How to Revise Effectively: 1 Month Before the Exams

If you're in the UK, we're just over 3 weeks away from exam season in May (good luck, guys!).

So I thought I'd do a round-up of the best ways to get some effective, brain-sticking revision done in these last few weeks, using techniques like:

  • Condensing full topics of notes down into brief mind maps
  • For subjects like History, making giant timelines on your wall
  • Making flashcards of key points (I've found a brilliant online way to do this as well)
  • Getting a friend to test you
  • Doing past papers

To see more, along with pictures of my own revision methods, and simple instructions on how you can replicate them, click below:

1. Condense a full topic of notes down into a brief mind map

A mistake that people make when mind-mapping is to put TONS of information on them. 

The idea of a mind map is to condense your notes so that only the key points are on there. It's best to just stick to one or two keywords per 'branch' (ie. not PARAgraphs people) and include as many pictures as humanly possible. 

Why, I hear you ask?

Because our brains have a really powerful spatial memory, which means that when we see something visually (rather than just written down in plain, boring, linear words) we tend to remember it a lot more vividily and easily.

Here's one that I started for my 'The Great Gatsby' English Literature notes last year:

There's a picture of Leonardo Di Caprio (as Gatsby) in the middle (anyone see the movie?), with branches coming off for each chapter, in different colours. 

Each branch has a bunch of pictures (even the chapter numbers have been converted into images - eg. the purple pencil symbolises '1', because they both have the same shape). These pictures trigger my memory about a key topic that I need to know (and a few quick key words branching off).

A better version that I made this month (for my Religious Studies course, about the design argument) is this one, because it's ideal for a quick look before my exams (there's not a massive amount of information - which is just DAUNTING to see right before your exams):

So grab 1 piece of A3 paper, some coloured pens, and unleash your inner Leonardo Da Vinci.

2. For subjects like History, create giant timelines on your bedroom wall

It's a great way to put all those dates and events in logical order, so that you can physically see what happens and when (otherwise I find that dates and events are just one giant jumble of information). 

Here's one that I've nearly finished for History (about the USA in Vietnam):

Again, put as much colour and images into them as possible, and very little writing. Make it easy for your brain to digest.

3. Make quick flash cards of key points

I wouldn't go crazy making loads of them for the tiniest details. It'll just take too long, and you'll probably not use all of them anyway.

Instead choose key terms and big topics that you'll need to know, and create mini mind maps and pictures on flashcard paper. Keep it brief, not bogged down with lots of unnecessary detail. The aim of them is to just jog your memory.

Eg. here's one of mine for Religious Studies (about the design argument):

4. Use Quizlet to make online flashcards and questions to test yourself with

It's a great alternative to physical flashcards if you're pressed for time. 

Quizlet also has lots of useful extra features, aside from making flashcards, like allowing you to turn your information into games, or letting you listen to your flashcards as it reads them aloud for you. 

They also have an app version, which I've started using for double checking my facts during 'dead' moments (e.g. in between classes, waiting for the bus) where I've got free time.

5. Get a friend to test you

Grab a friend and give them your notes, then tell them "ask me about anything on this page".

It's a brilliant way to ensure that you really understand a topic and can recall it quickly (after all, you'll only have an hour or two in the exams to do the same - so speed is key).

Also, choose a friend who knows nothing about the topic. This will force you to create clear and concise explanations so that they understand, which is a skill you'll definitely need in the exams.

6. I can't stress this enough - DO TIMED PRACTISE PAPERS!

There's no better way to perfect exam techniques than to actually do past papers (in exam conditions).

Print off a past exam paper from your exam board, go to a quiet room where you won't be disturbed for the next hour or so, put on a timer for however long the exam is, and write. 

Don't let yourself go over the time limit or use your notes to help you. Do it exactly like you would in the real exam.

Then self-mark your paper (this is a great way to get you thinking like an examiner), and find opportunities to improve. Eg. have you noticed that you don't always fully explain concepts? Write down "fully explain all my points" on a sticky note, and remember to do this for your next practise paper.

Then get a teacher to go through it, so that you have a second opinion. 

Then go back over the mistakes and correct them until you've picked up EVERY last mark. 

Trust me, for the higher marks (90%+), learning how to create full-mark answers is so useful.

Now I'd love to hear what you think:
  • What exams do you have coming up?
  • What are you doing to revise for your exams at the moment?
  • Which tips do you think you could try out?

Ps. the image is courtesy of Nordic Days

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  1. Once again, you have nailed it. I'm just three weeks away from the Advanced Placement World History test and I am freaking out! These tips will definitely be helpful in reviewing and scoring that five (I guess an A* in the European system ;P) ! Also, I just started a blog- am about to give the finishing touches though, and write a few posts- so guess who will be joining that list in the A* Grade Challenge post ;)

    1. Isabel, hi!

      Firstly thank you so much - I'm really glad you found the post helpful (I'll definitely try and do a few more of these exam tips posts).

      And good luck with the exams and blog - I'm looking forward to visiting it ;) x

  2. Hi Sanam! My mind was all over the places today u.u I missed some of my exams and I'm really worried
    So I'm gonna try some of these tips for my next exams :) thanks so much! Now I can keep calm and study ;)

    1. Brilliant!

      I hope these help, Nadia :) x

  3. Hi Sanam!
    I just love your blog! I am in my final year of college/high school and I REALLY want to get super high grades for my tests and we are only in the start of our 2nd term/semester out of 4 10-week terms, so all the tips on your blog will help me get ahead of the game and ace my exams!

    Keep up the good work!

    1. Hi Sophia,
      Thank you so much :D Good luck getting those amazing grades - what subjects are you currently studying? :) x

  4. I just started revising for my exams today and I only have one month left is this enough time


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