Successful Revision Strategies

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
  • Re-reading
  • Summarising texts

However, five key revision strategies that use cognitive thinking are as follows, (edited from

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.

revforgetThe graph above demonstrates this, by returning to a topic and reviewing it, you remember it for longer.

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:




Strategies to Support More Able Students

What is a more able student?

More able students are identified on SIMS in the Key Stage 2 column as those who have come in as HIGH on entry. A large number of our cohorts are classified as most able on entry to Year 7 and although this varies between year groups as they go through the school, their progress can be affected if we plan to teach ‘to the middle.’ Instead by teaching both to the top and by supporting the bottom, we can ensure that all students in a given class can make good progress.

Sutherland and Stack: Guidelines for addressing the needs of highly able students

According to Sutherland and Stack’s article, challenge for more able students can be provided in the following ways:

  1. Identifying the student’s next steps and creating cognitive dissonance
  2. Injecting elements of novelty and variety into the learning experience
  3. Encouraging metacognition
  4. Offering opportunities for independence and self-direction
  5. Encouraging risk-taking
  6. Providing opportunities to work  with like-minded peers


Strategies: What could we do?

To build on some of the ideas presented at the most recent INSET a few weeks ago, here is a list of strategies suggested by staff in order to support the more able:

  • Teach to the top and support through middle and lower abilities
  • Give extension tasks to more able students that specifically target analytical skills
  • Ensure that learning objectives are tiered through Bloom’s Taxonomy and that they achieve levels for more able students
  • Encourage talk between different groups of students in the classroom. This will encourage more able students to take on a lead or, in fact, nominate them as Lead Learners
  • Build higher order thinking skills into every lesson
  • Develop seating plans based on ability to encourage inter-ability conversation

Overall, we must ensure that more able students, particularly from disadvantaged backgrounds, receive specific support to overcome barriers to their learning. There will be nuances relating to subjects and personal teacher preferences as to how this is achieved.

Maximising Your Child’s Potential

Posted by Iolanthe Rodman

When a school starts to look at what really works for ‘gifted and talented’ students, the temptation is  to look for a quick fix or a set of requirements which, if implemented, will magically lead to effective provision for able students to attain the highest grades. In reality, schools that are really effective at getting the most out of all their students’ abilities start one step back from this and take as their starting point the purposes of education generally, the role of their school in maximising those abilities and how that relates to the students’ themselves.

Importantly, high achievement is only reached when the right opportunities are in place and when the individual student is confident and motivated enough to respond to them; this should be the case for all students.


Students are articulate and must be heard

If we are to maximise students’ abilities, we should listen to them discuss their learning. Their have views on their own learning and can help to shape the overall learning offer. This really works when these pupils are at the centre of the learning process taking responsibility for their learning. This is a personalised approach and in sharp contrast to the type of cohort led provision in which students are seen as being a homogeneous group with common needs and common issues. The overall requirements for the cohort which underpin this personalised approach are:

  • Formal recognition of students’ abilities and talents
  • Planned learning opportunities offering high levels of challenge on a daily basis
  • Progress in learning in a way that reflects the stage of learning rather than the age of the pupil
  • Access to enhanced learning opportunities offered outside of normal classroom provision
  • To be seen as a child with social and emotional as well as intellectual needs