How to make sure revision sticks

How to remember factsHot on the heels of ‘How to power up your GCSE revision,’ today we’re looking at how to help information stick!

Revising is hard work when you’re not doing it right. Often it leads to frustration and panic when you have just months to go before D – or E – Day!

The truth is, some techniques work better than others. That said, there are universal revision techniques you can try to help you retain information instead of it going in one ear and straight out the other.

Where do so many students go wrong?

Usually when you revise for too long in one sitting without applying or testing it afterwards. Thing is, your brain isn’t built to retain information unless you use it.

Classic scenario: you sit for an hour reading your text book. You find your eyes blurring, you’re getting bored, and start looking for distractions. But you stick to the hour as you said you would. ‘It’s revising,’ you tell yourself.

Except when you have a test on it the next day, you don’t recall much. The reason? Just reading by itself doesn’t do enough.

Lose it if you don’t use it

A better scenario is this: you spend 15 minutes learning about a poem, a chapter in a text book, a historical event, population or traffic for human Geography paper. Afterwards, you try different ways to recall that information:

  • Create mind maps, recalling info and connecting ideas
  • Record the information into a dictaphone app and play it back while fact-checking
  • Make a poster with key info, statistics, images
  • Test out what you remember on a whiteboard or paper in bullet points
  • Tell a friend/parent what you’ve just learned so you ‘translate’ it into your own words

Try ACTive reading

In those 15 minutes, some students find it helps to do something active rather than just read. Use your ears, eyes, and hands. Try these for size:

  • Highlight key facts in a text, then pull them together in a diagram
  • Colour code information
  • Condense information you are reading as you go along into a spider diagram/on sticky notes
  • If you’ve revision sheets in ‘Word,’ use text-to-speak to hear the information. Jot down bullet points as you listen
  • Create index cards as you go along, recording key info/quotes/facts
  • If you’ve a spare five minutes left of your ‘reading’ time, check out YouTube. You’d be amazed at how many teachers  upload learning vids. Everything from anthology poem analysis to understanding vectors for Maths.

Talk and learn

Yes, it’s official. You can learn by talking! In fact, it’s one of the best ways to remember information. Here are our top tips:

  • Revise with a mate. Chat through that tricky poem/chapter/technique/topic
  • Each revise something different for ten minutes, then teach each other what you read. Explaining out loud what you recall is a great way to help you remember it for longer
  • Read a non-fiction text together for the paper 2 Language paper. Annotate the text together to see what you both spot
  • Ask a parent to quiz you about a topic you’ve just learnt to sharpen up your recall

How else to boost your memory recall?

  • Use mnemonics. Useful for spelling: rhythm. Rhythm Has Your Two Hips Moving
  • Maths trigonometry: SOHCAHTOA sin: opposite: hypotenuse / cos: adjacent: hypotenuse / tan: opposite: adjacent
  • Ryhme can help: Winds blow from high to low
  • Mix up your revision topics. More subjects in short bursts is better than long revision sessions on less subjects. So don’t have a day of Maths, or a weekend of Science

Next up? Which test is best?

The third post in this series is important. It’s all about how to test yourself. Exams can make even the cleverest student weak at the knees with fear. That’s why we’ve asked our top Surrey and Chichester tutors to share their top techniques. Don’t miss it!

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