4 creative revision techniques for the desperate student


Kalin Delev – author of My Grades Suck! How to Get Excellent Marks in University Exams, Reports, Presentations, and Group Projects – gives The Student Blogger some great revision tips for those all-important, upcoming exams…

‘I’ve been here for six hours and I’ve revised only one page,’  my friend nervously stuttered as we greeted in the library. We’ve all experienced it at some point during our student careers. That feeling of utter boredom, mixed with subtle cringing anxiety. You know that you need to do this for your exam, but the same old revision strategy isn’t cutting it. It’s mundane, exhausting and barely anything sticks in your mind longer than a few hours.

If only there were more fun, innovative ways you could learn the material. If only there was something you could do differently to engage better with your lessons and make them stick… well, fear no more!

1. Add some motion

If you’re struggling to remember important information, try performing a physical task while studying. It might seem like that would be distracting, but it actually has the opposite effect. It engages your mind more in the learning process and actually helps you concentrate.

A simple activity like shuffling cards, rolling a coin between your fingers or squeezing a hand exerciser will do wonders for your cognitive ability. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even practise juggling while reciting your notes for an even greater effect and a snazzy party trick.

2. Listen to yourself

Many people find the sound of their own voice annoying  –  I know I do. But when it comes to exam revision, desperate measures must sometimes be taken. The next time you go over your notes, read them out loud while recording yourself with your phone or device.

Then, play them back on your headphones at a later time. You can do this while commuting, doing the dishes, hoovering or whatever other responsible activities a young adult such as yourself engages in.

It might be a bit irritating at the start, but it’ll soon become your favourite way of revising. You’ll be clocking in study hours without even noticing. If you’re the musical type, you can even turn the notes into a series of short rap songs. Just make sure you don’t start singing out loud during the actual exam!

3. Visualise the lesson

Sometimes the best way to get something into your brain is to see and hear it. There are countless videos on all kinds of subjects on YouTube – biology, economics, physics, geography … you name it! Just find the lesson you’re struggling with in a video format, and watch it a few times. Go a step further, and email the video creator with any questions you still have.

Make sure to also show the clip to your tutor. They may want to share it with the rest of the class, and will let you know if they approve of the information, so that you can be sure that what you’re learning is right for your exam.

4. Tomato timing

All of these tactics would be useless without a proper framework to do them in. Luckily, there is an easy system you can follow for your revision time.

The Pomodoro Technique is a simple time-management strategy developed by Francesco Cirillo, who named the system after the tomato-shaped timer he used to track his work as a university student. In essence, you set a timer to 25 minutes, during which you do your work. When the timer ends you take a five-minute break, reset it and continue. After every four ‘pomodoros’  (25-minute sessions), you are allowed to take a longer 10-minute (or 20-minute) break.

This technique is ideal for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it focuses your mind on completing a task. The added pressure of getting it done within a limit stimulates your brain activity and helps you stay engaged with the lesson. And since willpower is perishable, the longer you try to work on something, the less productive you become. Eventually, you’ll be doing more harm trying to revise, if you’ve kept at it for long enough without a break.

By following the Pomodoro technique you can keep your productivity high without having to drug yourself with excessive amounts of caffeine or sugary treats. Much healthier for the mind, and body too!

Deepen your knowledge

These four tips should help you figure out a more practical way of revising for your exams. If you’re still struggling, or you want to know more, check out my Kindle eBook My Grades Suck! How to Get Excellent Marks in University Exams, Reports, Presentations, and Group Projects. In it I’ve outlined my experiences with university assignments, while keeping a part-time job and doing extracurricular activities for that much-needed experience. It’s a short, to-the-point read that’s sure to give you plenty of ideas on how to work smart towards your academic goals.

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