Learning is perhaps the most fulfilling journey that anyone can go on and being a student, whatever your age, or whatever course you’re aspiring to complete, or qualification you’re working towards, can be one of the most rewarding experiences a person can have.
As a fully qualified, practicing English teacher I’ve put together this article to help students make their way through the minefield of exams they will undoubtedly face at some point in their life. The tips below are effective, tried and tested strategies I’ve used myself, and readily encourage my students to use. It’s unlikely you’ll find all ten tips useful, but there should be a couple in there that make help you tackle your revision load and study more effectively.
1. Mind Maps
These are an excellent way of condensing your notes into a manageable, visual format. If I am studying a literature text with my students, I encourage them to write the name of the text in a bubble in the middle, and then draw on different branches for different aspects of the text they need to remember, for example, the characters, themes, social and/or historical interest. The picture below is an example.
After the branches are drawn, I encourage my students to write bullet pointed notes for each branch. Using color on your mind map can help visually stimulate your mind, and is a popular choice of a lot of my students!
2. Use Post-it Notes
It’s amazing what your mind can absorb without you realizing! I put up posters all around my classroom when I need my students to remember important facts or quotes for their exams – the idea is, when they’re tuning out when they should be listening to me, they can at least be reading something relevant! I believe writing short sentences and key words on post it notes and sticking them around your room, maybe on your bathroom mirror as something to read when you’re brushing your teeth, really works.
3. Teach it to your Teddy Bears!
This was a tip I was given by my high school Biology teacher, and I think I definitely owe him for it. Reading and taking things in visually is only way your brain can absorb information; taking information in verbally is another. By pretending you’re teaching what you’re studying to someone else – dig out your soft toys and line them up for a lecture – and explaining your notes or theories out loud stimulates another part of your brain, increasing the likelihood of the information sticking in your memory.
4. Create a Revision Timetable
This is an immensely valuable tool to help you stay organized and motivated, and to ensure you designate enough time to each topic you need to cover.
When creating your timetable, prioritize the subjects you have an exam for first, and also consider how much content you have to learn for each topic or subject and ensure that’s reflected in the time allocation.
Finally, allow time for leisure activities and relaxation! All work and no play results in stress, and stress will inhibit how effectively you can study, so make sure you do schedule some You Time.
5. Break down the Subject into Sections or Topics
As well as teaching English, I mentor pupils in my school. What I have found from this is that my students can often feel overwhelmed if they are struggling with a certain subject – many feel demotivated and turn to digging their heads in the sand. To combat this I encourage them to get a list from their subject teacher of the topics they need to know for their exam.
I then advise them to place the items in the list into two columns; what they understand, and what they don’t. Even if the “What I Know” column only has one or two items in it, it’s still rewarding to know you know something!
I then suggest they make time with their teachers and go through the things they don’t know, a topic at a time, and then, when they feel confident they’ve mastered the topic, cross it from the “Don’t Know” column and rewrite it in the “What I Know” column – it’s amazing how motivating it can be to watch that list grow!
6. Remove the Distraction of Social Media
Create yourself a tidy, organized, quiet area, set your work out, and then switch off all technology that may distract you. What I mean by this is:
- Switch off your mobile phone; even better, switch it off and put it downstairs (if you’re studying upstairs) to reduce the chance of you being tempted to seek it out and switch it on.
- Avoid making notes on your computer and use the old-fashioned method of pen and paper. Firstly, if your computer is off, you’re less likely to log on to Facebook or Twitter or the like, which will eat into your studying time. Secondly, using a pen and writing your notes manually engages more focus, which means you should take in what you’re studying more effectively.
This article was written by Ella Rose West, author of the Selfish Mum parenting blog – Ella posts about all things travel, teaching and home related, and believes passionately in mums living life to the full!
Ella is an English teacher, wife to Steve and mother to two little boys, Christopher, 6 and Harry, 4. Her family is her world, but she also loves having a life separate from marriage and motherhood. For her blog, Selfish Mum, she writes about anything and everything that comes to her that day, however trivial or bizarre, with posts ranging from informative articles about places to visit with your family, to her aspirations to have a body like Olympic gold medal winner Jessica Ennis, to her favorite things about China!