Juggling lectures, deadlines, and revision while trying to maintain your social life, wellbeing, and work is no easy task. However, getting ahead in your revision can reduce stress and help you tackle the exam period with confidence. In this blog, you can learn how to revise effectively using a range of productivity boosting study and time management techniques.
Study Methods to Revise Effectively
This study method will ensure that you truly understand your revision material. The Feynman technique proposes that if you can clearly and simply teach the topic you’re revising to someone else, then you have a well-developed understanding. First, choose a topic that is small and specific. Then you can practise teaching this to yourself or someone else by writing down everything you know (or don’t know!). Imagine you’re teaching a small child or someone with zero knowledge of the topic.
You can get creative here using mind maps, bullet points, diagrams, or voice memos. Next, you can return to your revision material to fill in any gaps and repeat the previous step until you can teach it in a simple and clear way. Finally, simplify your explanations further and create analogies for complex terms or topics. This makes the information easier to memorise and allows you to break the topic down to its most simple parts.
You can improve your ability to remember information by engaging in active recall. This study method is backed by research as one of the best ways to revise effectively. You do this by retrieving information from memory without looking at your revision materials. Flashcards are a great example of active recall because you’re testing yourself! That’s exactly what active recall is – repeatedly testing yourself by retrieving information from your long term memory. You can do this by asking yourself questions, or writing out everything you remember about a topic from memory. If you pair the feynman technique with active recall, you can boost both your memorisation and understanding of revision material.
Revise Effectively with Exam Practise
Understanding and memorising your revision material sets you up nicely for achieving your best in exams. You can further improve your grade by mastering your exam technique using past papers or mock exam style questions. By familiarising yourself with the exam structure and lecturer’s expectations, you’ll feel more prepared and confident during the exams. Using the principle of active recall, you can complete exam questions and exercises from memory. You can make this more manageable by writing out bullet points instead of full answers. This gives you a chance to practise connecting information together in a meaningful way without the time pressure of an exam environment.
It can be difficult to revise effectively when you’re unsure how often you should be revisiting your revision materials. Naturally, our brains forget information overtime, and that exact timeline has been outlined in Ebbinghaus’ forgetting curve, which demonstrates how our ability to remember begins declining after 20 minutes and continues over hours and days. Spaced repetition provides a framework for when we should aim to actively recall information so that we interrupt that natural forgetting curve. This trains our memory to retain that information over time. Typically, you’re recommended to start with short time intervals, for example 1-day followed by 1-week. This increases to 2-weeks or longer as you become more familiar with the information.
Our memory benefits not only from spacing things over time but also by spacing out the topics we study. Interleaving, one of the techniques recommended in Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning, involves mixing up the topics you revise during a study session. For example, when completing practice questions from memory, you might complete one question from topic A and one from topic B. Instead of completing all the topic A questions. This variation improves your ability to retain information and reflects the way exams are structured. It’s rare for exams to follow a sequence of topics which can limit how fast we recall information when it comes to being assessed.
Time Management Tips to Revise Effectively
Despite our best intentions to stay on top of our university workload and start revision early, last minute cramming, all-nighters, and caffeine fueled revision sessions get the best of us. You can avoid the stress of exam season by using these time management tips to revise effectively and consistently throughout the academic year.
Retrospective Revision Timetable
When planning revision, many of us follow the standard prospective timetable where we plan in advance when and what we will study. This is a great method for implementing a structured revision timetable that accounts for how much time you have left for exams. However, this method can be inflexible and become outdated if you end up missing the sessions you planned. If you want a more flexible approach to revision planning, the retrospective timetable focuses on keeping track of when you last studied a topic and how confident you feel about the content. This gives you the flexibility to decide what to study in a given session based on your strengths and weaknesses. You can use the principles of active recall, spaced repetition and interleaving to decide when to revisit a topic, especially those you feel need more attention.
To revise effectively, it’s best to be fully focused and present during the revision session. You can do this by revising in smaller time chunks, like pomodoros, these are 25-minute bursts of focused work followed by a 5-minute break. It’s easier to maintain your focus if you’re not revising for long hours without breaks. This is also a great technique for when you’re short on time. You can aim to find 25-minute time slots in your schedule to squeeze in some revision. Pomodoros can also inform you of how long your revision takes for different topics and study methods. You can keep track of how many pomodoro it took to complete a topic or mock exam and use this to block out enough time in your calendar for revision.
Set Clear Goals
Getting started is often one of the most difficult parts of revision. It can feel overwhelming trying to figure what to study, how long for, and exactly what methods or techniques you should be using. This can lead to unproductive and ineffective revision sessions. Using the study methods we’ve recommended, alongside the retrospective timetable and pomodoro technique, you can plan out each study session in advance. You can choose the best study method by identifying what you need. Do you want to improve your understanding, memorise material, or improve your exam technique? This can help you to set a simple goal for each study session and work on your weakest topics.
Boost Your Productivity
You can revise effectively using a mix of the study methods and time management techniques shared so far. To further boost your productivity, you can use the following tips to make revision more enjoyable and efficient.
Being able to revise with others can be a productive way to test your knowledge. This could be with friends from different subjects, your course mates, or a dedicated study group. In a group setting, it’s easy to implement study methods like the feynman technique and active recall by testing and teaching each other about various revision topics. You can make use of flashcards and share exam style answers to pool together ideas and resources. If you or another member struggles with understanding, others can help you fill in the gaps, which lets them use active recall and helps you improve your knowledge of the topic. To stay on track, the pomodoro technique can be used, allowing you all to take breaks where you can chat freely. More generally, group study is a great way to hold you accountable, improve your motivation to revise, and ensure you get some social time in. After a productive group study session, you can plan a meal or outing together. Balance is important for not burning out!
Digital Tools to Revise Effectively
To revise effectively, it’s important to have your lecture notes, readings, and revision material all organised and up to date. However, this process can be time consuming, especially trying to capture all the information from lectures. These days, there are a range of digital tools tailored to the needs of students that can help you to streamline the learning, note-taking, and revision process. Using Jamworks, you can save time in lectures and revise effectively while staying organised. Jamworks is an AI-powered assistive note-taking and live captioning tool for capturing in-person and online lectures, meetings, and seminars. This tool allows students to organise recordings into labelled highlights, make personal notes with file attachments, and view full lecture transcripts.
Highlighted study content can be reviewed as an audio note, a word for word text note or a summarised study note and then revised using automatically generated revision flashcards. These flashcard quizzes made for you by AI, provide a starting point to beat procrastination and start revising directly from your learning materials – not just from generic questions and answers.