How to Revise – strategies and styles

Yesterday we looked at planning for revision and making sure there’s some fun stuff in the plan too. How did you get on? Is your household feeling any more productive yet?

Today I’d like to tackle the “how” bit. When I asked parents to think about their own experiences of revision, many of them said they had no idea how to use their study time, and I think it is the same for a lot of young people now. I know that as a tutor, I have a lot less time than I used to for helping people learn how to revise. It’s no good having a plan to revise at 6pm on a Tuesday if you don’t know exactly what you’re going to do with that time.

So how should you revise? Well the answer is… “It depends.” Isn’t that always the way? As I see it, there are a couple of main factors: what you’re trying to learn and how you learn best – and that can be different for different people. One thing that is the same for all though, is that revision should be an active process, not a passive one. This means that reading a textbook does not count as revision. Making notes from a textbook and cross-referencing them with other sources or rearranging them into a different form might be though.

If your child is studying a subject with a lot of factual content, then flashcards are recommended. Many successful students create collections of these throughout the year to refer back to at revision time. For joining together ideas, I love a mind map – a visual representation of all the things I need to know, preferably with colours. But that doesn’t work for everyone: some people can link ideas together much more effectively through discussing them with other people – that’s where study groups come in. Some people remember their facts through listening to them repeatedly or by carrying out experiments or projects.

In the end, it comes down to your preferred learning style. Now this is a controversial concept – learning styles were popular in education for a while but the idea should also be taken with a pinch of salt. Most people can learn in a range of different ways and you shouldn’t let yourself be held back by clinging not a specific style. But if you do have a leaning towards the visual, auditory or practical, it’s worth trying revision strategies that match. You may find them more enjoyable and more effective than the others.

So your challenge today is to sit down together and write down as many different ways of revising as you can. Then, get your young person to select their top three – the ones they think would work well for them. (If you like, you could find a learning styles questionnaire online and complete it – just for fun though!) All you need to do then is make sure they’ve got the right equipment: paper, pens, cards, headphones, whatever – and get that study space set up. Good luck!

Read this next! Part 3: Staying well in the exam season

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