How to revise effectively

How To Revise Effectively For An Exam: Do It Right

In Revision Techniques by Think Student Editor

1. Tidy Your Work Space

Tidy Work space Before StudyingOne of the most easy, simple ways you can help prepare your revision for an exam is to tidy your work space. Unfortunately, it tends to get overlooked as an effective method to boost your productivity. 

If it’s so effective, why don’t more people do it? Well, the main reason is because tidying up seems like quite a lot of effort to most people. It’s boring, it’s tedious, and whatever you tidy is most likely to get messy again. 

What people don’t realise is that tidying your work space can boost your productivity and revision efficiency. The more you tidy, the better off you’ll be when you revise for an exam. 

Cleaning up the clutter around your desk has a similar effect on your brain. By removing all the useless junk and litter, you make it easier to focus and hone in on the essential facts you need to know for your exam. 

Try and implement this technique before you start revising for maximum efficiency. Trying to tidy up halfway through your revision session can actually hinder your progress, as you slow down your revision momentum. 

You don’t have to tidy up every time you revise, just every so often. Hopefully you won’t make your desk messy again by your next revision session anyway, unless you’re completely disorganised. 

Talking of organisation, tidying up your work space should help you organise both your things and your thoughts. This will lead to a clearer understanding of your revision, and better results in your exam! 

One thing to watch out for though, is spending more time tidying up than actually revising. It’s very easy to feel like you’re accomplishing something by tidying up, but the actual process of doing so won’t aid you in your exam if it’s all you do. 

2. Make A Flashcard For Every Item On Your Subject’s Syllabus 

Making FlashcardsThis technique is quite a popular one, and many students figure it out on their own. Just in case you haven’t, though, I’ve decided to include it on this list. 

Flashcards are the number one tool for revising, whether it’s GCSEs, A-Levels, or any other exam under the sun. They are very useful, and you can learn the information you need just by making them. 

The reason you’ll want to make your own flashcards is because you’re three times more likely to remember information if you write it down. 

And once you’ve written it down, there’s nothing to stop you from going over your flashcards again and again. If you’re a bit shaky on flashcard mechanics, here’s a helpful article on how to make effective flashcards. 

The best content you can base your flashcards on is the syllabus for your subject. The syllabus is basically an outline of the information that could appear on your exam, and so is perfect for flashcards. 

You can usually find a syllabus for your subject on an exam board’s website. That’s not too difficult to do, just look up whatever exam board you need on the internet (AQA, Edexcel, OCR, etc.). 

Make sure you don’t miss anything out on the syllabus. If you miss out some topics on the syllabus, your flashcards will be incomplete – this could lead to gaps in your knowledge, and missed marks in exams. 

If you’re looking to spice up your flashcard revision (because we all know it can get boring) there are many ways to do it. For inspiration, take a quick look at this article on creative ways you can use your flashcards. 

Also try to mix up flashcards with other revision techniques. That way, you make it easier not to get bored, and make it more likely that you’ll remember everything you need to know. 

3. Get Watching Educational YouTube Videos On Your Subject (I Know – Boring) 

Watching Educational YouTube VideosA completely underrated method of revising for an exam is to watch YouTube videos on your chosen subject. It might be boring and monotonous, but it can actually help you out massively. 

Educational YouTube videos are a modern way of revising for your exams. Forget dusty old textbooks, YouTube is now a primary source for the best knowledge and information you’ll need for your exams. 

There are many different types of videos on YouTube, too. You can look at walkthroughs for those tough questions, knowledge building videos, or even just have a look at exam technique videos. 

There are many different types of videos, and that’s great, but that also means you can get easily distracted. Be careful not to get lost in the endless pit of YouTube, as it can stop you from doing your revision. 

In case you don’t actually know who to watch, I’ve found a few pretty good YouTubers who teach GCSE/A-Level content, so make sure to check some of them out. 

Make sure to check out these YouTubers for help on different subjects – these are only a few, but there are so many good content creators out there that can help you with your exams. 

Make sure you mix up watching YouTube videos with other revision techniques to ensure your success in exams. YouTube is good, but not good enough on its own to guarantee the best results you can get. 

I’d also suggest only watching YouTube videos after you’ve done some regular revision. That way, if you do lose concentration and drift off watching something else, it won’t matter as much.

4. Complete Every Single Past Paper That Has Ever Existed For Your Subject! 

Doing Past PapersA really good and effective way of revising for any exam is to complete past papers for it. Now, I know what you’re thinking – why would I do another exam before my actual one, surely that would just stress me out? 

In actual fact, preparing for an exam by practicing similar exams is the perfect way to revise. You get your head in the right space for exams, and you get less stressed because you can gain an idea of what will come up. 

Past papers are effective for one specific reason. When completing past papers, you revise not only the knowledge you need to know, but also your exam technique. 

This is perfect for your revision, as you need both skills to succeed in your exam. I’d suggest doing as many past papers as you can to ensure that you cover all the skills and knowledge you might need. 

In terms of actually finding past papers, you can easily find them on any exam board website. Just look up whatever exam board you’re on, and you’ll find the past papers on the subject page. 

If you don’t want to waste ink printing them out, however, you can be sure to find some dotted around your school/college. Just ask your teacher for some, and they’ll be happy to provide you with them. 

It might also be worth printing out the mark scheme/getting a mark scheme from your teacher. That way, you can mark your own work as you go, and do things at your own pace. 

Alternatively, you could just do the whole paper in timed conditions, and then ask your teacher to mark it. That will give you a feel for the real exam and also an indicator of how well you’ll do. 

5. Create Mind Maps For Your Subject To Identify Gaps In Your Knowledge 

GCSE Maths Mind MapsMind maps, mind maps, mind maps. They are the best way to identify gaps in your knowledge, letting you know what you need to revise and how you need to revise it. 

Mind maps are a quick and easy technique of showing what you know, and also discovering what you don’t know. They only take a few minutes, and are a great way to revise for any exam. 

To start off your mind map, write the title of a topic on a piece of paper and jot down everything you can remember about it, around it 

After that, you’ll be able to identify the gaps in your knowledge. Just compare what you’ve written with what comes up on the specification (or syllabus) and try to figure out what’s missing from your work. 

When you find out what you don’t know, you can then move on and revise whatever you need to, using some of the other techniques on this list. 

If you’re stuck on ways to revise, here’s a helpful article on the many different ways there are to revise content for your exams. 

Make sure you keep hold of your mind maps so you can go back and see how much progress you’ve made. I always like to see how much I’ve learnt, as it helps me motivate myself to continue revising and preparing for my exam. 

If you want to see how you can use mind maps to the best of your ability when revising, have a look at this convenient article on the most effective ways to use mind maps. 

I used to create mind maps all the time when I was studying for my GCSEs, and they come in just as handy when preparing for A-Levels. Make sure to utilise these powerful revision techniques to ensure your success in exams. 

6. Use Your Flashcards Daily – Yes, Every Single Day…

Using Flashcards DailyI’ve already talked a bit about flashcards, but you really should be using them every day if you can. It’ll better prepare you for your exams, and you’ll feel more confident when it comes down to it. 

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: flashcards are the most effective way of revising. If you’re a bit hazy on how to make flashcards, just take a look at this super helpful article that explains it all for you. 

Using your flashcards every day will help you build up your bank of knowledge that you’ll need for whatever exam it is you’re taking. You don’t have to do very much every day, either. 

In fact, just a couple of hours of flashcard revision per day is enough to boost you to success. If you do a couple of hours of flashcard revision every day, you’ll find that your exam confidence and knowledge are much better. 

You should try especially to use your flashcards every day in the weeks leading up to your exam. As you get closer to the final date, your revision should get more intense and more frequent (meaning more flashcard revision). 

However, as good as flashcards are, they aren’t the only thing that will contribute to your exam success. For example, you won’t learn exam technique from flashcards. 

That’s why you should aim to mix up your flashcard revision with other revision techniques. Still use them every day, but alongside some other types of revision (mind maps, educational videos, etc.). 

To effectively fit in your daily flashcard revision with your other activities, you’ll need to make a revision timetable. I’ve made an article that talks about revision timetables, if you want to take a look at that. 

7. Try To Revise Either Early In The Morning Or Right Before Bed 

Revising In The MorningThis one is a bit of an odd-ball, but just bear with me. Revising early in the morning or right before you go to bed can have positive effects on how much information you retain, and set you up for success in your exams. 

Your brain is best at learning new information right when you wake up in the morning. Make sure when you wake up in the morning, you bring out your flashcards and try to get some revision done. 

The reason you’re good at learning new things in the morning is because your brain is more alert, and not as tired. Read more about this in an article from Oxford Learning. 

Revising just before you go to sleep allows your brain to integrate new information with existing information. You’ll be better at making links between facts, and making what you know more meaningful. 

The reason for this is because your brain will have ‘warmed up’ so to speak throughout the day. Again, read more about this in this interesting article from Oxford Learning. 

One thing that’s important to remember is that everyone is different, and these techniques may not work for you. You may not be a morning person, or you may not be a night owl. 

It’s up to you how and when you revise, but right when you wake up and just before you sleep are certainly the most effective times. Try to sort out your schedule in a revision timetable, to make it easier on yourself. 

If you need help making a revision timetable, I’ve got an interesting article that talks all about it. Make sure to add in some time for flashcards and all your other revision too. 

8. Take Breaks During Long Revision Sessions

Taking Study BreaksAs important as revision is, it’s also essential that you give yourself some breaks. If you don’t implement breaks into your schedule, you’ll overwork yourself. 

The biggest mistake students make when revising is not taking breaks. This is probably because you’re pushed hard to revise, but aren’t told that taking breaks will boost your productivity. 

Taking a break when revising allows your brain a chance to catch up with itself. By taking a break, you also absorb all the information you’ve just revised better, as you’re not constantly trying to learn new stuff. 

There are many different ways you can take breaks, and everyone will do it differently. There is, however, a universal method that leads to the best efficiency for your revision – it’s called the pomodoro technique. 

It’s got a weird name, but it is an extremely effective method for timing your revision. You basically revise for long periods of time, with short breaks to help keep you going. 

Traditionally, you should work for 25 minutes and then take a 5-minute break. This fits nicely into half an hour, and can be repeated for as long as you’d like to revise. 

For more information regarding the pomodoro technique, make sure to check out this article that talks all about it – plus more great revision techniques for GCSE and A-Level. 

I’d suggest revising for about an hour a day (2 sets of the pomodoro technique) in the months before your exams. As you get closer to the big day, however, you should ramp it up to about 2 or 3 hours a day. 

If you’re worried about your GCSEs/A-Levels, and you want to know how much you should be revising, we’ve got a few articles for that. Take a look at the GCSE article here, and the A-Level article here.

9. Don’t Just Type Up Notes, Write Them Down As Well 

Writing Notes vs Typing NotesMany of you reading this article will have laptops, computers, or tablets/phones that you use to revise from. My advice? Put down the technology, and get to good old-fashioned writing. 

Writing things down with a pen and paper makes it much more likely that you’ll remember information. More likely than using technology to makes notes at least. 

According to a study by Medical Daily, when you write things down on paper, you gain a deeper understanding of the topic. This is because you’re not as inclined to write down useless information. 

Whereas, when you’re typing things out, it’s a lot easier than writing stuff down. This can lead to you writing a lot of information you think is useful at the time, but actually turns out to be useless. 

You’re also more likely to look at your notes again if you’ve written them down. Because you have them on paper, you’ll find it a lot easier to look over them again than if they were digital. 

It’s a lot easy to get distracted when you’re typing things up, too. There are lots of distractions in the digital world, more so than if you’re peacefully writing up some notes with pen and paper. 

Not that there’s anything wrong with typing up your notes, however. Everyone is different, and everyone will have a preferred method of taking down notes.  

You could even do both, if you wanted to – type up your notes and write them down. This would be extremely effective if you managed to do it, and you’d be very likely to remember all the information you need. 

10. Make Sure You Are Revising For The Right Number Of Hours Per Day 

Studying The Correct Amount of Time A DayI’ve mentioned it a few times, but the amount you revise every day is very essential to how you’ll perform in your exam. If you revise too much, you’ll be overworked, but too little and you’ll be unprepared. 

So, what is the right amount of time to revise every day?  

You’ll want to revise every day you can, and ramp up how many hours you do as you get closer to your exam. The reason for this is because you want to boost your knowledge right before your exam. 

That will give you the highest chance of success, and the most confidence for your exam. If you don’t do this, you won’t be able to help feeling insecure and unprepared for your exam. 

In the few weeks leading up to your exam, you’ll want to be revising for 2 or 3 hours per day. This is the best number of hours to be revising for, as it’ll allow you time to build your knowledge, without making you super tired. 

Working in this time frame is especially effective if you employ the pomodoro technique as well. Taking a few short breaks every now and then will help you to maintain your 2 or 3 hours of revision. 

I’d say when you start your revision for your exams, you’ll want to revise for about an hour a day. Ease yourself into it, or you’ll either get bored or tired very quickly. 

The number of hours per day of revision can differ depending on what exams you’re taking. If you’re heading into your GCSEs, have a look at this article for how many hours you should be revising. 

If you’re about to take your A-Levels, take a look at this article for how many hours you should be revising. 

11. Don’t Ever Revise In A Group (Spoiler Alert: It Doesn’t Work) 

Studying and Revising in a Groupbig mistake you can make when revising for an exam is to work in a group with your friends. Trust me when I say, it doesn’t work. 

Back when I was doing my GCSEs a few years ago, I used to try and revise with my friends all the time. It always started off well, but ended in us doing something completely different. 

Group revision has the highest chance of you getting distracted and ending up doing something else. This is detrimental to the success of your revision, and eventually the success of your exams. 

There’s always that one friend that distracts everyone else, and if you don’t have a friend like that, it’s probably you. It’s much better to try and revise alone, and come to your friends if you need help after that. 

When it comes to your exam, you won’t have your friends there to back you up. It’ll just be you, in your exam, with the knowledge and exam technique you’ve built up. 

You need to make sure you know as much as you can before you go into your exam, and group work is not the way to go about it. You’ll be much better off working on your own, employing good revision techniques. 

Another bad idea is to do an all nighter, trying to cram in information. This is a horrible way to revise, and will leave you with no knowledge stored in your brain. 

Whatever you do, don’t mix these two revision methods. An all nighter with friends will set you up for failure for your exams – trust me. 

12. Make Sure You Start Revising For An Exam At The Right Time 

Revising At The Right TimeA very essential thing to do when revising for any exam, is to start at the right time. Many students think they should start revising as early as possible, but that’s not necessarily true. 

Starting your revision at the right time can make the difference between you passing your exams, and failing them. Revision is important on it’s own, and any amount will help – it will be more effective in the right time frame though. 

Starting your revision too late will leave you unprepared for your exams. You won’t know all the information you need to, and the gaps in your knowledge will show in your exam answers. 

You’ll also have an underdeveloped exam technique, which will hurt your performance in any other exams you’re taking. Generally, starting your revision earlier is preferred to starting it late. 

However, starting your revision too early can lead to loss of knowledge too. The earlier you start, the more likely it is that you’ll forget what you’ve revised, which leads to more work for you. 

You’ll want a happy medium of when you start revising, between to early and too late. It differs between exams – for example, GCSEs will probably need a little less revision than A-Levels. 

The best general time to start revision for your exams is about 2 month before your first exam. This will give you a good amount of time to revise, without leaving you in any danger. 

For more information on the best time to start your revision, take a look at these two articles: the best time to start your GCSE revision, and the best time to start your A-Level revision.