Swotting doesn’t have to be a chore.
The sun may be out and the music festival season just around the corner, but to the thousands of teenagers revising for GCSEs, AS and A-levels, BST stands for British Swot Time. For the rest of us, summer may begin with the sound of leather on willow, yet for Britain’s exam-beleaguered youngsters, it doesn’t get going until they hear their final invigilator exhort, “Put down your pens.” Here are 10 revision tips which should, given a fair wind, culminate in a rich harvest come results time:
Make a detailed revision timetable on a large piece of paper (A3 at least) and post it up somewhere that everyone can see it. That way, everyone knows what you are meant to be studying and when. Strangely enough, letting other people know your plans actually lightens the load, because then it’s not just down to you to motivate yourself. Rather like getting married, you feel more committed to your vows if a lot of people have seen you make them at the wedding.
2 Catch the worm
Just like those wriggling soil-dwellers, facts are at their most available and digestible first thing in the morning. Start at 9am, and you can get the bulk of your revision done early, so you don’t spend the rest of the day feeling crushed under the weight of unread A4 folders.
3 Ask questions of yourself
Facts are sluggish, passive creatures and lie piled up inside your head, without giving off any signs of life. You can, however, awaken them through the power of questions. So when you’re making notes, don’t just write down “The Battle of Naseby was fought in 1645”; instead, put “When was the Battle of Naseby?” in one column, and write “1645” in an opposite column. Cover up the answer and each time you get it right, you’ll feel a small, pixie-like pat on the back.
You should unplug your computer or laptop, as it’s simply too tempting to go off roaming the wide, open spaces of Web-fordshire, instead of ploughing through the causes of the agricultural revolution. It is also imperative to turn off your mobile phone (one distraction too many).
5 Come up with mnemonics
The word stands for Make Names Easily Memorable by Organising Nominated Initial Characters. The website Student UK suggests My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas as a way of remembering the nine planets in order of distance from the sun (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto).
6 Believe in bananas
Take a leaf out of the top tennis players’ book and make use of this potassium-rich performance-enhancer to raise your energy levels. When Federer and Nadal need a lift, they don’t reach for a courtside cup of black coffee, they dip into their kitbags and unzip a banana.
7 Act out the French Revolution
If you’re studying King Lear for English A-level, your teacher will take you to a performance of the play. Unfortunately, if you’re doing history, you can’t just go off in a minibus and see 200-year-old events taking place. You can, however, re-enact them in your own home. Get one or two classmates over, share out the parts – one person can play Louis XVI and the French aristocracy, one person Robespierre and Danton, another the Parisian mob. Work your way from the Storming of the Bastille (1789) up to the Fall of the Directory (1799).
8 Make the stairs work for you
Let’s face it, travelling between the ground and first floor of your home is pretty much dead time. In which case, why not put those stair-minutes to good use by placing revision cards on each step. Try the kings and queens of England, for example. Start at William The Conqueror (1066) and by the time you reach the first turn, you should be at Richard II. If you run out of stairs, do the Normans and Plantagenets one day, the Tudors and Stuarts the next. If you live in a flat, line the monarchs in order along the hallway.
9 Quality time
Ask friends over for a revision session. With things like dates and vocabulary, it’s always better if someone else is testing you, rather than you testing yourself (and peeking at the answers).
10 Watch television
Of course you shouldn’t try to learn the periodic table of chemical elements while watching Columbo reruns or a Shopping Channel knitwear special. But that doesn’t mean you can’t record a favourite programme and watch it as a treat, between your morning and afternoon revising time.