Exam Revision Tips To Help You Retain Information Using Self Care
These revision tips are for students looking for ways to revise for exams in the real world, with all its pressures and distractions. Work with your personal learning habits to soak up information and stay as calm and relaxed about it all as possible.
Give your activated brain a soothing bath of Netflix.
Your brain is soaking up all kinds of information when you revise, in quite a dense and structured way. Sometimes it’s lovely to watch complete nonsense as a panacea to that. It helps you give your brain time to recharge and defrag. Cooking programmes, design programmes, reality shows… oh, it’s very much allowed to watch exactly what you want when you take a break from revising.
Talking to yourself is allowed and encouraged.
There are several ways to pick up and retain information. Vocalising and repetition is one of them. If anyone judges you when you mutter revision notes to yourself in the park, in the street, on the bus, in the bathroom, they’ve clearly forgotten what it’s like to revise for exams.
You are most welcome to interview yourself out loud as an expert in your field. Whether you’re studying for English or physics, throw yourself questions out loud, and answer them as if you were an expert being queried by adoring fans. Congratulate yourself on your prowess and charismatic interview presence.
Be a child, son or daughter of water
You are mostly made from water. Hydration matters, and not just with obvious physical activity. Drinking water regularly also matters when you are activating your brain. If you’ve learned to drive, your instructor may have always reminded you to stay hydrated behind the wheel. They may even have encouraged you to bring a sippy cup or bottle with you, to sip from if you began to feel overly tense or tightly wound from concentration. That’s because water can help you relax and recharge on a molecular level. It’s readily available magic. Honour water and honoure yourself.
Food and nutrition
If you love to cook, that’s wonderful. You can use cooking as part of your exam revision self-care process. You can use it to take time out and work with your hands the way you’ve been working with your brain.
However, for your own reasons, that may not be a suitable self-care method for you. But you will still benefit from regular nutrition to keep your energy levels strong. And food breaks can help form a natural oasis of rest in the revision desert you are fully equipped to cross. Because you’ve got this.
If you live somewhere where your meals are provided, that’s great. One less thing to consider. If you make your own meals, perhaps you’d like to cook meals you can make loads of in advance and then freeze or chill. Big pots of farmhouse soup, or rice and veg, for instance. Cook once, eat twice – it can save you time and effort.
Heavens, yes. This is the real world. Whatever you consider treats to be, have them. Exam revision comes in waves, in peaks and troughs of activity. You need to punctuate those revision breaks and create your own reward system; treats are a valuable part of that.
Is super-healthy strictly necessary?
It’s your call. It depends on how you’re comfortable eating. You don’t have to hit the cauliflower rice to make revision nutrition work for you. If you tend to eat processed foods, that’s totally fine. Baked beans are brilliant. Just be aware that your brain and body still desire fuel when you revise, and aim for a touch of health and regularity if you can.
Snacks aren’t quite the same as treats. Treats are rewards. Snacks are something you can serve up in seconds just to tide you over. A useful snack might be a constant supply of raw veg sticks and hummus in the fridge so you can plate up and snack in seconds as you revise. Or, if you eat eggs, you can hard-boil an egg for later every morning, and keep it snug in its little shell jacket in the fridge.
Make an exam revision to-do list
Start at the beginning and cross everything off when you’ve done it.
Amy’s exam revision to-do list on Mookychick offers her personal tips on making a to-do list and preparing the night before the exam.
Visual, oral and visual ways to revise for exams
Are you more visual, oral or physical in how you learn? You may also be a mix of all three…
Visual revision tips
You might prefer to:
- Follow the recipe when you cook something new
- Read reviews before you buy something
Visual revision techniques:
- Use colourful sharpies to brighten your revision notes
- Underline key words
- Try using various revision layouts like flow diagrams
- Try using the mnemonic Roman Room memory technique
Oral revision tips
You might prefer to:
- Cook something new using Youtube video recipes, or talk recipes through with friends
- Discuss shopping decisions with friends before you buy
Oral revision techniques:
- Play music as you revise. Studies show that any soothing music (around 60 beats per minute) can help you study more easily because it generates relaxed brainwaves.
- Speaking through your notes will help the info soak in. Explain what you’ve learned to anyone who will listen. Every time you say it out loud, it’s sinking in deeper!
- Record key revision points and play them back to yourself, perhaps before going to sleep.
Physical revision tips
You might prefer to:
- Test something expensive before you buy it
- Go with your gut instinct when cooking something new
Physical revision techniques:
- Go for regular walks. Repeat what you’ve learned as you walk. Ancient Greeks believed physical activity helped you soak up new information. Lessons were taught as students walked through the tree-lined paths of the academy.
- Stick key points on post-it notes and post them round your room. Walk around, stopping in front of each post-it note and read the point out loud. After a while, you’ll find it easier to remember what you’ve written without walking round your room.
- Explore ways to revise using your own version of the body-peg technique.
- Write your revision out by hand, as many times as you want to. The manual act of holding a pen and writing can help you revise.
Free revision apps
Are revision apps a gimmick or game-changer? It really depends on how you like to revise. There are plenty of free exam revision apps available, from flash revision cards to mindmaps and to-do lists. These 6 free revision apps reviewed by the youth activism organisation Youth Employment UK are a good place to start if you want to consider mobile revision aids.
Get to know your revision rhythm
Everyone has different revision techniques, and advice from others may not change that. You may work best when a deadline looms close, or prefer to spread your revision out and start early to avoid stress. You may revise better in the morning, afternoon or evening, according to your own circadian rhythms.
Taking revision breaks
You probably have your own idea of how to spend revision breaks in a satisfying way that recharges your batteries.
- The basic needs (snacks, water, bodily functions)
- Entertainment – watching shows, reading, gaming (take care with gaming as it can be a huge timesink. Sometimes it’s easier to leave it until the end of your revision for the day)
- Social contact – seeing and/or communicating with friends, day trips
- Physical activity, according to ability – dog walks, three-minute disco (play one song and dance. Ridiculous, cool, interpretive – it doesn’t matter. You can also do a truly silent disco and stop what you’re doing and dance for a minute without music. It helps your brain and body say hello to each other again).
Coping with exam revision stress
If stress is getting to you, have a talk with someone who knows the pressure. Perhaps you can find a different perspective. Talking through your fears and concerns can be therapeutic. The people you talk to may not have all the answers, but talking to them may still help.
Have a think if your daily basics are working for you, and if there are any changes you’d like to consider. Nutrition, hydration, physical activity matching your ability, sleep… these are all useful basic to give you a good foundation for revision. Sometimes changing them is easier said than done, but how you approach the basics is always worthy of consideration.
Perhaps your stress stems from not having begun your revision yet. And that’s understandable. It’s all very well someone telling you to start revising, but if the brain is playing tricks on you it’s not that easy. It’s very lovely of your brain to try to help in its own way, but sometimes brains get things wrong. Thank it kindly for its efforts to protect you from the unknown, then put your poor anxious brain aside for a moment. Take a look at what you could do to take that first step into regular revision. Aim to break it down into little steps, not a huge whole.
Getting started with revision:
- Have you got your documentation to hand?
- Have you prepped with revision confidence articles and videos online, to see if there are any useful takeaways to get you started?
- Do you want to start with an easier subject – and make a positive affirmation that however it goes, you will recognise your achievement in beginning revision?
- Would you rather start off with a subject you find harder – it may be difficult anyway, so any revision you do will be a remarkable achievement in itself and perhaps help you be more confident in that particular exam?
- You can start revising just as a practice run, to start picking out what ways of revising might work best for you?
- Try heading to a neutral space like a library with your books. Just to see what happens.
Exam revision stress helplines and support:
It’s okay to want to do your best.
You can always stop, to rest, to do something else, to switch your focus to something else.
It’s okay to ask for help.
- SupportLine Telephone Helpline: 01708 765200, email [email protected]
- Childline: 0800 1111, www.childline.org.uk