revision notes on a desk

Knowing something in a lesson isn’t the same as remembering it days, weeks or months later. The idea of revision is to remind yourself of things you once understood. If you didn’t get them before, it’s unlikely you will by revising them. Hopefully, you spent some time reviewing the ideas between covering them for the first time and starting to revise.

What is revision?

It’s probably easier to start with what revision isn’t. It isn’t reading. It isn’t flicking through a textbook while you watch TV. It isn’t colouring in a mindmap in a thousand pretty colours. If it’s going to work well, it needs to involve active learning, where you somehow use the information that you hope to remember afterwards. There are all kinds of activities that will work, and you probably know some of them already. In general, effective revision methods will involve you doing something, not just reading, watching or listening. You would never try to learn the words to a song, or the movements of a dance, from a textbook. A simple way to think about this is that by getting more of your brain involved in the process, you are more likely to remember it later.

  • annotate, highlight, underline
  • make summary notes, key word lists, mind maps of important concepts
  • after reading cover the page, write out the facts, check accuracy
  • attempt (exam) questions to test what you know
  • write out the ideas in your own words or explain them to a friend or family member
  • link real world uses or consequences with the facts
  • find connections between different parts of the topic, or between subjects
  • produce a set of study cards, on paper or electronic

In general, you can use the letters MORSE to check whether revision is active enough to be useful. Revision is exam preparation, so make sure whatever tasks you set yourself are relevant to how you will be tested. More ideas will be explained, some with included templates, in the posts in the category ‘revise’.


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