Jonathan Hancock's Top 10 revision tips for Key Stage 2 & 3 children, their parents and teachers.
Revolutionise Your Revision
Top Tips For Exam Success
By Jonathan Hancock, former World Memory Champion, twice memory World Record holder, and Founder of the Junior Memory Championship.
For anyone preparing to take a test or exam, revision is vital. But it has to be good revision. Simply re-reading textbooks and notes isn’t enough.
You need an approach that is creative and imaginative, carefully planned and focused, and based on the way your brain works.
By learning how to revise, you can get the most out of your time and effort, remember everything you need to know, and make it all the way to test day feeling relaxed, energised and confident about doing your very best.
Here are my ten key steps to success:
1. Find Your Motivation
Why are you revising? What’s in it for you? Make sure you are absolutely clear about your reasons for working hard and doing well. Perhaps passing the test will get you into the school or college of your choice, or give you access to new opportunities, or push you towards a better job. Spend time thinking what success will feel like. How will others respond? What will you do to celebrate? Keep your goals clear, and let your motivation keep you on track.
2. Get Organised
Spend time collecting all the right documents, organising your notes and gathering together everything you need to revise. Make sure you have details of all the information you'll be expected to know. If you’ve missed anything, or don't understand something, ask for help now. Talk to teachers, look at past test papers, read revision guides - all the time checking that you're studying the right topics in the right way. What sort of questions will you have to answer? Long answers, short answers, essays, multiple choice…? Look for where the big marks can be won, and draw up your ‘plan of attack'.
3. Choose Your Learning Zone
Deciding where to revise can be extremely important, especially if you’re tempted to choose the wrong place. Be honest: where do you really work best? Some people learn well with background noise, maybe music, but others need complete peace and quiet. You might work best at home or school, in the library or at the park. The important thing is to find the right place for you: somewhere with no distractions, access to everything you need, and an atmosphere that helps you feel focused and sharp.
4. Plan Your Time
Design your revision timetable carefully to make sure you cover everything - but give yourself a little breathing space. Life can often get in the way of revision, and you’ll be less likely to panic if you have some extra time to dip into. Try to work when you’re feeling fresh, in sessions of twenty minutes to half an hour, and take short breaks in between to keep you alert. Make sure you’re physically energised with healthy foods, get some fresh air if you can, and work steadily through your revision plan.
5. Test Yourself
At the start of your revision, make an honest assessment of how much you know. This will highlight any particularly weak areas and show you where most of your effort should go. Then, throughout your revision, you should be constantly testing your progress, strengthening the information in your mind as well as checking your success. Some topics will be absorbed easily, others may take much more work, but there’s no point moving on if you’re still unsure. An extra session may make all the difference, so it’s vital that you keep testing your knowledge and adjusting your plans as you go along.
6. Think In Pictures
Your memory loves pictures, so give it some! You can draw real diagrams, cartoons and other illustrations to help you, and highlight key information in memorable colours - but you can also create mental images to remind you of the important ideas. Use your imagination to picture historical events or scientific experiments or dramatic scenes in books and plays. You can also invent your own ‘picture clues’ to jog your memory about words, numbers, names, dates… Practise ‘illustrating’ them all memorably in your mind. Exaggerate the pictures, make them funny, violent, exciting, weird… and you’ll be amazed at just how powerfully they activate your memory.
7. Create Connections
Connecting information makes it a great deal easier to remember. Try to link every new idea with something that you already know. Compare the facts and figures you want to learn with others already stored in your brain. Start creating your own connections to by thinking up scenes and stories that link together the ‘picture clues’ you design. A story is a fun and powerful way of learning long lists of information, each item linking with the next to guide your brain through all the important memories. So, don’t just read and re-read a list: invent pictures, link them together in a story, and take your learning to a new level.
8. Make It Personal
It’s always easier to remember things that have happened to you, so try to put yourself at the centre of your revision. If you’re learning history, imagine how it would feel if you were in the middle of the battle. In geography, take an imaginary journey to a foreign land and think what it would be like for you. Maths questions… science concepts… famous books, songs, paintings…Find links to you, and use them to help you remember.
9. Write The Questions
A great way to check you know something is to test someone else. Start with yourself, writing a question sheet and then answering it all from memory. Then play question-master for a friend or relative. Perhaps you can work with someone else taking the same test? Ask them easy, medium and then devilishly hard questions that cover all the key information. If they make any mistakes, explain where they went wrong. Enjoy how it feels to know all the answers!
Despite all the hard work, you need to be rested and relaxed when you take your test. Following steps 1-9 should have given you real confidence about your learning, and stopped you from exhausting yourself with rushed, disorganised, last-minute cramming. You’ve also been using your imagination, so you should have had some fun along the way and picked up some new ideas as well as re-learning old material. A few nerves are good to keep you sharp, so just add in some confident thoughts, remind yourself why you want to do well and how you’re going to do well, and finally wish yourself luck - although now, of course, you really shouldn’t need it! Enjoy showing off everything your amazing brain can do.
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