How to revise

Revising in manageable chunks

when you've finished this page you will be able to...

When you are reading or revising, do you ever suddenly realise that you have been staring at the page for a few minutes without actually reading anything? This is probably because you are trying to take in too much information at once.

I'm sure you have heard this before: when you are revising, your brain works better if you do small chunks of revision instead of big chunks. It is recommended that you study for between fifteen and forty five minutes and have five to ten minute breaks between study sessions. Scientists have been proving, conclusively, for over 30 years that taking breaks improves memory function. It's even been proven to work for rats! The theory is that when we spend time learning, we remember more information from the beginning and the end of the session.

So if you are 'learning' for two hours, your memory works like this:

memory graph

But if you break this two hour period up into 25 minute learning sessions with five minute breaks, you memory works like this:

memory graph

See it really works!

Working in shorter more manageable chunks is a really important habit to get into and it will help you to revise more effectively. The key is to spend your 5 minute breaks distracting yourself, but only for five minutes! Remember - have lots of short breaks, at least one per hour and you will recall more information in your exam.

And another thing....

This is simple. We learn better when we focus on one thing (i.e. revision). So turn off the radio and TV, tell your parents/house mates/dog that you are revising and need them to be quiet, or go to the library. You will soon find a space that works really well for you, where you can focus on shorter chunks of revision, and then take a well-earned break.

Activity: Practice revising in manageable chunks - 1 hour

1. Next time you are revising, set yourself a time limit. For example, 25 minutes revision, five minute break.

2. Place a watch or clock where you can see it. When you have finished your revision period, take your planned break - don't be tempted to carry on until you have finished that particular section or topic. Take a break NOW!

3. When you are having a break, leave the space where you have been revising. For example, if you are in the library go outside for some fresh air, or if you are at home, make yourself a cup of tea.

4. You can do anything during this break, so long as it is not revising!

Recommended Further Reading

Keep practicing, you will soon get into the habit of giving yourself a break, and allowing your memory to digest everything you have revised.

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