How To Plan Your Revision (Prepare For Exams)
"The trouble with doing Nothing is that you never know when you are finished!"
The path to success lies before you. It is not an exclusive path with access granted only to a privileged few who are born with a special gift for learning. It is available to everyone. You are already well equipped with an incredible potential for absorbing knowledge. Let your imagination – the key to learning and memory – unleash that brainpower and propel you along at ever-increasing speeds.
The first thing to do when it comes to revising is to make a plan. It is vitally important that you organise a timetable to ensure that all the subjects you need to revise receive adequate attention.
Quantify the amount of work required for each subject. You must have some idea of the size of the task in hand before you can divide up your revision time, as some subjects will require more attention than others. Study the syllabus for each subject so that you know exactly what you are supposed to have covered, and get hold of past exam papers. Most important of all, seek advice – if anyone knows what work is involved, your teacher will.
How much time have I got? (Time Available For Revision)
Once you have an estimate, measured in hours, of the total time required to complete your revision, work out how much time you can reasonably allocate to covering it, during both term time and holidays. Hopefully, you should end up with a surplus of spare time.
Now you are ready to draw up a timetable. Make sure you allow for breaks. The ideal arrangement is to have short bursts of twenty minutes of concentrated study, followed by five minutes of rest or a complete change of activity. In other words, for every two hours of study, allow for an extra half hour’s break time. Studying in short bursts optimises your learning rate for several reasons.
The feel-fresh factorIf you don’t take regular breaks, your brain will gradually start to switch off through boredom, overload, lethargy or fatigue. It’s like trying to read a long essay that has no full stops or commas. Your brain craves a bit of light and shade to maintain its interest and keep that feel-fresh factor.
Taking stock (Taking Stock Of What You Have Revised)Strangely enough, despite the fact that your attention may suddenly switch to feeding the cat or filtering the coffee, your brain actually carries on working by taking stock of all the information that’s just been fed to it. Although you may not be conscious of it, it continues to process, sort and save data, filing it away in your memory banks whilst you’ve got your feet up and are munching on a cream cake. So don’t feel guilty or think that you’re wasting valuable time by taking breaks; allow your mind some time to “get its breath back” – but not too long!
If you have just been learning a new topic, the simple answer to when you should next review it is immediately; then 24 hours later, one week later, one month later, three months later and so on.
Let’s assume that the subject is biology, and you have just been studying the human respiratory system. Today is 7th November. After a short break, revise by refreshing your memory of the main points.
Afterwards, write down your notes – in the form of Mind Maps or the layout of a familiar location – on the next review date: in this case, 8 November. The following day, go over those same points again, but this time your new review date will be 15 November. Now switch to a different subject and apply the same format, always adding a new review date at the end of each review session. Box off a section in the corner of your notes specifically for keeping dates.
It is very important to rotate subjects, for example by revising some biology, some geography, some Physics and so on. That way you’ll maintain your interest with an element of contrast, rather than stagnating and getting bogged down in one subject.
Keep to your plan!Having devised your timetable, keep to it! We humans are creatures of habit, which means we all too easily fall into the habit of avoiding tasks by using delaying tactics and allowing distractions.
Creating a timetable is like making a pledge: once you’ve agreed to it, it cannot be broken. Regarding it in this way will help prevent procrastination because you will not allow yourself the alternative of, “Well, never mind, I can always catch up tomorrow.”
Ritual (Revision Ritual)You can turn this otherwise negative side of your habitual nature into a positive advantage by developing a study ritual. If you plan to work from 8.30 p.m. till 11 p.m., for example, give yourself a countdown of activity starting, say, from 8 p.m. This could involve doing a crossword, playing computer games or engaging in some form of physical exercise. It doesn’t really matter, as long as it becomes a routine preamble for studying.
"You don't have to do homework in heaven (unless your teacher is there, too)"
HOW TO OVERCOME STRESS DURING REVISION/STUDY
One of the reasons that we find it such an effort to settle down to Revise is that the mere idea of study can evoke in us so many negative feelings, emotions and associative images. A typical split-second flash of associations may follow a line of progression rather like this:- Study > Complicated > Effort > Exams > Failure > Panic > Stress > Pain
In short, study = pain, which is hardly an incentive to get started on a revision timetable.There is a reason for stress. Its function is to warn us of impending danger, and so it protects us by prodding us into taking counteractive measures.
Unfortunately, though, this incessant prodding can go too far and end up being counterproductive. You realise that you should have started your revision much earlier; now you’re prepared to do something about it. The trouble is that stress levels are high, and the images of the exam room and your relatives’ disappointed faces loom ever nearer, which means you can’t concentrate. This is unfair; you’ve accepted intellectually that there is an urgent need to act, but you’re hampered by the physical and emotional effects of the stress triggered by your realisation.
You may compare the following remedy with practices such as meditation or neurolinguistic programming.
How to get into the right frame of your mind
1. Lie on your back or sit comfortably in an armchair.
2. With your eyes closed, focus your attention on every muscle in your body, starting with your feet.
As you work your way up, let go of any tension in those muscles until your whole body feels like a heavy, dead weight. Feel the tension go in your face muscles and let your jaw sag as it succumbs to the gravity.
3. With the rest of your body taken care of, you can now concentrate on your breathing, heartbeat, and any feelings of nausea caused by the anxiety of stress.
4. Breathe deeply and slowly, even though your heart may be pumping furiously.
6. With your body relaxed, your breathing deep and your nausea reduced, conjure up an image of a place or person that gives you a peaceful, happy or relaxed feeling. This could be a scene from your childhood, a holiday location or a loved one. Latch on to that image, and try to immerse yourself in those pleasant feelings.
7. Now, slowly superimpose that pleasant picture on to the image of your anxiety. You might, for example, visualise walking into the examination room and seeing your loved one standing there. By blending or mixing the two images together – one of happiness, the other of anxiety – I am in effect neutralising the object of my fear.
8. Having stared my worst fears in the face and removed any bad feelings associated with them, I can now approach the job in hand in a completely relaxed, positive state of mind.
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