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Revision & Exams: Revision strategies


Sitting an exam requires us to demonstrate our understanding of a topic (or topics) in a fixed timeframe.

Before exams we need to actively revise by

  • making meaningful notes
  • organising and reading through these notes
  • making links to questions / topics.

Surface revision helps us to recognise information, but in an exam we need to revise in a way which helps us to recall that information.

Revising for exams

The key to revising for recall is to pace yourself over a period of time, rather than cramming immediately before the exam. 

  1. Plan.  

  • Start early. Divide your time available between the topics you need to revise and plan in advance what you will cover in each revision session.  

  • Create a revision timetable, aiming to revisit notes and course content regularly. See Notetaking.

  • Revise little and often - most people can concentrate on one thing for about 20 minutes. 

  1. Prepare.  

  • Find out the exam format. Check for any past papers and either write full answers or plan how you’d answer each question.  

  • Sitting a whole mock paper will help you to think about how to manage your time during the exam.  

  • Have all of the materials needed to revise, such as books, notes, and practice questions. 

  1. Review.  

  • Go over your notes. Rewatch lectures or have another look at uploaded slides and refresh your lecture notes. If you are stuck on a topic, find another source to explain it. 

  • Note the key concepts, examples and evaluations of each topic, along with at least one conflicting argument.  

  • Practice summarising your materials. 

  1. Write.  

  • Handwrite notes as you revise – it helps you to focus.  

  • Go to the library to avoid distractions – take water and snacks and print off any materials you need.  

  • Stay offline if you can (use books rather than webpages).  

  1. Summarise.  

  • Pick a few points from your notes for each topic and write them down on another single page of notes so you can keep going over them, or mind map each topic. 

  1. Pace yourself

  • Space out your revision and take timed breaks.  

  • After the break, review the topic you’ve just revised – check if you need to follow anything up. 

  1. Test yourself

  • Try different ways of testing yourself to find out what you need to spend more time on:

  • If you have time, teach the topic to someone else or ask someone to test you. 


  • Find the best place to study for you. Some people prefer background noise, and some prefer quiet. The library has a range of study areas with different noise levels which you can try 


  • It might be worth revising different subjects in different places to see if this helps you to retain information. 


  • Explore different strategies which use different senses:
    • Visual: use pictures, diagrams and mind maps; colour code topics; create a learning poster

    • Auditory: record notes to listen back to; recite your notes aloud, discuss the topic with others; create mnemonics or songs

    • Kinaesthetic: create flash cards; make games out of your learning materials; move around while reading notes


  • Get help when needed. If you are struggling with a particular topic, do not be afraid to ask for help from your tutor, a classmate, or a friend. 

  • Stay positive. Revision can be challenging, but it is important to stay positive. Remember that you are capable of learning the material and doing well on your exams. 

Further Reading