HOW TO PLAN YOUR REVISION - Getting Ready For Exams

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.

How much time will I need? (Revision Time-Allocation)

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 factor

If  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!

How often should I Revise a topic?

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)"


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.

5.  Now, using your imagination, try to translate whatever feelings of tension, pain and nausea you may have  into  an  associative  tangible  image.  For  example,  the  occasional  nauseated  sensation  I  feel  at the  back  of  my  throat  I  picture  as  a  slow  trickle  of  tiny,  greyish  pellets.  Lower  down  in  my  chest they gather into a heaving mass of sticky, soot-covered ball bearings. Whatever your representation, imagine a hand gently dipping into your body, grabbing the offending objects and throwing them far away. Continue the process until most of the stress has been removed.

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.