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What is the best way to revise for exams?

Revision: what does not work?

So what definitely does NOT work when it comes to revision? Using highlighters and rereading.

Everyone uses highlighters; they feel that it really helps them improve their memory. But research suggests it has a very minimal impact.

When a pupil simply rereads something, it feels productive and fluent, because they have already read it. It creates an illusion of knowing, when in fact they are not actually that engaged with the material – their mind is wandering, they have read it before so it is kind of boring.

Revision: what does work?

  1. Retrieval Practice – Quiz yourself
    1. Use knowledge organisers to create flashcards for key words or terms – and quiz yourself daily.
    2. Make flashcards for key equations or quotes – and quiz yourself daily.
    3. Create “Must know” quizzes for a topic or unit of work
    4. Create a graphic organiser (Venn diagram, mind map, flow chart) for a unit or topic from memory.
    5. Dual coding – put your knowledge in visual form eg. bar method, time line, diagrams
    6. Use quiz websites to supplement your revision eg. Seneca, Educake, Quizlet, Quizz, GCSE Pod
  2. Spaced Practice - Successive re-learning
    1. Carry out retrieval practice for a unit or topic with a space in between. Eg. for History you might revise Pasteurs germ theory; this needs to be re-visited again, ideally no more than 30 days later.
    2. If you can’t retrieve the information relatively quickly then you probably won’t be able to; continue with the rest of the topic and go back to the sticking point.
    3. Instead of just trying to retrieve conceptual definitions or long explanations in your head, you should write it out then compare to the correct information and amend.
    4. Little and often – 20 – 30 minute sessions on a topic then break and start a new topic or subject.
  3. Application
    1. Once you know your stuff, practise exam questions
    2. Try a variety of styles eg. multiple choice, essays, compare and contrast, describe, explain, multi-step calculations.

Why is revision important?

It is good practice to do little revision, but often, all year round in smaller, more manageable chunks.

It has been recognised that using the ‘5 simple steps’ revision strategy of:

1. Little and often – 3 or 4 x 20-30 minute sessions each evening with 10 minute breaks in between

2. Spaced practice – return to a topic no more than 30 days since the last time you studied it

3. Review ‘read notes, highlight, annotate, look at revision guides’, then Transform ‘create something new: a mindmap, flash cards, a poster, a list’, then Recall ‘test yourself or get someone else to test you’

By revising ‘savvy’ and utilising this model, you will able to master the best possible way of revising, learn how best to set out the information you need to work through, and still have a work life balance rather than attempting to ‘cram it all in’ at the very end.

As you head towards your exams, by following the ‘5 simple steps’ above, you will be better prepared to create or adapt revision resources, ask for personalised support and complete your revision timetable to suit your current needs, ensuring that all of the topics are revisited in each subject.

Useful online resources: – information and tests on all subjects, adjust according to the questions students answer incorrectly.

Quizlet  has some great resources; as does  for those that like quizzing. is used for Science homework.

The Curriculum Resources section of our website has Knowledge Organisers for all of the content that you need for most subjects. Use them to create flashcards, mindmaps, Cornell Notes.

Study Skills 

Glossopdale School & Sixth Form

Glossopdale School, Newshaw Ln, Hadfield, Glossop SK13 2DA