Exam season is fast approaching and one particular word is coming to mind: Revision.
So, what do you do? Crack open that text book and read away? Review your study notes? Tackle some practice exam questions? Read an article on how to revise?
Everyone is different when it comes to revision. If you are anything like myself then reading through a text book is simply not going to cut it. Hopefully this quick article can provide you with some simple tips as well as help you think of some 'outside-the-box' techniques that you may not have thought of to help you revise.
What kind of learner are you?
Firstly, it is a good idea to establish what kind of learner you are. People learn in a mixture of 3 different styles: Auditory, Visual and Kinesthetic. Or, to put it plainly: learning by hearing, learning by seeing and learning by doing. You can fall into a one of these categories or a mixture of them. Hopefully, by identifying what type of learner you are, you can find the best method to revise that suits you.
If you are an auditory learner, try explaining the subject to someone else.
If you are a visual learner, try drawing a mind-map around a particular keyword or subject.
And if you are a kinesthetic learner, try producing flash-cards with questions on one side and answers on the other.
With almost anything in life, trying to take on one single mammoth task will always seem more difficult than many smaller tasks put together.
Try eating an entire cake in one sitting, it's near impossible (unless your name is Bruce Bogtrotter*). Instead, try eating that same size cake over the course of an entire day and the task that you believed originally to be impossible is now achievable.
*That heroic kid from the book/movie Matilda
Revision is exactly the same; your brain, just like your stomach, needs time to digest. Revising for an hour with a 10 minute break in the middle will be more productive than revising for a full hour.
Exercising the Body and the Mind
Engaging in regular exercise is a fantastic way to improve your health but it also helps your cognitive abilities at the same time. It has in fact been proven that those who engage in regular aerobic exercise develop a better memory, attention and capacity to multi-task.
The experts recommend aerobic exercise over anaerobic exercise. The difference in these is that anaerobic exercise involves high intensity energy used in short bursts, whereas aerobic exercise involves the steady release of energy over a longer period. So good examples of exercising the mind and the body would be jogging, swimming or cycling.
Master Revision Method: Try listening to an audiobook while on a run, or if there isn't an audiobook available, make your own by recording your own voice!
Location, Location, Location
The place that you study is also an important factor when it comes to revising. Of course it's usually better to study in a quiet environment with little distractions, but what you may not have thought of is studying in different places.
It has been proven that studying in different places can help your cognitive ability to recall information. What is extremely beneficial is revising the same particular topic in 2 or more locations. By doing so, you are building a superior foundation for that information to stay in your memory and you will remember that particular information when it comes to sitting the exam.
Working outside may seem like a good idea at the time but it is not something you can do all year round. People work best in an environment that is between 16-24 degrees celsius.
Listening to music while studying is an excellent method to hone-in your concentration; however lyrics can also be distracting and muddle with what you are trying to revise. The way around this is to listen to an instrumental playlist.
A further improvement is to listen to alpha wave music. Alpha Waves are waveforms of a particular frequency which are created by your brain when you are in a relaxed, but alert state. By listening to alpha wave music at this frequency you can alter your state of mind to best focus on your work.
Search 'Alpha Wave Music' into Youtube and you will find plenty of playlists. If you have a spare 8 hours, give this a listen:
Food for Thought
What you eat is an underestimated factor to success when it comes to revision, feeding your brain as well as your stomach. A healthy diet is always best but there are some certain 'super-foods' you could try.
Green Tea: Contains caffeine and also l-theanine. What's l-theanine? It's an ingredient that improves alpha wave activity in the brain. So what are alpha waves? Have you not been reading this? Drink some green tea.
Leafy Green Vegetables: The leafier and greener the better, they are full of B-vitamins to improve your brain power. Spinach is the best of them all. But refrain from eating them cold from a can or else your arms end up looking like this:
Fish: Fatty fish in particular, rich in omega-3. Eating fish regularly has proven to reduce the risk of dementia as you get older. Fish can also improve your memory in the short term as well as enhance your focus.
Nuts and Berries: The perfect snack-food to have while you revise. Nuts are rich in unsaturated fats (the good kind) and amino acids to help you focus. Berries contain several components that aid neural activity.
Chocolate: That's right, chocolate. Not milk or white but specifically dark chocolate can heighten your mental alertness, but remember moderation is key (unless your name is Bruce Bogtrotter*)
*I hope someone gets this reference.
Revise Your Way
Though not all of these ideas may sound great to you, hopefully this quick article has given you some ideas into how you can tweak your revision to improve your performance.
Just remember that revision is a long-term task. It should not be left until the final day. In fact it may be most beneficial to avoid stress by giving yourself a day off before an exam.
Depending on the type of exam it may be near impossible to get absolutely everything right, so focus on your strengths.