The delightful blur of Christmas and New Year becomes rather less charming come January, when the exams suddenly arrive. All that work you meant to do… all those facts you were going to learn… While things might have been left to the last minute, don’t assume it means instant failure is guaranteed.
While you can’t be assured of a lifetime knowledge if you’ve left it so late, these last-minute revision tips will do just enough to carry you over the finish line.
1. Use your time efficiently
That means no pretty notes: highlighting information in textbooks very rarely helps anyone recall anything - and neither does spending hours with boxes and graphs.
If you’ve left it this late, you won’t be able to learn everything, so spend some time getting an overview of the subject and choose with specifics you’re going to focus on - be sure to test yourself before you begin so you don’t simply learn things you already know.
Using your time efficiently doesn’t mean sitting down for one marathon session, either. Take a ten or fifteen minute break once an hour. The brain can’t process too much of anything in one go - it simply becomes exhausted and nothing will stick.
2. Vary your learning
Mix up your topics.
The brain tires when it tries to absorb whole topics at once and will simply overwrite old information with the new if they too similar. Hardly helpful.
Switch subjects and force the brain to re-engage. Later, when testing yourself, you’ll be forced to recall a bit of every subject, helping you avoid missing details.
3. Test yourself regularly and often
Before taking a break, test yourself on what you’ve been learning throughout the day.
Repeatedly ask yourself what has been learned and say it out loud until the answers stick. Reinforce the answers through repetition.
4. Write everything down - on paper
Basic, but vital. It helps affirm the information. For some, reading the information in an unusual accent also helps: you have to focus closely on the words themselves, which means you stand a better chance of actually understanding them.
Research from the University of Leicester also shows people need to repeat information more often to memorise it if they read from a computer or e-tablet screen, so make your notes on paper.
...and not as an excuse for procrastination. Exercise really does help the brain by making it more alert - which is excellent news.
6. Connect what you can
Stand alone facts are useful, but by give them context and link them to other things you’ve learned and you engage on a different level. This proven study tip means you’re more likely to recall the information at the relevant time as your brain has made more connections to it.