Luck Is For The Ill Prepared – 10 Steps To Great Revision

How do you revise for an exam?

Let’s say it is Geography. You may try to read everything, shorten it down, use memory aids and eventually go completely nuts trying to keep all that information in there. So, let me show you some ideas about how you could do this [for every subject].

1. Read everything – go over your notes about certain things. In English terms, look at the terms in GLOSSARY OF TERMS on here. Read them, digest them, understand them and how they are used. Look for them in everything you read from now to the exam. Notice them and how they are used by the writer.

2. Memorize everything – not really, only kidding. You are not a computer that can locate information like that. Your brain is like mine, a sieve at times. You will forget things and that is perfectly normal, but there are ways to help this.

3. Use memory aids. Mnemonic aids help. Not sure what these are? Well, what are the colours of the rainbow? Do you know? Of course, they are red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. Or better still, I used RICHARD OF YORK GAVE BATTLE IN VAIN as a memory aid to remember them just then. ROYGBIV to be precise. Got it? By doing this we can learn key things for any subject. An example in English might be REALLY RED STRONG MACHINES AGE! This would stand for Rhyme, Rhythm, Simile, Metaphor, Alliteration! Remember these 5 elements of language and the chances are the exam will be easier.

4. Use a recording device. When I did my finals for my degree, back in 1995, we used things like Walkman cassette players to record our notes. Nowadays, Smartphones can record the human voice. It sounds weird in the extreme to hear your own voice, but live with that and get over it, for using this technique to remember key dates in History can be helpful, along with mnemonics. Record it onto the machine and then play back the last thing before sleep for a few minutes at a time. Do not be worried if you fall asleep to your own voice. Your brain is still active at that point and taking in the notes. This is especially good where there are definitions needed in a written exam piece.

5. Pop Quiz – Ever seen the film Speed? The villain mentions a Pop Quiz in there [I am watching it as I type]. Get someone to ask you questions about something – which character is Lennie in OMAM? [Of Mice and Men]. Who kills the dog in the novella? Why is it that George cannot trust Lennie? Then try to answer them in as full an answer as you can. If you can articulate these thoughts, you should be able to write the answer to them. And do this for 15 minutes a night.

6. Plan your revision – 6 weeks maximum. Do it like this:

a – everything read and noted
b – cut down the elements into shorter chunks of information
c – cut down further into bite sized bits with just the key thoughts
d – then bring in mnemonics to aid memory of elements
e – Pop Quiz and recording
f – Time to be sick – only kidding but that is what it will feel like

7. Time your revision. A good way is to know how long you can last before the brain goes to custard. My time span for concentration is 2 hours before I end up a blabbering wreck. So, I revise from 11-1 and then 3-5 and then 7-9 doing 3 sessions a day, Monday to Saturday inclusive. I have Sundays off.

8. Have a holiday the day before the exam. Now on this one I am NOT kidding. If your exam is on the 2nd June, as I know a few of my students this year have, then on the 1st June, off you go to Alton Towers or somewhere, to enjoy life for once in 6 weeks. You have revised, read, quizzed and worked like a mad hatter at his own tea party and now, the day before, it is time to chill and let the dust settle in the brain. It is like dusting is revising; when you dust a room, particles of dust go everywhere. It takes time for it to settle.

Continuing to dust is not possible, so you let it settle and then clean up. The same is true with revision. All that info being crammed into the head at once is nightmarish, so give it a chance to percolate and then, on the morning of the exam, NO BOOKS in front of your face till the exam. If you are the sort who stands there waiting to go in still reading notes, you will not get a higher grade.

9. Learn to chillax. It sounds obvious I know, but this is a stressful time. Whatever your hobbies are, still keep doing them. You have planned the revision out, done it for 6 hours a day if like me, for 6 days a week and in between that, you have done what you love doing, whatever that is. Or at least I hope you have, for if not, then you will be one sad puppy indeed by exam day.

10. Enjoy the exam! What, I hear you thinking. How on earth do I do that? Well, the English exam, as with any exam, is your chance to SHOW OFF your skills. If you do all the rest right, then this last bit will come natural. Show off and be a show off. Have fun. Make things up. Exaggerate. Lie if needs be. English is a creative art form, so here is your chance to show just how creative you can be, especially in Section B of the Language exam.

At the end of all this, ask yourself this one simple question: Have I done my best on the day of the exam? If the answer is yes, then whatever grade you get is the one you deserve. If the answer is no, then ask yourself why!

“Luck is for the ill prepared” is something my University lecturers said to me, so be prepared!