Exam Revision

Learn how to revise effectively for upcoming exams, from scheduling in revision time to varying the techniques you use.

Student studying

Mapping out your exams

Preparing for your exams can be time-consuming and challenging. Exams will often cover material from the whole semester or year, so there is often a lot of material to work through. 

Exam revision can sometimes feel like a task with no endpoint. How will you know when you have done enough? There is no easy answer to this question, but what you can do is make sure you have a plan in place and work through it systematically. That way, you will know that you have made positive progress and can go into your exams with confidence. 

An important first step is to know exactly what is coming up and when. Have a look at our exam mapping template (googledoc) to get all the basic information in place.

Once you know exactly what you are preparing for, you can begin drawing up a realistic revision timetable, working backwards from your exam dates and building in some contingency time for the unforeseen. The exam room provide an online revision planner that you might find useful. 

Don't forget to incorporate plenty of time for breaks including whole days off, so that your revision is focused and you have opportunities to reflect. It is also a good idea to think carefully about how you can reward yourself during these breaks to ensure you stay motivated.

301 Recommends:

Our Revision Planning workshop will introduce some key principles, look at how to make the most of revising across learning styles and provide opportunities to share and discuss methods and ideas for effective revision. You will go through an exam mapping process within the session to identify the revision workload across your exams and make a plan to put into action.

Our Memory Techniques for Revision workshop will introduce several established techniques for memorising and remembering large volumes of information. It will provide opportunities to try out a number of strategies and to evaluate how and when they might be used as part of your approach to exam revision or preparation for academic assignments.

Our Revision Strategies workshop will introduce some key principles of revision planning, look at how to make the most of revising across learning styles and provide opportunities to share and discuss methods and ideas for effective revision. It will also look at the MCQ exam as a process or timeline and identify the key stages that will give you the best chance of getting the marks that you deserve. It will look at ways to plan your time in the exam, how to analyse the question and how to answer the exam paper strategically. It will conclude by looking at the role that time pressure and stress plays in an exam situation to share and identify ways to overcome the challenges.

Ways of learning

A good starting point when planning your revision is to consider how you learn and develop varied and appropriate revision strategies. 

VARK is a model for thinking about how you learn based around four 'styles' of learning, visual, auditory (listening), read/write and kinaesthetic (practical or hands-on). That the VARK questionnaire that to help evaluate which learning styles appeal and may work best for you.

An awareness of your preferred ways of learning can you to identify relevant revision techniques and try out new ways of revising, for example:

  • Visual: Try mind mapping, colour coding, using diagrams, creating flow charts and time lines.

  • Auditory: Try reading notes aloud, recording key information and listening back, working with others to explain topics to one another.

  • Read/write: Try rewriting notes, condensing notes onto flash cards, writing sample answers.

  • Kinaesthetic: Try using card sorts, watching videos (visit Kaltura for some ideas), practising and applying techniques.

But don't forget: variety is the spice of life! There is more than one way to revise well. Try out different things to see what works for you and try to avoid getting stuck in a rut in your revision.

By mixing it up, using a variety of techniques, and drawing on different methods and approaches to learning, you will help to keep it interesting and sustain your motivation through to the exam date. 

Watch this short Study skills hacks video for some ideas on how to make the most of your revision time.

301 Recommends: Take the VARK Questionnaire

Take this online questionnaire to identify which styles of learning appeal to you and how you might apply this to your revision.

Revision strategies

Alongside careful planning, the use of appropriate revision strategies can help you to make the most of the time available, giving you the opportunity to prepare thoroughly and get the most out of yourself on the day.

The following suggestions should help you to make the most of your revision time.

Be selective

  • You may not have time to revise everything on a module in great depth, so be selective about what you study; revise the things that are most important and that you have least knowledge of.
  • Try to distil your notes to flash cards, sets of keywords, phrases or terms and consider which topics apply to more than one module.

Revise with others

  • Explaining and discussing subject content with your course mates can help to reinforce your own learning.
  • Try preparing quizzes for one another, take it in turns to summarise key areas, or simply arrange a time to study with others (whether physically or online) to provide extra motivation.

Use past papers

  • Past papers are a useful study resource that you should be able to access on Blackboard.
  • Try to brainstorm answers or make outline plans for as many questions as possible – even time yourself writing some of these answers.
  • This can be particularly useful in helping you to think critically about the information you are learning and how you might present it in a clear way under exam conditions.
  • Self-mark your own work and see if you can identify all of the marks that are allocated for each answer in your work. 

Spaced Repetition

  • Looking over materials more than once will help to make sure that you retain the information you have learned.
  • Condense your notes as much as possible and then return to them at intervals throughout the revision period.
  • Try to increase the interval and test yourself before checking in to see if you have remembered the material correctly.

Practise handwriting

  • In preparing for an exam, don't forget that your paper will be handwritten, so practise this skill and make sure that your writing is legible. Examiners will not award marks if they cannot read your work.

301 Recommends: The Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro technique is a time-management strategy that uses a short interval timer to encourage focused bursts of concentration on a task, broken up by regular short breaks.

The original technique worked on a basis of 25 minutes on, five minutes off, with a longer break every 3–4 cycles.

Try using this technique with an online timer to make sure you aren't distracted by your smartphone or emails during your focused activity. Reward yourself with a short break on a regular basis.

This process of effort and respite will allow you to make the most of your ability to concentrate and allow time for your revision to sink in during the breaks.

Top tips and resources

  • Think positively and avoid the company of those with a negative outlook. You probably know more than you think you do!
  • Take care of your body and don't forget to build in plenty of time for breaks and relaxation.
  • Don't try to cram at the last minute - a good night's sleep will be far more helpful!
  • Visit SSiD's Exam information pages for any timetabling questions or concerns
  • View Digital Learning's guidance on completing a Blackboard Test (login required)
  • If you are feeling anxious in the run-up to your exams, don't forget that there is support available. Visit SSiD's Exam worries pages for more information.
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The Summer Skills Spark: 5 weeks to ignite your research skills

Are you working on a dissertation or research project this summer? 

The Summer Skills Spark offers workshops to support you through every step of the process. You'll have opportunities to plan your projects, develop your research skills, explore dissemination techniques, and consider a future career in research. 

Collaboration between 301 Academic Skills Centre, the University Library, Digital Learning, and the Careers and Employability Service.

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