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Wednesday, 10 April 2013

How to Revise without Realising you’re Revising

Making flashcards, highlighting notes, and going over past-papers can get mind-achingly boring after you’ve completed one module, so try and spice up your revision-life with these top tips.

1. Fact-drop in conversation
You’ve probably heard it a hundred times by now, but teaching someone what you’ve been revising really helps you to absorb information. Don’t sit down formally when you do this; forget about finding a whiteboard and setting questions – maybe just drop in a fact or three when you’re doing the washing up. People won’t be expecting to hear something about invisible numbers, and their confusion will allow you to expand and explain what you know.

2. Act it out
Whether you’re revising Hamlet, the Wars of the Roses, or ionic bonding, why not round up a group of friends in the same situation as you, and act it out? Assign roles, chat about how certain characters/historical figures/particles should act, and see if you can depict your scene as close to perfect as possible. Not only will you be able to think about your character’s lines, but also get inside their heads – how did Ophelia feel when Hamlet rejected her? Can you re-enact the strategy used at the Battle of Bosworth? How many electrons must bond to create hydrogen peroxide? Gather up as many props as possible, and put your revision into action.

3. Listen to music
Everyone can remember the lyrics to their favourite song, so why doesn’t this work for the formulas in your maths textbook? Try to write your own song, incorporating any and all facts, formulas, and fiction that you need to revise. For those of you studying meter and rhyme for English – look no further than lit-hop. Shakespeare was the original hip-hop master, so try and rap some of his verses. For a great example, check out MC Lars – covering Hamlet to Poe, his songs will have you humming along as you easily write an essay in your exam-hall.

4. Play games
No, not online games: step away from the laptop. Could you recreate I’m a Celeb, with horrible forfeits for contestants who get questions or tasks wrong? How about turning Henry VIII and his problematic love-life into an episode of Take Me Out? You’ll be surprised how much you can remember when you’re against the clock, and have a plate of your best mate’s ‘cakes’ in front of you…

5. Argue with someone
For once, your nearest and dearest might be glad to hear you get into a ‘heated debate’. Pick a side, and argue yourself into the ground for it – just like you would in an essay (tip: you may need to give your opponent some notes to help them out!). If there are enough of you in a study group, why not organise yourself into a court-room format? Have the defence, prosecution, judge, defendant and witnesses – it should clear up any confusion over lines of argument, and will be easy to transcribe onto paper when you write it all up later (all courts have a reporter, remember!).

6. Read, read, read
Read your core texts, read critical commentaries, read around the area - read everything you can get your hands on. It goes without saying that the more you explore a subject, the deeper your knowledge will be, but this process also helps to consolidate what you already know. Books are meant to be engaged with, as well as read, so if you have a brilliant point, question, or summary, write it down. Books look best when they are worn-out, well-read, and written all over (although maybe use a piece of paper if it’s a library book).

7. Listen to the experts
If you live in a university town, make the most of it! The majority of universities hold guest lectures on a frequent basis, so if your subject is coming up, book a space and go along. If you don’t live within easy reach of a university, go online! The TED Talks are a brilliant way to hear experts talking about their subjects, and it’s all completely free. Hearing someone talk about a subject they’re passionate about not only reinforces what you already know, but works as a brilliant motivational tool: enthusiasm is contagious.

8. Go outside
I don’t mean revising in the sun – we’ve all tried it, and we’ve all come away with lovely tans and empty books. Do something active: if you’re revising skeletal systems, muscle groups, or biological processes, borrow a human (or a cat), find some post-it notes, and get labelling. Try taking a walk around your area; you’ll be surprised how much will remind you of the work you’re doing, and it’s a great way to think over what you’ve revised, without any distractions like Twitter, the TV, or Facebook.

9. Watch stuff
If you’re studying something that lends itself to a play or film, it’s well worth taking a look. This does not mean you should substitute reading the original, but instead you’ll get a more rounded view of your particular text. Shakespeare wrote his plays to be performed and enjoyed, not despaired over and analysed, so obey the Bard’s wishes, and see it on stage. You’ll be surprised how much easier it is to remember lines, character traits, and themes once you’ve seen it in acted out before you.

10. Get interested
Why did you pick this subject in the first place? Go back to your roots and rediscover your passion for the subject. Whether you need to take an hour off revision to read your favourite book, get inspired by science all over again, or dig out your geographical past – it’s worth it. As soon as you start enjoying something, and want to learn, the whole process gets a trillion times easier – and I’m not exaggerating. Not in the slightest.

Find ways to incorporate what you love into revision: whether that’s sketching your notes into comic strips, making stories out of scientific reactions, or dressing your cat up, don’t stay sat down, get away from the computer, and forget that you’re meant to hate revising.

Author Bio
This post was written by Anu Jagota of Justin Craig Education, who provide GCSE and A-Level revision courses. Visit them online at

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