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How to revise

Back to basics

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It's easier to remember something if you understand it.

Read the following paragraph and try to remember it.

A supramolecular assembly or "supermolecule" is a well defined complex of molecules held together by noncovalent bonds. While a supramolecular assembly can be simply composed of two molecules, it is more often used to denote larger complexes of molecules that form sphere-, rod-, or sheet-like species.

Now cover up the paragraph and see how much of it you can write down. Try writing it down again in 10 minutes, and try again tomorrow. How much did you remember? Were you able to write down half of it, all of it or none of it? Unless you are an expert in nano-technology or you have photographic memory, you will probably struggle to understand this paragraph, and therefore find it really difficult to remember.

So how can you ensure that you understand what you are trying to learn? The easiest way to understand all of the information you need to know for your exam is to start at the beginning, and review the basics of the subject you are revising. By understanding the basic concepts of a topic you create a foundation of knowledge from which you can build.

Activity: learning the core facts of your subject

1. Spend some time looking over basic concepts and ideas of the subject you are revising today. If you have had previous exams on the same subjects, review your core-notes on this subject.

2. If you struggle with any particular concepts that underpin any of the subjects you need to know for your exams, spend time understanding these concepts NOW.

3. If you cannot understand these concepts using notes and text books, ask a coursemate, teacher or lecturer to explain this concept to you. Then try teaching it back to them to ensure your understanding is correct. This will really help when you have to understand more difficult concepts later on in your revision.

Another easy way to make sure you understand the basics of your subject is to create your own glossary: This is especially useful when studying a subject which has lots of subject-specific words, such as medicine.

Activity: creating a glossary

1. Every time you read a word and you don't know what it means, use your notes and text books to find a definition for it.

2. Write the word and the definition on a piece of paper in your own words.

3. Add more words and definitions to this glossary as you find them.

4. Keep this glossary with the appropriate revision notes so that you can refer to it each time you come across a word that you don't understand.

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