How do I revise using


   Three Tough Truths        Choose your Method

Ways of Revising using


- Revision Sheets

- Self-tests

- Smartass lists

- Exemplar essays

- 'Green box' questions



'It just won't go in!'


If I had a penny for every time a student said this to me, I would be a rich man.   This page will give you some suggestions about how you can get your revision to 'stick'.



Can't be bothered to read this long webpage?

Click  here  to access the summary!





Before we start:



for goodness sake:









Three Tough Truths

  1. YOU'VE got to do it.  

    Not your teachers with their revision sessions.   Not me with my revision aids.   Revising is like giving up smoking.   You can get the patches, but at the end of the day it's YOU that's got to do it, and it involves decision, and will-power.  


  2. Revision takes time.  

    There is no 'instant' version which will cut corners.   Sleeping with your book under the pillow doesn't do it.   Stop playing at other things, and start working at your revision.  

           And the crapper you are at it, the longer you've will have to spend on it ... or fail.


Three Tough Truths

  1. Fix the information

    Revising is remembering.   It's not 'revising' unless you're fixing it into your brain.   If you spend five hours working in your room, but you still can't remember it in the exam, you've spent 5 hours working, but you've not done any revision.  


    Never just read your notes.   You must always be DOING something with them to FIX the information in your brain (and probably the easiest way to do this is to write it down).





"Never just read your notes.  

You must always be DOING something with them to FIX the information

in your brain."



Horses for Courses: Choose your Method

There is no 'way to revise' which works for everybody.   All our brains work in different ways.   The thing to do is to find the way that works for you.



Choose your Method


Visual, Auditory, Kinaesthetic (= 'touch and movement')

Many people say that you can divide people into visual, auditory or kinaesthetic learners.   Auditory learners can appropriate what they hear.   Visual learners can remember what they see.   Kinaesthetic people learn by doing.  


There is a webpage here which will help you find out what kind of 'learner' you are, and how you might use this knowledge to determine the best way to revise.  




I always found that the best way to revise was to MIX THE INPUTS - not just to use the visual, auditory OR the kinaesthetic channels,

but to use a revision method which used MORE THAN ONE.


1.   'Write it down' is the best way to learn your notes

2.   Walk around while you try to revise your notes.

3.   Write down your notes, but put them into diagrammatic form as you do so.

4.   Stick your notes on the far wall where you can't read them, then walk

      about at the far side of the room as you try to remember what each bit on

      each page said.

5.   Write down your notes on postcards, then spread them out on your table-top.




If you are a visual learner, you will find that many of the revision techniques on this website are auditory-biased.   You may prefer to use also the revision spidergrams on the schoolhistory site.






- - -




Male and Female Brains

Look at your left hand.


bullet If the index finger is longer than the ring finger, you probably have a 'female brain' (good at feelings, communication, explaining).  
bullet If the ring finger is longer than the index finger, you probably have a 'male brain' (good at facts, practical things and spatial relationships).


Use this knowledge to make sure you find a way to learn the things you're NOT good at!



Handles and hooks

You can buy books on 'amazing memory strategies'.   Most of them use a process of association - they link the 'things to be remembered' to other things in their brain (e.g. if they have to remember 'clock-shoe-banana' they imagine a man eating a banana by the town hall clock bending down to tie his shoe.)


Part of the key to revision is to find the hooks (visual, auditory, kinaesthetic) which best help you to 'fix' the learning.



Notes on notes on notes

The easiest way to 'fix the information' in your brain is to:




Your brain has three kinds of memory cells - sound, sight and feel.   The best kind of learning occurs when you use all three at the same time.   Writing it down does this - you see the words, you say them in your mind as you write them, and you are using your movement/spatial senses as you write them down on the paper.


At school I had a friend who had his notes continually stolen by bullies.  

He had to copy them all out again and again.  

But he had the last laugh - he got an 'A'!.


One tried and tested method is just to copy out your notes, by hand, again and again.   Better still - because it makes you THINK about what you are writing - is to make a paraphrase of your notes, then a paraphrase of the paraphrase, and so on, until you have compressed your notes into a series of cryptic headings.   Not only are these easy to learn, by writing and re-writing the words you have helped to embed them in your brain.





"The easiest way to

'fix the information' in your brain is to



Different Ways of Revising


Possible ideas for ways to revise using include:



Revision sheets




Smartass lists


Exemplar essays


'Green box' questions




Ideas for Revising

Revision Sheets

Run off a hard copy of the revision sheet (by clicking the icon to the left of the title on the webpage).  


Using the revision sheets to help you learn the notes:


  1. Use the notes-on-notes technique to paraphrase the  sheets.


    (as the revision sheets are, in fact, abbreviated notes on the content of the booklets) use the hard-copy sheets to convert them back into proper longhand prose.

  2. Many of the notes on the revision sheets are presented as auditory learning aids called mnemonics - words or phrases which carry the first letter of the different points.   Marry these to visual images as a 'hook' (for instance, the mnemonic for the Causes of the Cold War is BARE: to fix this word you could imagine a Russian and an American as naked Sumo wrestlers about to start fighting).   Then make sure you can remember all the points for all the mnemonics.

  3. Most of the revision sheets comprise numbers/lists of facts under a series of heads.   Where these are not linked by a mnemonic, you can invent your own mnemonics, or use other visual hooks to remember them.

  4. When you think you have learned the sheet, stick the hard copies up on a wall where you can read the titles but not the words, and then go through each sheet, rehearsing what each section says.   In my exam, I was able to bring up a visual picture of the relevant sheet, and 'see' the facts I needed on a mental image of the page.

  5. The revision sheet webpages use 'collapsible lists' to 'hide' the next level of notes - you can use this to 'test' your learning, by making yourself rehearse what the notes say before you 'reveal' the text.   In this way you can 'self-test' your learning.

  6. Take the sheets downstairs, and ask a family member to 'test' you on them.



- Revision Sheets








Many mnemonics are rude, simply because we find these easier to remember!  

A colleague reports being horrified because his pupils had covered their exams with rude words - before he realised they were using mnemonics!!!






  1. The best way to use these - as the name suggests - is to CHECK your learning of the revision sheets.   The self-test webpages use 'collapsible lists' to 'hide' the answers - you can use this to 'test' your learning, by making sure you can answer the question before you 'reveal' the answer.   In this way you can 'self-test' your learning.   If you find that you cannot answer the questions without seeing the answers, or are getting the answers wrong, go back and learn the revision sheets more thoroughly.

  2. If you prefer, you can click on the icon to the left of the title on the webpage, print off the sheet and ask a family member to test you (asking questions at random) on your knowledge.  

  3. If you want to use the self-tests for revision, run off a hard copy of the question sheet (by clicking the icon to the left of the title on the webpage).  

       Firstly, use the webpage or a hardcopy version of the answers (click on the icon to the left of the title on the webpage) to write the answers onto the sheet.

       Secondly, learn the answers, perhaps by writing the answers again and again.

       Thirdly, use the webpage or a blank version of the hard-copy question sheet (click the icon to the left of the title on the webpage) to test that you have appropriated the knowledge.



- Self-tests

Smartass lists


  1. The 'Smartass' lists are lists of specialist terms which able pupils can learn and use to demonstrate their excellence.

  2. You can use the 'Smartass' webpages to learn the meanings; the webpages use 'collapsible lists' to 'hide' the definitions of these key specialist terms - you can use this to 'test' your learning, by making sure you know what the word means before you 'reveal' the answer.

  3. Hard-copy questions and answer sheets are available by clicking the and icons to the left of each title page for you to use to test yourself using a family member, or learn the words, as above for the self-tests.



- Smartass lists

Exemplar essays


Simple factual narrative/description accounts 16% of the marks on Paper One, and 10% of the marks on Paper Two, so it is worth while learning Factual Topics.   Many of these are done for you in full as 'exemplar essays' on this site, and it is worth learning them.

  1. Read the 'exemplar' essay;

  2. Use the 'notes on notes' technique to reduce the essays to 6-8 prompt words that jog your memory for the whole story;

  3. Learn the prompt words using a visual 'hook';

  4. Practice listing the prompt words and writing the essay/ telling the story to a family member.



- Exemplar essays

Green box' questions


Every page of the 'Booklets' has got some exam-style questions attached.   You can do these online, print them off, then give them to mark to your teacher or a competent adult .


As you do the questions, make sure you use the attached markschemes to help you do the best answer possible before you give your work to be marked.

- Green box' questions