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How to revise - the do's and dont's

I was reminded this morning that the start of the exam period is less than three months away and with that comes the normal anxiety around preparing and revising.

For teenagers this is probably the most miserable time of their lives and as parents it's important we remember that.

The following is by no means an exhaustive list but some of these ideas might be helpful for developing an effective revision strategy:

Do - 1) Know what you need to know. All courses have a specification from the exam board and most schools provide a further breakdown or list of topics which needs to be learnt for the exams. Use this as a check list and remember to focus more time on the hard stuff at the bottom of the list.

Do - 2) Make notes of notes and then test yourself. Usually course textbooks, exercise books and folders are available to revise from. Try and create new notes from all of this which mirrors the topic list identified above. Students should write down everything they need to know in whatever format works for them. Some like A4 pages, others index cards for some colourful mind maps are the way forward. Whatever the technique notes need to be involved and thorough. The secret then is to test yourself on what you've just covered, do this after 5 minutes, then after 30 minutes and then after three hours and finally after one or two days. Sticking to this format helps aid retention.

Do - 3) Work for 30 min chunks and take five minute breaks. This really helps to keep students focused and avoid them day dreaming, it adds urgency and if it is combined with a good timetable/tick list then each half hour block can be made to closely correspond to a topic.

And some things to avoid....

Don't - 1) Reading is not the same as revising. Most students waste time by convincing themselves and their parents that reading through notes and textbooks repeatedly is effective revision for a test. It isn't, we only retain 20% of what we read but this jumps to 70% when we actively process the information at the same time, ie write things down, draw diagrams and pictures or complete past papers. Being active, rather than passive, is the key here.

Don't - 2) Don't procrastinate. We all (me included) find excuses to avoid things we don't want to do and revision is normally top of the list for teenagers. Try to stop them tidying their room for the 100th time, deciding that today is the best day to organise their bookshelf or offering to help with the laundry for the first time in history. It's starting well that counts and once students are through the first few minutes everything normally clicks into place.

Don't - 3) Avoid them having their phones on them during revision (or tablets and computers for that matter.) We receive thousands of alerts and updates each year on mobile phones and for teenagers this is probably far higher. It's a concentration killer even if phones are on silent so enforce a house rule that when it's time to revise it's time to put the phone away.

There are some other useful ideas on this page from WikiHow.

Good luck and happy revising.

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