Yes, the countdown to exams has truly begun. With the promise of the Easter break hovering on the horizon, you may be feeling quite relaxed knowing you will soon have dedicated time to study; or you may have underlying concerns about how you are going to fit in all that needs to be done before the big event.
Either way, preparation is truly the key to exam success and now is the ideal time to get organised and set up for revision. Everything feels better with a plan and entering this period with a clear and confident idea of what you are going to do and when is no different. But knowing how to get started can be tricky. Here are my five simple steps to tackling your revision timetable.
Step One: start with an audit
The idea of auditing your learning is such an important and often-missed precursor to the revision process. In my previous blog, I outline how you can learn to audit your learning. This includes drawing up a grid with the following headings:
Where are my strengths?
Where are my learning gaps?
What do I need to do to address these?
When will I achieve this? (allocate date)
Completed (tick off when done).
Auditing really is the foundation of effective revision and will help you be honest with yourself about what needs to be done. Whilst it may feel comforting to spend hours revising topics you already know, this will be a waste of precious time. Naturally, you will want to revisit topics but it is most important to acknowledge your weaker areas and push yourself out of your comfort zone to address them.
Step Two: gather information
Before drawing up your timetable, consider any unseen obstacles which might later knock your revision timetable off course. Perhaps you have tuition planned during the break or your parents have booked a family day out. If so, gather a list of these dates to block onto your timetable. Getting into a study routine will be important but you will also need to have some flexibility.
Step Three: consider timing
You may be wondering how much time to allocate to revision. Naturally, there will be some variation depending on the length of your holiday and what needs to be covered but about five focused hours a day should be perfectly sufficient in most cases. For general revision, sessions of approximately 45 minutes long work well. Obviously, if you are completing past exam papers, the sessions will need to be longer.
For learning languages vocabulary or memorising facts such as dates and events, consider blocking in twenty minutes every evening with a short refresher each morning.
Weekends should mostly see a break from revision. However, it can be helpful to schedule in half an hour on one of the days for a languages block test or the learning of facts which have been building up through the week. If possible, rope in a friend, perhaps via Skype, who is on the same course as you for this. Supportively testing each other will benefit you both.
Whilst sitting in your room for eight hours a day might seem the way to go, please generally avoid this approach as it will be counter-productive.
Step Four: draw up the timetable
The key to a good revision timetable is its simplicity so try not to over complicate it. Start by splitting the week days into hourly blocks. Build the timetable around what will work for you. If you like a lie-in, start your revision at ten. On the other hand, if you are an early bird, getting most of your work done in the morning will leave your afternoons free.
Starting the day with breakfast is important as is lunch and some exercise.
Once you have blocked the subjects into the schedule then try to be as specific as possible with regards to what needs covering. This is where your revision audit will be very helpful as hopefully it will specify exactly what you need to cover and how.
Assuming you have three weeks for revision, your timetable could be considered in three overarching phases:
Week One which will involve addressing the areas you identified in your audit.
Week Two which will focus on exam papers.
And Week Three to consolidate knowledge and fill any existing gaps.
Step Five: how to stick to it
Don't rely on one method of learning, for example, note taking. Wherever possible incorporate variety in your learning to keep things interesting. Avoid late nights and peers on social media who post competitive revision updates. Tick off the sections on your schedule as you complete them. Allocate time on your schedule to exercise and enjoy some sunshine every day, even if it is just walking the dog. Eat well. Build in time for socialising with your favourite people. Give yourself healthy treats which increase your happiness.