Our monthly feature offering advice on study techniques & tips. If you have any tips or tricks that you want to share, simply let Rosie know at firstname.lastname@example.org
Quite possibly the only thing worse than worrying about revision is worrying about when to start. Procrastination is not exactly great, and only provides us with immediate gratification, as soon the awareness that we could be further ahead with our revision had we not binge-watched Netflix all day seeps in. On the flip side of this, some of us start revising really early in the year, feeling motivated to succeed, and burn out about a month before exams, realising we have covered everything and are now just killing time. Having survived several exam seasons, I have a few bits of advice on how to work out when is best to revise for you!
Firstly, you need to remember that your revision pattern is unique to you, and should be tailored to fit your lifestyle. This means that just because someone else has started revising, or hasn’t yet, doesn’t mean that you should be doing what they do. There is a rising trend on YouTube this year in “Study With Me” videos, which are created by students, and film their day of studying.
Whilst this is beneficial in learning new ways to revise, and getting an idea of when it is good to start, they have one toxic drawback.
These videos are often accompanied by an hourly-time frame such as “12 hour study with me”, which gives people the impression that someone out there has done a solid 12 hours of revision in one day. Cue slow shattering of self confidence as you sit there at 11am, still in your dressing gown on a Saturday morning, finding out someone has been revising since 6am that same day. In an age of social media and importance in social status, we tend to compare ourselves to one another, and this can be dangerous. If you are someone who only does 4 or 5 hours of revision a day, these videos can make you feel like you are lazy or not working hard enough, due to some irrelevant number. The number of hours you do is irrelevant.
This brings me on to the my next point, which I’m sure we have all heard about 100+ times in our lives; quality not quantity.
Spending your weekend doing over 20 hours of work, whereby you drag all your tasks out just trying to feel like you spent more time doing revision is not beneficial. This will burn you out quickly, like super-duper quick. What you should focus on is being productive in a small amount of time and the depth of your work. Doing 2 or 3 hours a day in real depth, taking everything in, making detailed notes and testing yourself will do you much better favours than re-reading the same textbook passage on a loop for an hour. If you want to quantify your work, do it by how many tasks you get done, not how long you did them for. What feels better; doing 2 essays in a day, an hour each, really focusing and thinking about what you are writing and getting top marks, or sifting through your folder of notes all day, re-reading and re-reading, then doing a paper where you get half-marks because nothing went in? Well, if your answer is “Option 2” then my mission is a failure, please turn the page to the next article. Here’s hoping your answer was option one! Learning information productively in a short space of time and applying it effectively is far more impressive than doing 10 shallow hours of revision, I guarantee you.
As for when to start, I can’t tell you. Purely because my work pattern will not suit everyone else. However, I suggest making a list of everything you need to cover, maybe just after your mocks. Try and split all tasks down into the same sized chunks, maybe 30-40 minute goals. Then, decide on how many to do a day. Start slowly, just one a day and gradually build it up to perhaps 6-7 tasks a day. If it’s too much for you, don’t push it, because otherwise you jeopardise everything else. If you feel you are getting behind and time is running short, prioritise the most important bits. If you are too ahead of schedule and are sitting around with everything covered, help a friend revise; teaching others is an incredibly beneficial way of learning and applying knowledge!
Remember, it’s YOUR revision for YOUR tests in exchange for YOUR grades, no one else’s!