How To Revise Effectively

How To Revise Effectively For Exams

When you open your results slip in August, you want to be happy with what you have achieved. You want to be proud and know that you tried your hardest and made the best use of all opportunities.

Good grades don’t fall from the sky! You need to work hard and prepare for them.

One of the first places you should start is by looking at what you have. What knowledge do you already have? What resources have you been given or can access? Look at the exam boards for your subjects to find the specifications of what you have to learn along with some past papers and mark schemes.

Past papers and mark schemes are one of the best ways of preparing for an exam. If you can get used to the way the questions are set out – and how they are marked – then you will perform better.

It is a bit like Formula 1 Racing. Know the circuit. Know when to expect the tight bends and know how to keep on track.

You may have even been given knowledge organisers by your teachers. These summarise whole topics on one page, make the content more manageable – not only do these include the content but you can get blank copies of these and write out what you know, to test where you are at with your knowledge to begin with and to see which direction you need to take.

Knowledge organisers are a useful summary of what you need to know for the exam. Keep a folder with these in so that you can refer to them when revising. This is the basis of where your revision can begin.

Reading and Highlighting things is not enough.

Your brain has to do something with the information. The techniques covered in this blog have been proven to help people learn and get the brain cells fired up. Try them! Adapt them! But… Do it now!

Plan your time

Create a schedule for your revision

You should use it to plan your time and focus on the topics and subjects that you need. You need structure and routine to make your revision a success. Prioritise tasks; it is very easy to do all the easy things and put off the difficult topics for another day. You have to keep things real and focus on the areas that will help you make progress, this takes a lot of stamina.

Building a revision timetable will add structure to your studying and allows you to organise your time in the way that best suits you and your schedule.

Begin with a list of topics that you can then assign to certain parts of the week; begin by mapping out what you are going to do in one week. Remember to be specific in the tasks that you set, otherwise it will not work. For example, on Monday recap the rules of surds for maths or re-analyse a poem in more depth, adding in different coloured pens of things you didn’t understand before.

As you will be mapping out study slots for each topic, if you identify a GCSE subject that you want to spend more time on, you can add these extra sessions in. It’s also important to create a realistic schedule and know there are limits to how much work can effectively be completed in a day.

Always have a break.

Your brain can only concentrate for so long. Don’t fill up your time with continuous hours and hours of revision and work. If, for example, you know that Wednesday is going to be a tough day at school, then ease up the work in the evening. Ideally 25 minutes revision and 5 minutes break (or 20 and then 10 break) is a good model to use because it allows you a bit of time to rest.

It is important to build in a balanced mix of work and play. We all have to look after our mental health. Never hesitate to speak to someone at home or at school or us here at the centre if things are getting on top of you. You may need to reduce the time spent on hobbies etc. No one says you have to give them up. Your priorities will, however, change whilst preparing for your exams. Supportive family and friends will understand your need to focus on your studies.

It is extremely important that once you have drawn up your plan you stick to it. Revising can be something that is difficult but hopefully by using our tips and the techniques, you can effectively get on top of your revision.

Repetition is vital to truly embed the content to make sure you can answer any question asked in your exam. ‘Little and often’ will ensure that you do not become overloaded with information but that you keep adding to the information that is already in your long term memory so that by the exams in the summer you will have boosted your knowledge to the maximum.

Mind Maps

Appeal to your senses

Mind Maps appeal to your senses with their visual elements – images, branch colours and curved branches all add emphasis and ensure that you will remember your notes! By noting down only keywords, you save vital time while studying.

Also, when you go on to study for exams from your Mind Maps, you will recall the most important information. You generate ideas simply through making your Mind Map; your brain actively makes links between ideas. Your brain responds to Mind Mapping as it replicates the natural thinking process, so you will find your ideas simply flow onto the page, making studying more enjoyable and more fun!

Revision starts with making the resources, but you need to use them regularly. Trace your finger over the lines of the mind map, explain what the keywords are and how they link. This explanation process will help your memory. Hide the mind map and redraw it. Then repeat this often so that your brain is being trained.

Three rules for effective mind-mapping:

  • One word per curved line. Horizontal writing only.
  • Use silly symbols and colours to help you remember.
  • Use the mind map once it’s finished - creating it is the start, then you must repeatedly go back to the mind map, explaining to yourself why each line links and what each word means.

Note Taking


Note taking is an important part of ‘active’ studying and revision. Revising from notes can benefit you in your exams but you need to make sure that your notes are easy for you to understand. Simplify your notes in short form!

Why does it work?

It works because it’s quicker to read through than the original notes, so revisiting this revision is easier. This is due to the fact that you’ve had to process the information to reduce it to key words; so you’ve had to think about the meaning rather than just the words.

Cornell Note taking

Cornell Note taking is a note taking system. The method provides a systematic approach to organising and condensing notes. Long ideas are paraphrased, and long sentences are shortened with the use of symbols or abbreviations. When students go over the note page, areas can be covered to check memory when revising.


Eat, sleep, rehearse, repeat

A great way to learn keywords and important concepts in any subjects is through Flash Cards. Quite simply, you write a keyword / question on one side and put the definition / answer on the other. The cards can then be used in various ways to help you learn them!

  • You can look through them when you have a spare 5 minutes; or build them into your Revision Planner.
  • You can play a game with them; either on your own or with some friends.
  • You can put them up around the house.
  • You can take them on a long journey and study them.

You will be amazed at how quickly you pick up knowledge. When you are in the exam, you will find it much easier to answer a question if you know what all of the subject specific words mean.


Two channels of process

Dual-Coding is a process in which learners combine visuals and words (two channels of process) simultaneously as a stronger method of retaining or retrieving knowledge. The theory works based on the principle that imagery acts as a memory aid and speeds up the acquisition of knowledge. The images have to be simple!

You can use a number of different ways to represent new or retrieved information:

  • Timelines
  • Cartoon strips
  • Diagram of parts
  • Graphic organisers

You can then work your way up to drawing what you know from memory!

Once you have used each of these methods a few times, you will find your favourite one, which will you want to do more often than the rest. This is perfect if it motivates you to revise but when you are in the flow of your revision you should use a different method to test your knowledge in a different way and to make your brain connect the knowledge with something else which will continue to embed it into your long term memory.

Test yourself regularly to be confident that what you have revised has stuck in your brain.

Exam questions are one of the best methods to use, as previously mentioned, because they show you what it will be like in the exam and allow you to fully show off your knowledge and gain full marks in the question. You should use the mark scheme to check how it is being marked, this is important for understanding how you can gain the most marks in each of your papers.

Revision can be tough to get started but you will not regret it. You must start out as early as possible, make a plan and then use a variety of techniques to help embed the content and skills you need to answer the exam questions.

Remember it is only easy if you know how!

‘Little and often’ is a useful rule to follow – do a little bit each day over a long period of time and it will ensure that the content is solidified in your brain in readiness for your exams. You will get the grades that you work for and that is always important to consider; you are in control of what you achieve in August so make the most of the time that you have with effective revision. Don’t wish for success, work for it!

Back to blog