Cracking the Revision Puzzle

26/04/2016 15:25 | Updated 27 April 2017

I was about thirteen. My dog-eared science exercise book was on my lap. I looked at it, looked up and sighed.

I was supposed to be revising; the trouble was, I had no idea how.

My science teacher had set the homework 'Revise for a test next lesson'. I was a devout teacher-pleaser and wanted to do my best. I always did my homework to the best of my ability and handed it in on time, there was nothing I dreaded more than the wrath of those in authority. However, I didn't know how to revise. My solution to the problem at this point in time was just to read through the notes in my exercise book a few times and hope that would do.

Fast forward a few years and you find me getting my A-Level results. A clean sweep of A grades, five in total. This enabled Cambridge University to give me a firm offer of a place and me to fulfil my long-held ambition of studying there.

A lot had changed in the years between that day that I hopelessly looked at my science exercise book, trying to revise, and the day when I received my A-Level results. I went on a mission to learn how to revise and study effectively. I had to if I was going to achieve my dream of studying at Cambridge. I cracked that code to great success, and continued learning more about it as I studied through my three years at Cambridge.

However, in my work as an academic coach I see many, many young people who haven't managed to crack that code for themselves. It seems that they're not taught revision basics at school. As exam season approaches they become increasingly desperate. Under the pressure of the looming exams they aren't able to come up with creative solutions to the problem. They either work harder and harder filling every hour with inefficient study or they give up entirely thinking that they're useless and hopeless.

I want to give a message of hope. Even for the most clueless student revision is a code that can be cracked. Revision isn't complicated and doesn't have to be scary. Exams don't need to be frightening experiences either. My best advice to the student who just can't get started with revision is:
• Believe in yourself. Revision is a skill that can be learned and it isn't too late for you to learn it.
• Prioritise revising the topic areas you feel least sure about; these are the areas where you stand to gain the most marks.
• Revise for set periods of time (using a timer) and take frequent breaks (time your breaks too).
• Reward yourself for work done. By this I mean, spend time on your phone during your breaks and when you're done for the day rather than before you get started!
• Do lots of past exam questions. These will help you to repeat the material you've learned as well as helping you to refine your exam technique.

My heart goes out to any young person who is feeling lost in the face of revision at this stressful time of year. I just want you to know that you can learn how to do this, I believe in you and you are more than capable of succeeding in your exams.

Lucy Parsons empowers 15-18 year olds to get the top grades and into the best universities. Her new book 'Revision Quickstart Guide: Get Revising and Learn How to Pass Exams in Just 30 Minutes' is now available. Lucy's online home is