Why revise?

To store facts and knowledge in our long-term memory (LTM) is hard. Very hard. Especially as students who have so many subjects and so much content to recall under exam pressure.

So what can you do to help yourself? We all know the term “revision” but the latest research in cognitive science and memory sheds light on what is effective and the common mistakes students make that are inefficient ways to revise.

Have you ever sat and just reread your book or textbook and considered this to be revision? Have you ever spent lots of time highlighting key information from a worksheet or from a large piece of text that you need to memorise? These do not stretch you or challenge your memory to retrieve key information. The term retrieval practice refers to the idea of forcing yourself to try and remember knowledge from your LTM which may have been taught a long time ago. Even the act of trying to remember strengthens the neural connections in the brain associated with those memories.

So instead of just looking over information you need to self-test and force yourself to recall even if you fail to do so. There are many easy ways to do this such as making flashcards, but the key to using them is the act of asking yourself questions and giving yourself time to answer. If you get them wrong, then relearn the material and try again. Another way is to get other people to help by asking you questions, this forces you to try and remember and then focus on working on your mistakes.

Another key part of effective revision is spaced practice, this is the concept of small chunks of revision rather than one big session the night before (cramming). You need to find a small amount of time and then give a few days gap before trying again. This process “interrupts the forgetting process “ as shown in the diagram below.

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