Since primary school we are fed to revise before exams but did you ever consider whether your approach is providing the best results? I am here to tell you what you might be doing wrong.
1. Reading notes
You heard it right, this is the #1 mistake that most students commit. But isn’t revision all about reviewing the notes? Yes and No.
There are various studies (Jeffery D, Karpicke et al – The Critical Importance of Retrieval for Learning) to support that merely reading a book or notes does not help to grasp the information. Think of it once, when you are reading your notes you are comfortably skimming through the text and trying to memorize something. In this case, the brain is not actively involved. So, how to get the brain work actively to retain more?
What you can do is, pick your notes and note down all the headings and subheadings from the first topic you are trying to revise. Now put your notes aside and jot down everything you remember from that topic on your notebook. Doing this, you will actually realise what you forgot overtime, your brain will put extra efforts to recall it. More you try to remember what you have seen before, the longer it will stay in your memory. This is why merely reading does not help. You actually have to try to retrieve the information from your brain. After completing this exercise go back to your notes and check what you missed. This missed out part is what you need to focus on now.
This might look time consuming, and this is where most of us switch back to the ‘read through the notes’ mode. However, even if you are not in touch with a subject for months, implementing this technique will give effective results. Please, please, please don’t waste your time by just reading the notes.
2. Avoiding self assessment
Yes, self assessment is part of the revision. We all have a tendency to wait till we complete the syllabus, and deep down we all know that completing the syllabus is an unreal expectation.
I think it is better to take a self assessment before starting the preparation for any exam. This gives you a hint about your baseline and some insight into your weaknesses. Later, as you move ahead with your revision, plan out all your self assessments beforehand. For instance, you can plan a test after every 15 days or after every month. Note that the self assessment should be similar to the exam you are aiming for (I know that’s basic but just wanted to remind you). Also, it is important to track yourself in the subjects you have already revised. If you are revising effectively then your scores should be better in the subjects you have covered.
3. Highlighting and making notes
Let us assume, you are actively revising your notes and also taking self assessments timely, but still there will be some gaps in your knowledge that will require more mastery. The most common tendency is to highlight anything you failed to understand or take notes related to a unique question during self assessment. Highlighting or covering up your wall with numerous sticky notes will not help if you don’t recall it frequently. Here comes the role of active recall accompanied by spaced repetition. To put it in simple words, you have to ‘revise’ this information over spread intervals till your exam. This can be most effectively done with flashcards or create a separate notebook that you will commit to revise daily.
4. Avoiding discussions
Sometimes amidst the competitiveness or mere introvertedness we avoid discussing the concepts/questions with friends and colleagues. Discussing or explaining a concept comprehensively solidifies the information in your brain, moreover when your friends will raise doubts it will challenge your brain to think more explicitly. On the other hand, you can learn about difficult topics from your friends as well. It is one of the best ways to make learning interesting by having healthy discussions in groups. Find ways to connect to people, if not in your class then connect to someone online. There are many who are in the same boat as you, you are just a click away.
5. Not taking breaks
“I studied for 14 hours straight today”, said God, because the human body is not made for this. A normal human needs to pee, eat, drink, move and BREATHE. If you are not doing either of it then you are preparing yourself for fatigue; exam fatigue. Your friend who said that he studied for 12 hours might be scrolling through instagram for 30 minutes but in his head it was a 2 minutes break. Don’t fall for any of it. Look at yourself and listen to your body. When you are revising, you are reviewing the same information that you already read, this in itself makes the process less entertaining because there is nothing new to do. Take small breaks in between where you stay away from social media (because it will lead to endless scrolling) and do something that gives you peace and happiness.
I hope this will help you. Be generous to share it further if you appreciate the work.