02/04/2013 10:06 BST | Updated 30/05/2013 06:12 BST

What's the Best Way to Revise? Cheat and Skive

Picture this: you're revising. But you're not entering the realm of despair, wondering about flights to South America or what you'd look like with a moustache. How is this possible?


The answer's not an app, robot, or human clone and you can't buy it on the internet. Here are the low-tech secrets that will take away your revision pain.

Perfect Timing: Skiving is Good For You

Work two hours, skive two. Fly a kite, stare at clouds, plan world domination, bake a cake. If you don't want to take two hours out, take one. Repeat until you've done five or six hours in total. Genius!

Stay Regular

Roll - or leap - out of bed before eight. Attack a big chunk before lunchtime, and you'll feel like an action hero(ine).

Stop Revising!

That's right, prise those textbooks out of your desperate grip. When you've done five or six hours, stop. Call up your friends, put on your disco boots - or melt in front of the television. You've earned it. Do not revise after eight pm unless you want your brain to leave home.

Go to the Beach

One day a week, during Easter and study leave, do no revision whatsoever. Go to the beach, or however far you can go in 24 hours. You need to take time out if you're going to stay fresh, happy and sane.

You Need to Know What You Don't Know

Work through a checklist of the topics that may appear on the exam. Get this from your teacher, a textbook, or the exam specification. Mark each topic out of ten, to show which are your strongest and weakest areas. If there are monsters on your revision checklist, you need to bag them before the exam.

Stop Staring at Textbooks

Write down everything you know about a specific topic without looking at your books. Now open your books. What did you miss out? Which bits do you need to revise in more detail? You will need text books, or excellent class notes to help. Ask your teacher for recommendations.

Have a Chat with Someone Who Knows Nothing About What You're Revising

Get a friend or parent to ask you questions about a topic, or test you on key terms. They don't need to know the subject. Give them the textbook. Or they could just ask 'what's that?', 'why?' or '...for example?' This is surprisingly helpful. The trick to successful learning - according to Professor John Dunlosky of Kent State University - is to repeat-test yourself day after day - not just on the same day you learn it.

Spend More Time with Your Friends

Invite a friend over. Get a bunch of exam questions from past papers, and take turns to answer - without writing anything down. Ask each other 'what's that?', 'why?' or 'can you give an example?' Keep textbooks handy so you can look things up. Revision doesn't always have to be horrible.


If revising the water cycle, draw it. If revising forms of erosion, draw it. Our memory for pictures is eight times stronger than the memory for words. Power up your revision with a pack of felt pens and big paper.

Make Up New Words

If you know there's something you always forget, make up an acronym to help you remember. So for river erosion, I like to use 'AACH!' which stands for: attrition, abrasion, corosion, and hydraulic action.

The Biggest Secret of All

Answer lots of practice papers. Use the mark scheme to mark your own work. Get examples of examiner marked answers to help you in hard-to-mark subjects like English. You can find these in some of the best textbooks, like WJEC GCSE English and English Language: Higher Student Book, or the brand new AQA GCSE English and English Language Unit 1 books for Foundation and Higher Tier. You can find them on, or there are plenty of free essays on my own blog, With Maths, keep a textbook handy. If you can't work out why √2 x √2 = 2, you'll need to go back to your books. If something foul is lurking out there, you want to shine a light on it now, when you've got your trusty textbooks to hand.


At the end of revision, make an A4 cheat sheet of the things you always forget. Look at just before you go into the exam. Just don't forget and take it in with you!

Remember - your results will always be better if you try than if you don't. Do your best. And good luck!