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The 8 steps of revision: From desperation to liberation

The 8 steps of revision: From desperation to liberation

Originally published February 15th, 2018

As snow begins to melt (at least in some places) under exposure to slim slivers of sunlight through partially parted clouds, most of us students are aware that our exams are upon us.

With the face of Spring and soon Summer rearing its head towards us once more, so will our final exams. With most mock exams done and dusted, you may be tempted to enjoy what little sun is out and enjoy life before panicking all over again in a few measly months. That’s fine and you deserve it, but don’t relax too much during this calm before the storm, don’t mistake those rumbles of thunder for hyped-up techno.

I’m here to make sure that you don’t need to stress out too much before your finals with eight simple revision tips.

1. Cheat sheet

No, this tip isn’t gonna help you cheat in your exams. Instead, this is something that I’ve always done but only recently discovered that not many others do, yet is actually beneficial to all students. It’s easy too.

The holy grail of cheat sheets is to actually just pay attention in class and engage with the material while you’re learning it. This could be making some fast classroom notes about what you think about the chapter you’re learning, asking your teachers questions, or speaking to the teacher and classroom in general about subjects related to what you are learning in that moment.

This makes the classroom more lively, as opposed to the passive aspect of learning. Just be careful not to overdo it and come off as a know-it-all or disrupt the class. No one likes that.

2. Classroom chatter

Picture this, you’re in a class or a lecture with your friends and your teacher is up at the board drawing diagrams and formulas. Now, I’m a student too, I know we all want to just talk to our friends sometimes while in class.

But as a revision tip, when you’re in the classroom, instead of talking to your friends about what you feel like eating, talk to them about what you’re learning or what comes to mind when thinking about your course material. This is somewhat connected to the first tip in that it helps you engage with your material.

I stress this point because engaging with your material while in class can help make a difference in stress levels come time for the exam. You’ll be able to reflect back on your class time and remember so much more as opposed to when a class is dull and unimpressionable.

I guarantee you, these first two tips, when done right, can help strike a chord and save your grades when you’re sitting desperately in the exam hall, racking your brain trying to remember anything at all from class.

3. Be a thinker

When outside of class, be sure to make personal and summary notes using your classroom notes as well as your own conclusions that are drawn from your reflection of classroom material. These thoughts can help you make connections between what you’re learning, as well as help you formulate ideas for your essays as it keeps you thinking.

Additionally, when you’re making notes, try using different colored pens to make everything organized and pleasing to look at. If you’re artistically inclined, you could also draw diagrams and mind maps that might help you remember information more thoroughly.

4. Get in the zone

As you’re revising your notes or working, do so in environments that get you in your zone. If you’re new to the game of learning, try going to quiet spaces such as libraries or comfortable cafes with proper chairs and tables. Listen to binaural beats or classical music of your taste to get your mind in the right headspace. Order a warm green tea latte or something else that’s mild that will help you with your concentration.

Whenever you’re reading through your notes, have a pad of writing paper next to you and keep writing every once in a while to stimulate your mind. Don’t be passive by only reading, make notes about your notes and be active in the learning and thinking process.

5. Tutor others

Whenever you have some free time outside of class, help tutor your friends who may be struggling in subjects. This is great because it can double for your CAS (Creativity, Action, Service) if you’re an IB student or your service if you do the Duke of Edinburgh program. All while reinforcing what you’ve already known and learned.

Whenever you teach others, you help to see more links between the subject material as you collaborate. This ensures that you see problems from another student’s perspective as it brings you more content thought, and helps you think of solutions outside of the box as these new problems help you to break the mold. Sometimes, this experience is gold as you become more aware of common problems to remedy or revise up on.

6. Work your body

Aside from studying, you should also take care of your mind and body. Be sure to catch up on sleep whenever you can, especially during exam seasons as you don’t want to accidentally doze off while sitting for an exam or have memory impairment from sleep deprivation. You shouldn’t neglect your physical health either. Make sure to hit the gym at least once a week for a good workout or go jogging on the weekends.

If you need motivation, maybe join a sports club in school. Or, if you’re not someone who’s particularly sporty or social, maybe go for a long walk in the park to get some exercise and fresh air, or try yoga. A great student is one who balances their studies, social life, sleep, and physical health in their own way. Sure, you may have seen pictures online where you have to choose two of three – sleep, social life, grades – but there are ways where you can have all three.

You just have to strategize it properly.

7. Past papers

Ah, the dreaded exercise that jolts you into the realization that yes, you’ve covered almost everything in your course and the exams really are on their way.

If you haven’t been working right for the duration of your course, this is when it dawns on you that you’re frankly in big trouble. There’s nothing more stressful than looking at past papers and realizing that you know nothing and you don’t know where to start anymore. Some people feel like giving up here and they do. However, others stand up in this mess and get their life back together while it’s not too late.

Use past papers as a guide that points out specific subject areas that you don’t understand and hit the books, as well as ask your teachers for help. Or, if you’re too shy to do that, ask your friends to help tutor you. Don’t just give up, never just give up.

8. Treat yourself

At the end of the week, after all your hard work, always be sure to treat yourself.

Watch a movie at the cinema, read a good book in your spot, get down with your passionate hobby, maybe indulge yourself in your favorite video game with friends for an hour or two. The tip here is to make sure that you don’t let your studies turn you into a lifeless zombie, but also make sure that you don’t relax so much that you get thrown off kilter.

Listen to the wise words of Aristotle’s philosophy, The Golden Mean – never do anything too much or too little. Find your golden mean and stick with it, that’s when you’ll start to thrive and flourish.


Written by Eugene Tan,

Malaysian IB student in EF Academy Torbay‘s Class of 2018.