There are millions of resources, blog posts and videos on revision techniques for students. Some of them are great. Some of them are not. The reason why you should read this blog post is because this is my take on the topic and, as with all of my posts, you get some personal examples, including some lessons I’ve learned along the way! Of course, nobody can act as a leading authority on revision as it is a personal process, but sometimes we all need some help sparking some inspiration into our revision routine. So keep reading if you want to learn about revision techniques for university students!
Why Are Revision techniques Important?
Personally I always find this to be an important reminder because too much of the time I simply dive into revision without thinking what’s best for me. Since some topics I learn best revising one way. Other topics I learn best revising another way. Being aware of a wide range of revision techniques allows you to have plenty of techniques at your fingertips. This allows you to try different things until you find something that works for you.
Reading and Watching Lectures
We’re definitely starting off with the basics here, but rereading material and watching your lectures can be a great way to start revising. Reading will allow you to refresh all the detail that your lectures couldn’t go into, and watching your lectures allows you to remember some of the key principles explained in your lecturers’ words.
That really can be critical sometimes, because as we all know, textbooks are… textbooks and they’re filled with some very horrible definitions and explanations. But our lecturers are professionals who have been working with students long enough to know how best to explain things.
In addition, rewatching lectures and rereading can be a great way to find out what you need to focus on. Since if you’re reading along thinking you remember this all, then you find a section you have no memory of. Guess what, that’s a section you really need to focus on.
That may have happened to me once or twice.
Overall, watching lectures and rereading your textbooks can be a great place to start. But personally I really wouldn’t use this as your only method.
Getting People To Quiz You
There are two horrifically underrated revision techniques I’ll tell you about in this post and this is one of them.
Getting people to quiz you is brilliant for exams that require you to write down answers in short-answered questions or multiple-choice questions. Due to if you’re able to explain to someone about a concept clearly, concisely and in an easy-to-understand way, then you should do good on your exam.
Additionally, it’s even better if you can tell someone who doesn’t do the same subject as you because then you really have to explain it well.
Therefore, you can get your friends, family and maybe your study group if you have one, to quiz you and test your knowledge.
I’ve found being quizzed very helpful in the past, because not only does it help you understand things better. But it really makes you concentrate more because you don’t want to look silly or make a massive mistake when someone is quizzing you. Beyond this, it gives you invaluable experience at answering practice questions and can really shed light on which areas you are not quite ‘up-to-speed’ with yet.
Practising Writing Essays
I seriously was in two minds about giving out this revision technique because its effectiveness really depends on your exams. Personally I found this extremely helpful before I came to university when I was doing the International Baccalaureate, because the exam questions were so predictable. However, at university, I haven’t done this revision technique at all because you can’t predict the exam question at all. But if you do a degree where the question are predictable or you can make them up and they would still be useful, then this can be very effective.
Doing this means that you’re practicing your academic writing, testing if you know everything you would need for an essay, and seeing if there are any more citations and references that you need. Not to mention that, if this essay topic comes up in the real exam, you’ll be fully prepared.
On the other hand, there are some exams where you are given the essay question ahead of your exams. I have one of them in my final year, and of course I will be doing this then for the reasons above. Additionally, practicing writing essays ahead of time can really help you focus on the other bits of information, such as citations, that you may need. In my course, every single little thing in academic writing must be referenced, no matter how small a detail, a point or anything, it all has to be referenced. Which isn’t bad per se, it is just a pain. Therefore, by practicing ahead of time, it allows you to see what other citations and references you need to get ahead of your exam.
The other seriously underrated revision technique is watching YouTube videos, because there is so much content out there in the world that you can learn a lot for your revision. As well as the good thing about videos is you have someone guiding you through it and they often tend to explain it better than academics.
Which is the nice thing about looking beyond the normal textbooks, lectures and other academic resources when it comes to revision. Since at no fault of their own, sometimes academics only explain things in the most complicated academic terms, because they have to. After researching, writing up reports and everything else they do, sometimes it’s hard for academics to remember they are talking to students and not professionals.
Therefore, if you’re stuck on a topic, I would just search YouTube and just find some videos on the topic.
Personally, this is exactly how I learnt most of SPSS, and it’s probably how I’ll learn R when I go into my final year. Due to I was coming up one of my computing exams and statistics, got the checklist of what I was meant to know and then I realised that because the Teaching Assistants (or whatever their title is) had explained it so strangely because they had been Masters of SPSS for over five years. I realised I hadn’t absorbed the information and the lecture notes, PowerPoints and lectures weren’t helping.
Hence I went onto YouTube, watched some very easy to understand videos and did really well on my exam.
So again, it’s always great to step out of the academic ecosystem.
Now I wanted to have this technique as the last one because this is the most research support technique. As well as whilst I’ll include two references so you can read more about this if you are so inclined, I’ll explain want why memorising your revision material is the best method in layman terms.
So when we “remember” things we are actually retrieving information that is stored in our memory, and these retrieval paths can be thought of as roads. A road from our memory to the front of our brain where we consciously remember things. (If any psychology people are reading this just take some deep breaths at this oversimplification)
In addition, like all roads the more a road is used the better it is, because a motorway might get put it to make the transport link stronger.
And you can think of revision like this, because the more you revise and remember a piece of information, the stronger this link gets. This makes it easier for you to get that piece of information from your memory to the front of your brain where we “remember” it.
Therefore, in terms of revision, the easiest way to use this technique is to simply read a paragraph, cover it up and try to recall what you’ve read. This way you’re learning the information and it’s getting stored in your memory, but you’re making sure you can recall it when you need to. Hence you’re making the retrieval path (road) stronger between your memory and the front of your brain.
Moreover, you can incorporate this technique (or at least the principles) with the other ones I’ve given you. For example, you could practice with a friend and other people doing the same exam as you and test each other on how much do you both remember of a given passage.
It’s all about being aware of what you can do, and then getting creative to develop revision techniques that work for you.
As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, there are plenty of resources on this area, so you might want to check them out for even more resources.
But I really hope at the end of this post, you’ve now got a lot more techniques with real-world examples on how to revise.
Therefore, I wish you the best of luck with your revision, exams and the rest of your university experience.
Reference For How Memorising Content Works Better:
Whiteley, C. (2021). Cognitive Psychology: A Guide to Neuropsychology, Neuroscience and Cognitive Psychology. CGD Publishing.
Ward, J. (2015). The student’s guide to cognitive neuroscience. psychology press.