Brighten Youth Education Centre

 

 

 

I know you’re very busy at the moment but could we please distract you for just a moment? As always, we want to help. We know that many of you are preparing for exams right now, and you must be awash with “advice” offered by everyone from your building doorman to your great auntie. Well we’d like to add to that advice although in our defence, once again we’ve looked at the science behind some of the suggestions.

What revision usually involves is looking again at something you, in ideal circumstances, have already learned. Yet this may be tricking your brain into simply recognising, rather than actually recalling information. These are different psychological processes and recollection is a far easier task. So when you look again at topics, practice retrieving the information from memory, not just recognising the feelings of familiarity that were generated when you learned the information. You will also have been told, time and time again, to space out your revision because cramming doesn’t work. You may think it does, but the science is against you I’m afraid, largely because it takes time to form reliable memories. I hope you’re not tired of hearing that one because we’re not even close to getting tire of saying it; space out your revision!

Your revision should feature focused bouts of effort. This means working on what you’re least sure about, not what you know best (which can feel very comforting, especially in the beginning). It is satisfying to reassure yourself about what you don’t know, creating a sense of familiarity and making practice pleasurable. Most experts advise against this, but we think that a little reassurance might be a good thing, especially when you’re just starting out and things are tough. However, revision should largely be a deliberate effort to identify what you don’t know.

Lastly, we would encourage you to resist your instincts. Most of us would prefer to familiarise ourselves with all the material before testing ourselves. However, it is also vital to practice the exact skill we are marked on. This means practice questions, full papers and essays if necessary. Gather as much practice material as you can (don’t be afraid to pester your teachers and scour the internet) and swap potential questions with friends as this avoids the temptation to only think about questions relating to the material you’ve revised. This will also help with timekeeping. If the first time you do a full paper is in a mock exam, you’re likely to run into trouble. If you’ve gotten used to doing them, you’re likely to get faster and faster.  This process involves thinking dynamically, rather than simply regurgitating what you already know. Now it’s over to you to put this advice into practice.

 

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