With exams upon students in a matter of weeks, it is important to consider which revision strategies can be implemented – and which are successful.
The key to revision is ensuring that students are using the cognitive part of their brain i.e. thinking about their own learning. Three commonly used revision techniques that appear to have very little impact on learning because they do not use cognitive thinking, have been identified as:
- Highlighting texts
- Summarising texts
However, five key revision strategies that use cognitive thinking are as follows, (edited from https://classteaching.wordpress.com/2015/01/29/supporting-learning-through-effective-revision-techniques/):
1. Practice Testing
This technique is pretty straightforward – students keep testing themselves (or each other) on what they have got to learn. This technique has been shown to have the highest impact in terms of supporting student learning. Some ways in which students can do this easily:
- Create flashcards, with questions on one side and answers on the other
- Work through past exam papers
- Quiz each other on key bits of information
- Create multiple choice quizzes for friends to complete
2. Distributed Practice
Rather than cramming all of their revision for each subject into one block, it’s better to space it out – from now, through to the exams. Why is this better? Bizarrely, because it gives them some forgetting time. This means that when they come back to it a few weeks later, they will have to think harder, which actually helps them to remember it. Furthermore, the more frequently you come back to a topic, the better you remember it.
3. Elaborate Interrogation
One of the best things that students can do (either to themselves or with a friend) to support their revision is to ask why an idea or concept is true – and then answer that why question. For example;
- In science, increasing the temperature can increase the rate of a chemical reaction….why?
- In geography, the leisure industry in British seaside towns like Barry Island in South Wales has deteriorated in the last 4 decades….why?
- In history, in 1929 the American stock exchange collapsed. This supported Hitler’s rise to power….why?
So, rather than just trying to learn facts or ideas by reading them over and over, students should get into the habit of asking themselves why these things are true.
4. Self Explanation
Rather than looking at different topics from a subject in isolation, students should try to think about how this new information is related to what they know already. This is where mind- maps might come in useful – but the process of producing the mind map, is probably more useful than the finished product. So, they should think about a key central idea (the middle of the mind map) and then how new material, builds on the existing knowledge in the middle.
Alongside this, when they are solving a problem e.g. in maths, they should explain to someone the steps they took to solve the problem.
5. Interleaved Practice
When students are revising a subject, the temptation is to do it in ‘blocks’ of topics. Like below:
The problem with this is, is that it doesn’t support the importance of repetition – which is so important to learning. So, rather than revising in ‘topic blocks’ it’s better to chunk these topics up in their revision programme and intertwine them: