Revising your work and the information you’re studying is one of the most important steps you can take to ensure a high-level understanding of those subjects and high-quality work. Students in every subject area can benefit from a well-thought-out revision plan. Today we’ll discuss some of the different revision methods you can use, and how you can use feedback and revising drafts to your benefit.
Study methods for revision
John Weightman & Codey McShane
There are a wide range of possible techniques that may be useful to you when revising. The most important thing is to find what works for you. Everyone uses a combination of different learning styles throughout their academic study, and these will be unique to that student. That said, here are some example techniques that may be useful to you.
Leitner Flash Cards
The Leitner system is a revision technique using flashcards. The idea is to create your flashcards for the subject you are revising for and sort the individual flashcards into groups depending on how well you know the knowledge on the card. You then pull a flashcard from the group you remember the least from and attempt to recall the knowledge on its back. If you succeed, you can send it one box further along the line. If you fail, you send the flashcard back to the first group.
Groups of flashcards you know quite well should be revised less frequently than those you are having trouble with. This way, you’re focusing on the gaps in your knowledge, while still refreshing yourself on what you already know every so often.
Mind mapping is a technique that allows you to visually organize information in a diagram. Start with a word in the centre of a blank page (or use a tool online) and around this write your major ideas and keywords and connect them to the central concept. Then branch out into sub-branches from your major ideas with other related ideas that support your major points. You could also consider using different colours for each branch and draw pictures if it helps. The structure of a mind map is related to the way our brains store and retrieve information. Therefore, using this method can improve your reading comprehension and enable you to see the big picture by communicating the relationships between concepts and ideas.
Writing in colour is a dynamic way to organize the information you’re learning. It also helps you review and prioritize the important ideas. A recent study found that colour can improve your memory performance. The study also found that warm colours (red and yellow) “can create a learning environment that is positive and motivating that can help learners” It also reported that warmer colours “increase attention and elicit excitement and information.”
Consider these tips:
- Write down key points in red.
- Highlight important information in yellow.
- Organize topics by colour.
- Don’t just colour everything because then nothing will stand out
The Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique was originally created by Francesco Cirillo in 1999. This method has been widely used by thousands of students for over 20 years. The method is based on studying in timed intervals. Cirillo actually named it after the timer he used which was shaped like a tomato (Pomodoro in Italian). Cirillo found that breaking large tasks up into smaller manageable timed units is the most effective way to study.
- Decide what you want to study and for how long. Then break your work into Pomodoro’s.
- Set a timer for 25 minutes and start studying. (There are many pomodoro apps available or you can follow along with someone’s study session on YouTube).
- Minimize distractions during each interval. If a thought pops into your head write it down.
- After 25 minutes take a short break. Have a tea or a coffee, go for a walk, call your friend, or just relax.
- Then just repeat and after 4 Pomodoro’s take a longer break for 20-30 minutes.
The Feynman Technique
This technique is one that I find quite useful. It doesn’t require any extra resources, as all you need to do is take a concept you’re revising and pretend to teach it to someone else – specifically, a child. As you take a particular subject and pretend to explain it to a child, look for the gaps in your own understanding. Explaining a particular concept to someone else out loud can be an excellent way to realize exactly what it is you don’t understand fully yet.
After refreshing yourself on the knowledge you didn’t fully understand, there is a final step. Simplify your explanation. Using analogies is a suggested way to do this, as analogies are easy to recall and explain, and require you to omit any specialized jargon.
This also prevents you from merely committing facts to memory. If you’re able to take a concept, reduce it to its simplest form, and then explain it in a different way, you’re more likely to understand the concept.
The Preview, Questions, Read, Recite, Review method
This method (also called PQ3R) is potentially a more natural way of understanding academic textbooks. It encourages asking questions to facilitate your learning, as well as understanding the context surrounding the facts you’ll be learning. Following the PQ3R method in order should help you have a streamlined study method that will work every time.
Preview: Before you dive into any source material, it’s important to understand what it is you’re about to read. With a chapter in a textbook, this means reading the chapter title, introduction, subheadings, the first sentences of each paragraph, and finally, the chapter summary.
Questions: During the Preview step, you should take note of any questions that are raised by the initial text you are reading. This will help you to become active in your study, and you should keep these questions in mind during the next step, Read.
Read: That’s right, it’s reading time. Read the chapter now, paying attention to any text that is specifically emphasized by highlighting or bold text. Look at all the graphs and illustrations, including their captions, and reread anything that you didn’t quite get the first time.
Recite: If there are any questions that come at the end of this chapter, now is the time to complete them, as well as your own questions that you recorded during the preview step.
Review: A couple of days after finishing the previous steps, you can perform the Review step. Attempt to summarize the chapter. See if you can answer the questions that you created and those in the text easily, having already done so before. How confident are you that you could explain the content in this chapter to another student?
Revising your revision techniques
You may not think honing your skills and looking back on your techniques is revision, but when you do this, you are actually revising your techniques which results in them developing.
Before starting an assessment, going back to basics will help familiarise yourself with how its structured and how to get the best possible grades. For example, if you’ve been asked to write an essay, revising essay structures and academic writing will make for a better outcome. For more guidance on essay writing, we have a whole guide on it: Essay Writing Skills Guide.
If you’re a creative, honing your craft is a key part of your course – writing, drawing, any kind of creative skill needs to be continuously used to help it develop. Have you ever not drawn for a period and when you get back into it, you seem to not be able to draw anymore? You obviously haven’t lost your capabilities; you just haven’t been exercising your drawing muscles. Once you start drawing again, you’ll find your techniques starting to develop once again.
This isn’t only for creatives though. If you’ve been using a computer software, you need to keep up to date with it to build your knowledge on how to use it. The same goes for health practitioners, who must always have more training when new medical practices are found.
As a writer, I continuously revise narrative structures, planning techniques, and poetic form. I write whenever I get the chance to develop my writing, but I also read craft books and fiction/poetry in the genre and form I am writing in. This helps me familiarise myself with the genre and its narrative structure, but also any devices other authors use that may make my writing stronger.
Therefore, revising techniques and honing your skills is important when it comes to the revision process.
For more information and guidance on revision, processes check out our Skills Guide.