We all know the first rule when it comes to effective revision is not to leave it to the last minute. But, how do we avoid doing passive and unproductive revisions? Strategies like re-reading and using highlighters are largely ineffective, whereas quizzing actually works! Keep reading for 7 tested and proved effective revision tips. When applied separately or combined, these tips can help you better perform on exams and get better grades.
Be a quiz wiz
A preferred mode of studying is sitting down and looking over the textbook and notes that you took during class, and once the material looks familiar, you assume you’re done studying and ready to take on the exam. But this passive revision method is merely giving you the illusion of understanding – or the perception of recall from long-term memory. While quizzing yourself helps to pull information from long-term memory and gets checked for accuracy and detail using course content, and the more that the study situation resembles the testing situation, the more likely you are to remember the information during the test. And guess what, this works even if you’re not in school. If you are in a position where you have to learn something new, don’t simply read it over, test yourself.
Good ol’ flashcards
Using flashcards is a great way to study and retain factual knowledge. First, flashcards engage “active recall,” that is, you are attempting to remember the concept from scratch rather than simply reading a passage in your textbook or notes on your laptop. Second, when you reveal the answer side of a flashcard to assess your accuracy, it’s in fact an act of self-reflection, that is, you are asking yourself questions about how well you know the material. Finally, you have the freedom to choose to review some cards more often than others, and hence you have a choice to reinforce repetition of certain knowledge.
Get organized with diagrams
Reorganizing and restructuring the knowledge that you’ve retained with diagrams is a great way to assess if you’re ready for your exams. This is another active revision method because you are deliberately writing down different steps of a process in a sequential order or making meaningful links that are logical and coherent.
Reorganize your notes with help from Cornell
Devised by a professor at Cornell University in the 1950s, the “Cornell Note Taking” method is a well-structured system for effectively taking, organizing and reviewing notes.
This note-taking method encourages students to actively analyze or synthesize and summarize your notes in your own words, which is good practice to help you digest the knowledge, facts/concepts of the topic you’re studying. On top of that, the way this note-taking method is structured requires you to reorder certain passages on the page, and hence allows you to reinforce your understanding.
Talk out loud
Give yourself one minute to talk out loud about the topic or subject you’re studying. Try to not to pause or hesitate. This is in fact a self-explanatory method, meaning that you’re making causal or conceptual connections between new information you’ve learned and what you already know (or other parts of the topic). Ultimately, if you can explain and elaborate on the topic or subject well, not only have you retrieved it from memory, but you also know that you have solid understanding of it.
Choose important facts, ideas, concepts, or terms, from a given revision topic or subject. Then carefully select what you think is the most significant knowledge or idea/concept that you need to understand for your exam. And be picky about it. Just like highlighting your notes, don’t paint the page in neon yellow or pink, but limit yourself to only choosing a few lines (the most important ones) to highlight. Also, being picky is helpful when you have exams from multiple courses to study for.
Practice, practice, and practice
If you can get your hands on past exam questions or even study guidelines from friends or classmates, then great, now you just need to practice over and over again, and remember to space out these practice sessions over time. If that’s not the case, then try to come up with exam questions, based on your experience and judgement of how the professor is going to evaluate the class, or based on the format of the exam (i.e. multiple choice, fill in the blanks). Aside from practicing on answering questions, it’s also important to practice having the mindset or being in “game/exam mode”. Simulations of how you might feel, how you manage time, and such, will help you be mentally prepared for the exam.
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