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Five revision no-nos you should drop right now

Revision is pretty black and white, right? Maybe not! Student Ruby shares some harsh revision revelations that she’s learned the hard way...

Revision season is here, but are you going about studying the right way? Here are five definite revision no-nos I've discovered, plus what to do instead to get the absolute most from every study session:

1. Highlighting the wrong way

A revision favourite, using coloured highlighters is a great way to draw attention to key words. However, the most effective revision is that which draws links between information, not isolating it.

The more links you have joining different areas together, the more you have to help you recall something if your mind goes blank in an exam (It can happen). Highlighting lots of separate bits and not thinking about how they relate to each other can make it hard to get your mind round all the material you need to cover. Plus, drawing comparisons is a key exam skill that can grab you those top marks. 

This is why mind-maps or brain-storms are a good study technique as they encourage you to link ideas and structure your thinking.

2. Just reading 

Firstly, this technique is incredibly boring! Revision is already hard enough - don’t make it worse with passive reading for hours. 

In order to actually take in what you read, making (brief) notes to summarise large sections is important. By reading alone, it's unlikely that you'll transfer that information into your long-term memory (unless you have a photographic memory, which sadly does not apply to most of us). 

If notes really aren't your thing, you can record yourself reading aloud, and then play it back while doing the washing-up or tidying. You'll be surprised how much you can absorb unconsciously just by listening. 

3. Copying full sentences 

Not only is this far more time-consuming than summarising, but it makes reading back through the notes even more of a chore than it already is. Detail is great, but not if it overwhelms you - especially if it isn't relevant (in which case, you're just wasting your time by writing it out).

I was once told by a teacher: 'When note-taking, imagine each word that you write costs you 5p and you will instantly be more frugal with your word choice.' Think like this to make your notes more succinct and get to the point quicker.

4. Putting all bets on black

Okay, so this might just be a personal preference; but I'm far more interested in reading notes that have a bit of colour to them, rather than all being in black ink. Yes, 'black is classic'; but writing your notes for every subject in one colour makes it hard for anything to really stand out.

Even if you can't be bothered to use a myriad of colours (fair enough), studies show that you're apparently more likely to remember information that you have written down in blue ink than black ink. So when it comes to your main note-taking pen, perhaps it's time to turn your back on black and go blue.

5. Ignoring technique for content

Perhaps the biggest no-no of them all. It's all well and good to know the content (names, dates, events, terms and so on) inside out; but if you don't know how to get that down on paper - in a way that hits the exam criteria - then it's pretty useless. 

The best way to avoid this is to practise past papers once you have learned this content. By marking yourself against an actual mark scheme, you can see the kind of thing examiners will look for, and adjust your future answers accordingly. 

Admittedly, this is harder to do in essay-based subjects. But even just practising how to plan essays is a good revision technique, so you can do this quickly in the exam and focus all your ideas to fit in your answer here (and the time you have to do it). Plus, it's far less gruelling than actually writing the essay...

Hope these help!

I realise that revision is a very personal thing, and different techniques work for different people. If one of these no-nos does work for you, then ignore me and continue to use it!

However, if you think your revision could do with a rejig to be more productive and effective, these might help.

Good luck!

About Ruby

Ruby is a current Year 13 student, studying English literature, French, early-modern history and theatre studies. While more of a silent-studier, she's currently listening to the occasional Passenger or Tom Odell playlist while revising.

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