How to revise


How to revise for A-levels and GCSEs

Put down that highlighter pen and download a flash card app!!! Kate Newton tells you how to revise and how not to.

Sorry to have to say this, but the latest in-depth research on how to revise says that the best revision technique is – wait for it – to plan and start your revision well ahead of your exams, read your notes (step away from that highlighter!), test yourself using flash cards as you go along and don’t try to learn a whole subject at a time – do a little of each subject every time you sit down to revise.

No gimmicks, no post-it notes, no mnemonics – it’s as simple as that!

Research on how to revise has been done by Professor John Dunlosky at Kent State University in Ohio, USA, where he and his team tested ten common methods people use when they are revising for exams. They discovered that only two out of the ten techniques really have any real effect on a student’s ability to retain knowledge whilst revising. See if you recognise any of the methods listed below and check out the scores they were given in the experiment…

Where does each technique sit on our how to revise score board? 

  • Highlighting/underlining – score – LOW
  • Summarising – writing out the main facts – score – LOW
  • Keyword mnemonics – choosing a word to remind you of information – score – LOW
  • Imagery – forming pictures in your mind when reading or listening – score – LOW
  • Re-reading – simply reading through your notes – score – LOW
  • Elaborative interrogation – being able to explain a point or fact – score – MODERATE
  • Self-explanation – how a problem was solved – score – MODERATE
  • Interleaved practice – alternating between different subjects – score – MODERATE
  • Practice testing – self-testing with flash cards – score – HIGH
  • Distributed practice – spreading revision over time and testing yourself on small chunks of each topic at a time, rather than revising the whole of one subject all in one go – score – HIGH

To access a downloadable revision timetable visit Day Job’s revision web site

So, which methods are you guilty of using?! Before the time for serious revision arrives, why don’t you start testing out the two highest scoring ways of revising and see if they work for you? For specific advice on handing you’re a-level workload, read our guest blog by Molly Pipe

About Lynette Daly

Lynette is the publishing editor of Moving On magazine. Moving On is devoted to helping young people make good choices for their future – education, qualifications and careers. Moving On really wants to motivate you! Our articles cover a range of topics to inspire and give ideas. Our magazines are delivered free to all schools, colleges and sixth forms in England and is also available online.

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