How do I revise using
Ways of Revising
'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?
to access the summary!
Before we start:
for goodness sake:
READ THROUGH YOUR NOTES
YOU WILL LEARN NOTHING
Three Tough Truths
YOU'VE got to do it.
Not your teachers with their revision sessions.
Not me with my www.johndclare.net
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.
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.
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).
The ONE MUST
"Never just read your
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.
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.
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
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
spidergrams on the schoolhistory site.
hOW TO REVISE SUCCESSFULLY
PLAY TO YOUR STRENGTHS
- - -
WORK ON YOUR WEAKNESSES
Male and Female Brains
Look at your left hand.
|If the index finger is
longer than the ring finger, you probably have a 'female brain' (good at
feelings, communication, explaining).
|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.
The easiest way to 'fix the information' in your brain is to:
WRITE IT DOWN.
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
WRITE IT DOWN"
Different Ways of Revising
Possible ideas for ways to revise using
Run off a hard copy of the revision sheet
(by clicking the
the left of the title on the webpage).
Using the revision sheets to help you learn the
notes-on-notes technique to paraphrase the sheets.
(as the revision
sheets are, in fact, abbreviated notes on the content of the
www.johndclare.net booklets) use the hard-copy sheets to convert them back into proper longhand prose.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Take the sheets
downstairs, and ask a family member to 'test' you on them.
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!!!
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.
If you prefer, you can click on the
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.
If you want to use the self-tests for revision, run off a hard copy of the
(by clicking the
the left of the title on the webpage).
• Firstly, use the webpage or a hardcopy
version of the answers (click on the
the left of the title on the webpage) to write the answers onto the
• Secondly, learn the answers, perhaps by writing the answers
again and again.
• Thirdly, use the webpage or a blank version of the hard-copy
to the left of the title on the webpage) to test that you have appropriated
The 'Smartass' lists are lists of specialist terms which able
pupils can learn and use to demonstrate their excellence.
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.
Hard-copy questions and answer sheets are
available by clicking the
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.
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
Factual Topics. Many of these are done for you in full as
'exemplar essays' on this site, and it is worth learning them.
Read the 'exemplar' essay;
Use the 'notes on notes' technique to reduce the essays to
6-8 prompt words that jog your memory for the whole story;
Learn the prompt words using a visual 'hook';
Practice listing the prompt words and writing the essay/
telling the story to a family member.
Every page of the
www.johndclare.net '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'