When should you start revising for exams?

a) A few days before.

b) A couple of weeks before.

c) After each lecture and seminar.

The best answer is c, ‘After each lecture and seminar’. Of course you need to consolidate your learning in the days and weeks immediately before an exam, but you’ll be less stressed and better prepared if you revise as you go along.

What might this regular revision look like?

  1. If you haven’t already done so, get out your module handbook (or pull it up on your module VLE—Moodle, Blackboard, etc.) and read it carefully. There’s a very good chance you find sections on the aims of the unit and particular skills and/or themes to be covered. Make a list of these. Look back at your notes from the introductory sessions for your module, and note anything your lecturer(s) particularly emphasised in them. You only need to do this step once per term/module.
  2. After each seminar or lecture, take a few minutes to jot down notes on how that session furthered your understanding of the items in the list you made in step 1 (most sessions won’t cover all of them, just make notes on the ones that were covered). Organise this in the way that works best for you—a Word document, an Excel spreadsheet, a section of a paper notebook. Whatever form you choose, make sure you leave yourself ample space for each week’s activities and keep it safe. I tend to use electronic documents for this sort of thing, then I can save backup copies in my Google Drive or email them to myself—that way, it matters less if my computer crashes or I lose my flashdrive.
  3. While you have your revision document or notebook open, make a few notes about how the session you just attended relates to the sessions that came before it.
  4. Do you have questions about anything that was covered? Good! Jot those down, try to find answers the next time you’re in the library, and raise them in your next seminar or tutorial.

If you complete these steps as you work through your module, you’ll be in an excellent position when it’s time to consolidate your knowledge just prior to the exam. You will have:

  • Considered how the module content helps you achieve the module’s aims.
  • Made clear notes of each discussion or lecture on any given theme or skill covered in the Module—this means no more searching through pages of seminar or lecture notes trying to remember when something was covered. If you simply date your revision entries and your notes, it will be easy to find what you need.
  • Developed an understanding of how the different parts of the unit fit together. It’s important to do this while things are fresh in your mind, and having these notes will make it easier to prepare for discursive essay questions.
  • Identified any weaknesses in your understanding of the module and any points of confusion. Identifying these things will enable you to ask specific questions in any revision seminars or tutorials offered by your lecturers. Lecturers want to help their students, but there’s little we can do when students come to us and say ‘I don’t get it’ without explaining what ‘it’ is.

Until next time, happy revising!
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