Have you always felt that there was never enough time for exam revision? Many people feel this way. In this article, we will give you the best frequency and approach for your exam revision. Avoiding that exam revision blues during your revision.
So, how often should you revise for exam? There is no one-size fits all approach to determine how long you should revise for your exam. Nevertheless, there are ideal steps you can take to understand the best frequency for your exam revision. You should first get an overview of the course materials covered. This will help you plan out your exam revision. Next, gauge your understanding of the course materials by testing yourself with practice questions. Based on your self-test, you can determine an ideal frequency for your revision with the spaced-learning methodology.
Read on to learn about how you can decide on a well spaced out revision schedule that will ensure you are ready by exam day. Further, the tips to determine how long each revision session should take, and the important steps you can take for self-evaluation of your exam revision.
Decide on a well spaced exam revision schedule
It can be daunting, if this is the first time you are taking a systemic process to plan your exam revision. That is why, we will cover each component’s purpose and actionable steps.
This will help you to gain an understanding of the learning science behind each component. And at the end, you will have the knowledge and know-how to decide on a well spaced exam revision schedule.
Familiarize with the overview of course materials
At the root of all successful exam revision is your familiarity with the course materials. This will begin with you having a clear idea of your course overview. What are the chapters or topics within the course?
During your exam revision, your course overview will become a list of checkboxes for you to complete. For example, you have a topic on the history of the 1980s. In this topic, you will want to prepare a checklist of facts to know. As you revise for the topic, you will want to use the checklist to ensure that you have revised all the facts.
Take action now. Begin looking through your course overview, and identify chapters or topics to be made into revision checklist.
By the end, you will have a good idea of the tasks ahead in your exam revision. Now, it is time for you to put your revision into a schedule by using spaced learning.
A brief introduction to spaced learning
Spaced learning is an idea developed around the forgetting curve. By using the spacing effect, a content revised in chunks at days apart, can aid in reinforced learning and memory.
Gradually, a learner using spaced learning, over days, to study a content will have a stronger memory of it. Further, the learner’s speed of the content retrieval will be greatly sped up. This is also a less stressful approach to exam revision, when compared to cramming long session of study before an exam.
Sounds great? Next up, we will bring you through using spaced learning to develop your exam revision schedule.
Applying spaced learning in developing your exam revision schedule
In short, a month long template for spaced learning of a topic could look like this:
- Day 1: First revision of topic
- Day 8: Repeat revision for Day 1 and self-test (more on it below)
- Day 15: Repeat exam revision from Day 7
- Day 31 and so on… You will space it out longer towards your exam. (This will challenge your memory and retrieval of the content even more)
Following the template above, space out the days for your revision of a topic. Then do the same on the free days for other topics. You can also fill multiple revision topics in the same day. The key is to space out the repeat revision of that topic according to the template.
The suggested template for spaced learning here is a simplified version. You should tweak the spaced intervals as needed. As a general guideline, schedule shorter interval than the suggested template for difficult contents.
For the detail-oriented learner: you can get a more detailed take on spaced learning by reading Piotr Wozniak works. He has completed multiple researches around the topic of spaced learning. Reading his research works would provide you with additional details, which can help you find and adjust an optimum distribution of spacing for your exam revision.
Determine the duration of your exam revision
Beside having a well spaced learning schedule, you should also determine how long you will take to revise each topic. This will help you to schedule enough time for each study session, and keep your revision effective.
A good way to determine the time you need is to self-evaluate your knowledge on each topic. You will need to have questions ready to self-test.
From your self-test, you will realize that you are not able to answer certain questions. This is your knowledge gap. Depending on how many knowledge gaps you have for the topic, you will have to set aside more time to fill these gaps.
Don’t worry if your first revision study session seems to be long. Ideally, you should take lesser time for each session as you go further along your revision schedule.
Another tip to note: Break up each session into multiple segments of 30 minutes. Take short 5-10 minutes break between each segment. A handy method to use is the Pomodoro technique for time management. (See video below for more details)
You are almost ready to begin your exam revision. One last thing to help you make your exam revision process better.
Test and improve your exam revision process
Revising for exam is a constant study and update of your knowledge on the content. You should have a set of questions to self-test at the start and end of each revision topic.
By self-testing at the start your revision, you will know how much content you will need to study for that session. This will help you identify weak areas to focus your study effort.
Analyzing the improvement through self-test at the end of a revision helps you to see the improvements from the session itself. This creates a virtuous cycle of motivation, and improves your awareness of your knowledge. Eventually, as your exam day closes you will be ready for it.
The self-test you work on will provide a measurable feedback on your exam revision process. You will be able to tell if your exam revision process is yielding its intended purpose.
A useful method for effective self-test that you may want to try is the Leitner system using flashcard.
Here’s an outline of the steps you have to take to plan an effective exam revision schedule:
- Get an overview of your course materials
- Apply spaced learning to schedule your exam revision by topics
- Determine the duration you will take for your first revision for each topic
- Test and improve your exam revision
Following the above actionable steps, you should be find studying for exam as simple as pie.
What time of the day should I revise for exam? Study at a time when you are most alert. This can right after a morning workout. It has been found that learning and improves when studying right after physical exercise. Try to avoid studying before sleeping. You do not want to get caught up with thoughts from your study session, which can keep you awake. Having enough quality sleep each day during your exam revision period is important. Sleep is an critical part of memory consolidation.
When should I start studying for an exam? It is never too early to start your exam revision. This will give you more than enough time for a comfortably spaced learning schedule. As a general guideline, if you are studying for a semester exam, give yourself at least 2 months before the exam date to start your revision.