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Tips on Revision

So much to do so little time
Exams start in just a few weeks- are you ready?

With the exams just a few weeks away every day counts. What matters now is how you use your time. Use it correctly and you can make a real difference to your grades. Let it slip through your hands and your grades may go with it. The main thing at this stage is to make sure you are working effectively. It's easy to sit in front of your books (any books!) and let the days pass by. At least that way you can convince your parents and probably yourself that you're doing something. But how much have you actually learnt at the end of each day? When time is precious it's not a question of keeping busy- it's more a matter of making the time you do spend studying really count.

What to do first

The first thing to do is to review the existing situation-just how bad (or good) is it? How many days have you got left? (including days between exams). How many subjects are you doing? How are you going to allocate the time left? You probably drew up a revision timetable a while ago- now is the time to check where you are.
Remember you don't need to spend an equal amount of time on each subject or on each topic. What are the crucial things that need covering?

Things to avoid when revising

Going over topics you already know well (tempting to do because it's a comfort zone but probably not adding a lot of value)
Missing out the topics you hate (these may be important!)
Writing out the textbook- easy to do but tends not to engage the brain

Things you should do

If you can, talk to your teachers about the areas you personally need to focus on; involve them in scheduling your work
Try to relate your revision to past paper questions. You need to think how a particular topic is likely to be assessed in the exam.
Make sure your revision is active: read something, then test yourself. Try and make an essay plan or mind map or reorganise your notes. Get someone to test you to see how much progress you are making

How to revise

Remember revision means precisely that: re- vision - looking at things again. Don't try and learn lots and lots of new material- there isn't time. Don't simply go over what you know already, try to look at things differently, organise your material in a new way and see how you would answer questions now compared to when you first did them. When you look at your past work you'll almost certainly realise how much better you are now than you were then. ( I hope so!).

Effective revision

This is obviously quite a stressful time. Recognise that but don't let it get to you. Accept the fact you won't know everything by the time of the exam - no-one ever does. Don't make yourself miserable by thinking of all the things you don't know- you don't need to know everything to get an grade A. What you are trying to do in the time left is plug any gaps and focus on developing your techniques. Remember that it is not just what you know but how you use it; look over old answers and see what you did well and what you could improve. Look for the appropriate skills. Make life easier for yourself when revising by setting aside a suitable number of hours. Get up early. It's easy to delay getting up because you know once you do you'll have to start work but if you lie in every day you are losing valuable hours. Similarly don't forget the weekends- they are for working too (sorry about that). At the same time, realise that trying to work solidly for four or five hours won't work. You will lose concentration. Set yourself 40-50 minute study sessions with something to do in each one. E.g. revise topic A and make notes or revise topic B and produce an essay plan on this from a past paper. By the end of the day you need to have produced a series of things that give you a real sense of achievement. Try to make sure you have somewhere you can work. In front of the tv is probably not the best! If you have music on make sure it is not distracting. Also give yourself goals e.g. stop at 8pm for an hour to watch X on tv; work Monday to Thursday nights and go out Friday. Think about studying with someone else for some of the time. That way you can test each other. Why not set aside some time every couple of days to work together on specific topics or discuss past questions?

Preparing for the exam

The next few weeks certainly won't be easy but you could find they are some of your most productive. You have one or two years study behind you; now is the time to really build on this and do yourself justice. You can take control of the situation and put yourself in a much stronger position with a bit of planning. You won't always stick to your plan. You will have bad days as well as good. You will feel short of time. But even so an organised approach can really help you to get on top of things, to use your knowledge more effectively and get you the grades you want.

The big day

And don't forget how important exam room performance is. I have often found as an examiner that the solid performers are the ones who get the higher grades. They may not dazzle on any one question but they don't miss out parts of questions, they finish the paper and they think about the skills they have to demonstrate for each part of the exam. They may or may not know as much as some others but they know how to use their ideas effectively given the constraints and challenges of the examination system. So make sure as part of your revision you know the exact format of the exams and the way in which your answers will be marked. Good luck.

Andrew Gillespie
Director of Studies , d'Overbroeck's College, Oxford
Principal Examiner A2 Business Studies.