis' cramming

So how do I go about planning? A Step by Step Guide

  • The first thing to consider when planning your revision is the timing of your exams. How many do you have? When exactly are they? Get a calendar (or make your own) and pencil in each exams, including the date, time, subject and how long it lasts. Have you got any exams on the same day? Several together with no days off? All this needs to be taken into account when starting to plan your revision.

  • You need to think about the type of exam you will be taking on each day. Does it involve writing an essay? Multiple choice questions? Short questions? Practical exam? Oral exam? If you're not sure what type of assessment to expect on all of your calendar entries then ask your teacher, or look at the subject specifications that can be found on our subject pages. These pages also contain links to past papers and, as long as the style of exams haven't changed, you can see exactly what is you'll be up against.

  • Next, prioritize your exams so you can work out which ones will need more revision time than others. To do this, look at the coursework-to-exam ratio of each exam. Obviously a single GCSE subject that is 90% exam should carry more weight and therefore more revision time than one with 40% exam. Other things to bear in mind is how well you feel you are doing in that subject at the moment. A subject you find difficult is likely to need more revision time than one that comes naturally to you. In fact, the subject you find most difficult may be where you should start your revision - once you have conquered this subject you will feel confident about the rest! When prioritizing exams, don't forget that GCSE English and Maths are particularly important in terms of your future prospects. Many jobs these days expect GCSE English and Maths to be grade C or above, as do most universities.

  • It's a good idea to go back to your calendar and pencil in when and where you are going to do your revision for each subject, allocating the time according to your subject priority list. At this point you may have to expand your calendar to a week planner. Don't forget to include all your other activities, including work and leisure time. So your revision timetable for evenings only in a week might look a little like this:

    Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
    4pm-6pm Revise maths in kitchen Revise English at Tom's house Revise maths in room Revise English literature in room Revise French in living room Working Family time
    6pm-8pm Revise geography in bedroom Watch TV Playing football Revise Business studies in room Playing football Out with friends Family time
    8pm-10pm Watch TV Revise Science in bedroom Watch TV Friends party Watch TV Out with friends Family time

Get Revising

Now its time to get down to it. See our top 10 revision tips for getting you focused. Don't forget to look at the course specification or syllabus for each subject (you can find these on our subject pages) to find out what exactly you are supposed to know and what you will be tested on in the exam.

How people actually revise is a personal preference, but it's often said that we remember:

  • 20% of what we read
  • 30% of what we hear
  • 40% of what we see
  • 50% of what we say
  • 60% of what we do
  • 90% of what we read, see, hear, say and do!

Even if those figures aren't exactly right, it's still a good idea to mix it up a little! Many people find using a printed revision guide is an enormous help when revising. We have a database of hundreds of guides for contents pages and sample content so you can really see what you're going to get. Click here to search for a suitable guide by subject, level and exam board. Remember to check the contents page to see if it matches what you've been learning in class and what you are expected to know. Look at the sample content and ask yourself whether this is for you. Do you prefer to revise with lots of diagrams? Are there practice questions to keep you on your toes?

Perhaps you're more of a computer person and would prefer a revision CD-ROM? Or if 'vegging-out' in front of the TV is more your thing then check out our revision software and DVD section. Additionally there are loads of websites out there to help you with your revision so check out the best ones at the bottom of the subject pages.

Test Yourself

Check out our subject pages for links to free online past papers. Don't forget many printed revision guides also show example answers so you will really know what the examiner is looking for.

Aaahhh, I'm still stuck!

Still beating your head against a brick wall? Stuck on a subject and don't know how to sort it out? Most importantly ask your teacher, its what they are here to do! A small number of people these days want extra help in revising and fortunately there are many people offering their home tutoring services out there so don't be afraid to check them out. Don't forget to find out exactly how much each session is and make sure the tutor has suitable experience.