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Revision Timetable

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This article was written by Tavistock Tutors


The Pros and Cons of a Revision Timetable

Timetables, timetables, timetables. We could spend a whole day with a calculator working out the requirement of hours per topic or subject and then slot them into our lifestyle during crazy revision periods. Some students create unbelievably detailed timetables which even show the time slots of mini sub-sections during the sub-section of a section. How effective is this activity as a way of aiding the dreaded revision process?

Before opening out this argument, the information I am telling you is highly subjective. You may disagree or agree with me. A lot of the pros and cons are based on my personal space.

When it comes to undertaking any form of productive work, we all draw up a timetable; at different levels of detail. If you are artistic, you may have motivation to even colour-code it. Some people timetable less precisely by creating a list and then prioritising the subject according to which has the most work or which subject is examined first. Whatever the kind of timetable you create, there are certainly advantages to this activity.

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Timetabling primarily acts as a way of reassuring yourself. For example in maths, you consider how long you might spend on each topic and then how long you can afford to spend on practice questions for each topic. Hence, whilst ticking all the boxes in your ‘things to revise’ list as you progress through the text book, it is evident you are ‘getting somewhere’. This is like going on a long journey and completing each leg of walking, getting further to that finishing line which will be rewarding. Any kind of timetabling allows you to tick things off a list and convinces you that you are being productive.

Timetabling can actually motivate you to work. Having a plan is a secure situation to be in, and can make revision seem less daunting. In addition, you are always more enthusiastic about getting down to something you have organised yourself. For those of us who draw the timetable in a table-format, you may associate the revision plan with the school timetable. It is to slot the revision of a subject or topic in the time that you normally study it at school or university. By trying to repeat the schedule of a typical school or university week, you preserve the discipline you have during term-time. This will help you to ‘get your head down’.

The big danger with timetabling is that it could be a COMPLETE WASTE OF TIME. All of the advantages I’ve explained above are assuming you stick to the timetable. Many people feel a timetable is a massive constraint. It can lead to you becoming très anti-social. I remember once refusing a trip out to watch ’17 Again’ at the cinema with my sister.

“Sorry it doesn’t really fit with my timetable. I could do it later on.”

I forgot that refusing a sister-bonding session in aid of my revision was a crime. Timetabling had made me selfish. On the other hand, if you are one of those extraverted people who absolutely love being around people all the time, you might fall into the trap of being deterred from your revision plan in aid of a social event. You then wake up the next morning, spend a good half-hour redoing a timetable and then decide you need a break before attempting your catch-up plan. Plans change. Drawing up a very detailed timetable for a day weeks in advance is refusing to accept this concept. You can never predict spontaneous socials or unseen errands that arise. Likewise you can never predict the mood you will be in on a specific day. Timetabling is seen as impractical. For example, you may have scheduled to do four hours of work one morning with a break of half hour. But what if the rowdy neighbours’ next door threw a house party which over spilled into the early hours of the morning, and you ended up hardly getting any sleep? It’s unlikely that you would be able to stick to the plan of this particular morning’s work. Be realistic. Don’t plan things too high in advance.

Some students adopt the more laidback approach: ‘Yeah, so in the next few days, I need to ‘like’ timetable in chemistry and then I’ll make a start on my French at some point later on in the week.’ In essence they are creating a less-detailed timetable. They are making a list and then prioritising instead of doing a massively detailed timetable. The disadvantage of this is that you don’t have a sense of direction. You have no idea of what point you are trying to reach in the short-term. However you save time by not doing and re-doing the possibly useless task of timetabling in detail. Also, because you don’t have any idea about how much you have to cover each day, you never run the risk of becoming too complacent and thinking ‘I’ve got ages to cover those 5 pages. I’m doing ok.’ It can be unsettling to not know what pace you should be absorbing at. Not timetabling meticulously is a motivating force. When I don’t timetable using an excel spreadsheet with about 20 half-hour slots each day, I tend to work more quickly out of fear that I would be going at too slow a pace.

A final thing to watch out when working with a timetable: timetables can distract you from the content of the subject. No matter how well you plan, you will not pass the exam unless the facts are embedded in your brain. You either let time pressure affect your concentration or you could schedule the content to revise but not slot in the time to reconsolidate this content. Revising is a process of constant revisiting of topics. Remember that!

To conclude, a timetable can be good and bad. Something too detailed is constraining and impractical. You never can predict the situations which may arise; hence it may not be the best idea to draw up a timetable too soon in advance. On the other hand timetables are a great way of giving you goals to achieve by the end of each day. I must finally point out that this debate much depends on the person. Are you disciplined enough to stick to a timetable? Are you likely to be very meticulous in the way you timetable so that it takes an unnecessary amount of time? You must assess your personality, the amount of work, the time frame of revision in order to produce an effective timetable with the right amount of detail.

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