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Get Smart At Getting Smart

28/04/2017 16:00
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The exam season is upon us! I remember how tough this period was as a student, and now teaching lots of my 'younger selves' has made me feel nostalgic. Below I've listed my top seven tips on how to be smart with revision.

1. Start in advance

Ok, I had to put this as the first top tip and I know every teacher constantly says "you should have started revising by now!" but they would only all say the same thing if it had some truth to it right? This isn't to say that you should start six months in advance. However, it is important that you use every stage in your education to develop good studying habits. This could be in the form of rewriting notes when you come back from school, or using half-term holidays to organise your notes. This will give you a head start when it comes to revision. If you are one of those students who hasn't started revising until now then perhaps this point is less relevant and you should look to the following points for more guidance.

2. Pretty isn't everything

Avoid spending hours making everything look neat, nice, colour coordinated and beautiful. Colour can be a great way to revise due to the association your brain makes with a particular topic to a particular colour, which can help you remember things in the exam. However, this shouldn't be an excuse to spend hours simply covering two pages of a textbook because that in itself is a form of procrastination.

3. Create a fuel bar

Before you start revising be sure to have a little section for some healthy snacks like fruit, nuts and yoghurt as well as plenty of water. This will ensure that you don't get distracted every two minutes looking for food (we've all done it!) and if you want to have cheeky snacks like crisps and chocolates, use them as rewards i.e. if I can revise properly for an hour and half I can have a chocolate bar. This will help you achieve short term goals and you'll feel good every time you complete one - and lets be real, revision requires constant morale boosts!

4. Simply reading won't help

You can't just read your notes and expect it to be ingrained in your memory. Research has shown that writing things by hand forces you to look for representative quotes, as well as compelling you to summarise concepts because you don't want to write out everything word for word . When you aren't able to do this, you should use this as a signal that you don't understand the topic very well so you can look further in depth at filling in the gaps.

5. Make past papers your best friend

Again this is something that teachers always go on about, but believe me it is like one of the golden rules of all time! By practising with past papers you allow yourself to apply the knowledge you've just consolidated (or acquired!). I always tell my students that there is a difference between knowledge and intellect:
Knowledge = information
Intellect = how you use that information
High marks are always awarded to those who are able to prioritise their knowledge to answer the question in the most concise way. Therefore, intellect requires you to utilise your knowledge.

6. Zombies can't collect certificates

Revising is important and of course you want to get the best possible grade, but if you spend all your time revising you'll become extremely anxious and may even start to lose sleep. Allow yourself time in the day to do something you enjoy, or at the very least go for a walk. It is important to re-energise and rest your brain. By taking small naps or short walks you learn to respect and understand how your mind works. It'll only work for you if you work for it!

7. Find a revise-able place

It is really important to find a good environment to help your brain maximise its working power. Try out a few different places to see where you can get the most work done. I've found places with lots of natural light help me focus, but others may feel a library is better as you are surrounded with studious people.

Essentially it is about pacing yourself and making your load manageable. By following these steps you'll not only make your life a little easier, but be able to reassure yourself that you actually have some sort of a plan in place. Education can only define you to the extent that you let it define you, so don't set yourself unrealistic expectations (I mean who wouldn't want 12 A*s??) but factor in your own potential as that will allow you to value everything you accomplish along the way. Good luck!

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