There was a crucial point in my academic life when I “learnt to learn”. This happened when revising for my second year university exams, suddenly I was able to use the time off for revision effectively. I wished that I had been able to do this since before my GCSEs, hours of wasted study when I convinced everyone around me, including myself, that I had worked really hard. Since this epiphany in my second year I have spent a while trying to break down “how to learn” into useful tips for others, as the earlier you can work effectively the more quickly you will realise your full academic potential. A lot of people think the longer you spend in the library the better you will do, but it is not about how long you revise for, it’s the hybrid of time spent and efficiency.
1. Turn off all distractions. If you’re checking your phone and Facebook every five minutes you can’t fully focus on your revision. Turn off distractions, work hard for a period of time (30 minutes – 1 hour) and then have a well-deserved break. The bonus is checking your phone is now a treat!
If you need your computer to work try not to get distracted by aimlessly wondering round the internet – if you have a mac download the app “Selfcontrol” – you can set it to block websites inputted by you, for any period of time in 15 minute intervals.
2. Make your revision active rather than passive. Rather than only using a small percentage of your brain capacity to read your notes or textbook try and always make your revision active – making notes, flow charts, drawing diagrams. This will mean you ensure you are processing the information, which should mean you remember more – and you then have your more concise notes to look over when you look over the concepts for the second time.
3. Don’t make revision your life. If you have nothing to look forward to there is no motivation to work quickly and effectively. Try and organise something fun and not work related every few days, this will keep you focused when revising. Cinema, dinner with friends, sport etc.
4. Make a realistic timetable. A realistic timetable that you can stick to will ensure your attitude to revision stays positive. An unrealistic timetable will mean you can never complete your targets, you will naturally slow down as you feel you cannot reach the goals you have set yourself.
5. Past paper questions. Doing past paper questions is a key to success. However it is often easy to quickly check an answer in the mark scheme whilst doing a paper, or give yourself marks because you “just forgot it”. Do past papers in exam conditions, mark them realistically and then focus on the questions you got wrong. Go over those concepts, and make more notes.