Effective revision enables you to get material from your short term memory into your long term memory. Long term memory is like a library – information that is placed in it in a systematic way is more likely to be retrievable. Below are some tips to help you revise minus all of the stress and anxiety!
Try to comprehend the overall structure of the lessons or lectures. What were the main concepts? How did the lecturer or teacher set out his/her argument? Pay particular attention to establishing how all the individual pieces of information fit together to produce a coherent whole.
Organise notes into topics/areas. It is easier to remember individual details when they are grouped into mini-sections. Make a list of the areas you need to know in each subject and write down headings and subheadings.
Add material you have learned from your reading to your notes according to the subject area. Underline/ highlight/ write comments in order to emphasise the idea of each section.
Revise actively. Don’t fall into the trap of spending 99% of your study time mindlessly writing out notes and 1% of your time actually looking at them. The more ‘active’ you are in writing notes, the better you will be able to remember them. This may involve reconstructing your notes in a different format, such as:
- Written summaries for each topic – Numbering each point can help with recall in the exam.
- Diagrams such as flow charts and mind maps. During the exam, it is easier to recall information which has been represented diagrammatically. Colours are particularly helpful to stimulate the memory.
- Audio – Try recording your summaries or prepared answers to practice questions onto a portable recording device. Comprehension improves if you listen and read at the same time. The other advantage for those who like multitasking is that you can listen while doing something else like walking, ironing or sitting on a bus!
Distinguish between recall and recognition. Many students, after having read over material several times, assume that because it looks very familiar they have learned it. Simply being able to recognize material does not automatically mean that you will be able to recall it later in the exam.
Practice recall. The following suggestions may be useful:
- When learning definitions, divide a piece of paper in two vertically and write the words on one side and the definitions on the other. Cover the words and practice recalling them, using the definitions. Then cover the definitions and practice recalling them, looking at the words.
- Use cards with the subject on the front and the information to be recalled on the back. Look at the subject, practice recalling the information, then look on the back of the card to check.
- If you need to memorise diagrams, make large ones and stick them up on your walls.
- Use rhymes and mnemonics to assist recall. For example, to remember electron loss and gain in oxidation and reduction, the following may be easy to remember: OIL RIG – Oxidation Is Loss; Reduction Is Gain (of electrons)
- Revise with a friend or a study group to share knowledge and exam strategies and to practice recall.
Reduce anxiety and stay motivated
Although a small amount of stress before exams may aid your performance, too much anxiety will negatively affect your exam performance. There are several strategies you can try to reduce your anxiety before and during exams.
Start early and stay on track with your exam preparation to reduce your stress levels. If you have trouble getting organized and making a study plan and would like someone to help you, check what kind of help is available to you through your school.
- Look after your health. Get plenty of sleep, eat healthy food and try to find time to exercise. Many people find that yoga and breathing exercises can help keep them in tune both physically and mentally.
- Keep things in perspective. Although it may seem at the time that the next exam will be the most important event in your entire life, this is probably not really the case and thinking like this only puts more pressure on yourself.
- Take a break. Notice when you are tired or losing concentration. If you feel like this late at night, you could make more effective use of your time by going to bed and getting up earlier the next morning to study when your mind is feeling fresher. A good way to refresh a tired mind is to go on a brisk 15-minute walk. A 15 minute TV break is mind-numbing rather than refreshing and can easily turn into a one hour break.
- Set rewards for yourself. Rewards for good progress can assist with motivation. Try setting yourself a goal and rewarding yourself when you achieve it. A reward can be as simple as a cup of tea or your favourite TV program.
Hope that helped! What do you do to keep exam stress and anxiety to a minimum? Share in the comments below to help others!