Revision planning and strategies

Th Student Learning Advisory Service

The following guide has been created for you by the Student Learning Advisory Service, for more detailed guidance and to speak to one of our advisers, please book an appointment or join one of our online workshops.   

Good Revision

  • Is targeted e.g. focuses on exactly what you need to revise.
  • Is structured e.g. planned out/timetabled.
  • Makes use of effective memorising techniques.
  • Takes place within a suitable environment.
  • Ends in exam rehearsals in order to practice performing under pressure. 

Before you go through the following guidance you may wish to listen to this podcast on revision tips from a range of Kent staff.

What to revise

1. Start by looking at: 

  • Course outline/syllabus (learning outcomes)
  • Recommended reading lists 
  • Essay & assignment topics
  • Topics emphasised by lecturers/tutors
  • Past papers (check your subject Moodle module)

2. List all topics & identify core topics’. 

Within core topics you are likely to be revising key elements such as:  

  • Facts (dates, events, people, data)
  • Concepts/themes
  • Theories
  • Terminology/key words
  • Legislation
  • Equations/formulae/rules
  • Debates
  • Definitions
  • Processes/sequence of events
  • Case studies/examples/passages      

How much to revise

Exam format 

How much to revise depends on the exam format for each module, therefore, try to find out the exam format first e.g: 

  • 4 essays in 2 hours
  • 3 essays in 3 hours
  • multiple choice
  • problem questions
  • exercises
  • short answer questions
  • experiments etc 

Revision estimate 

  • Essay questions (choice of questions) - revise approximately 60 %  > 8 topics (depending on exam format)
  • Short answers/exercises & multiple choice - revise all topics (depending on exam format)

When to revise

Deciding when to start revising will depend on: how many exams, when they are, your understanding of the topic etc. But, you should aim to…

  • Start as early as possible.
  • Study regularly – treat it like a 9-5 job.
  • Revise when you are ‘receptive’ and ‘productive’.
  • Plan realistic study blocks (concentration tends to wane after about 20 minutes of focused work). 
  • Stick to your schedule as much as possible. Move on to other topics as planned but if it flows, let it flow!      

Tip: Your brain is cognitively more alert at the beginning of your day (whether this is at 7am or 2pm) – do the harder stuff first (understanding concepts etc)

Manage your time

Develop a schedule

Using a time planner, plan out your time. Ensure everything is on your time plan so you can see how all tasks in your life and studies fit together. See time management for more guidance and time planners.

Make your schedule work for you

    • Early bird or late riser?
    • Quiet or social study?
    • Able to cope or not cope with distractions?

Make use of ‘dead time’ e.g. 

    • Travelling/commuting
    • In-between lectures
    • Waiting for something or someone

Prioritise what you focus on first

The following method can help you to decide the order of revision:

  Urgent Not Urgent
Important Q1. Important & Urgent Q2. Important but not Urgent 
Not Important Q3. Urgent but not Important Q4. Not Important & not Urgent

Keeping your focus

  • Pomodoro method: 20-min focus, 5-min brain break.
  • Remove distractions (phones, productive procrastination).
  • Set realistic, achievable targets.
  • Monitor progress, test yourself – are your strategies working?
  • Revise schedule as needed.
  • Allow time for socialising (in moderation), relaxation and exercise.
  • Set alarms for breaks etc.      

How to revise

Method effectiveness will vary. Key suggestions are:

  • Decide what you need to understand and what you need to remember.
  • Divide the material into manageable chunks.
  • Organise in a logical way (chronological, sequence of the module).
  • Find techniques that work for you e.g. mind maps, hiding & revealing information, having someone test you etc.
  • Vary activities to keep your brain engaged.
  • Keep repeating!

Revision methods

Memorising

  • Repetition
  • Reciting
  • Mnemonics (many volcanoes erupt mouldy jam sandwiches)
  • Test yourself

Freewriting

Can help identify topics to revise

  • What do you know, how does it naturally come out?
  • Pick a word or idea (eg. ‘Benefits of theory X’).
  • Use the word/phrase in a sentence.
  • Repeat last sentence if stuck.
  • Don’t stop until no more words.
  • Ignore grammar and punctuation.
  • Keep writing for five minutes.

Module audit

Take module outline and break into short phrase/single word topics. Put the topics in the appropriate columns:

  • Strong topics
  • Not sure
  • Weak topics

Change it up

  • Record yourself and listen back/listen to lecture recordings
  • Use colour, tabs, graphic. recording etc to give emphasis.
  • Read aloud or explain a topic to a friend.
  • Try mind maps, spider diagrams, posters etc to visualise topics.

Notes

  • Post-Its - Limit to quick facts.
  • Index cards - Key facts/ideas on smaller topics.
  • Print and annotate lecture slides
  • Write out by hand (kinesthetic memory).
  • Convert info into tables/charts to make it easier to digest.

Tip: Make notes portable (short documents you can print, phone notes, index cards etc) so you can keep them on you and have a look during ‘dead time’ – waiting at the doctors, getting the bus to campus etc. 

Group study

  • Pick a topic and become a specialist and then teach your peers the key points, do a Q&A or take turns to create pop quizzes.
  • Split into teams and debate an issue/theory. 
  • Working with friends on other courses? Set yourselves targets for a session and check in at agreed points – quiz each other.       
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