What is revision and how does someone do it?

posted on 21st August 2019

It's really important that children know how to revise, and more importantly what revision is before a child starts. In some cases, revision will be patches of learning brand new information, but mostly revision is going over what's been covered before in school. A child needs to bring that information to life so it can be recreated, talked about and problem solved with during an exam. There are 4 basic steps to revision.

Step 1: Taking information in

This is to do with attention. Meaning how much focus and attention can someone give to a passage in a text, YouTube video, a lecture or even being told something. In order to take the information inside your mind, you need your mental space to be clear. Although a lot of people say they need something on in the background, this is very rarely true. What they are actually doing by having music or TV on in the background, is diluting their focus and attention, so it feels better. If we don’t pay full attention to what we are doing, we can dampen down any feelings of worry as we are less engaged with the material in front of us. Young children only concentrate and attend to information for about 5 minutes. However, by the time a child gets to GCSE level, they should be able to concentrate and focus for 20 minutes at a time without getting fatigued. So, for revision, a child will be able to revise without mental fatigue, if they revise for 20 minutes at a time. It’s important to have a break for about 10 minutes in between each 20-minute revision session.


Step 2: Sorting the information out

In terms of sorting information out, what’s really meant here is active learning. This is a process of engaging with the material in a way that gives greater meaning to it. Just reading from textbooks is not enough. Taking notes in your own words, making flash cards, doing mind Maps, creating picture stories, making your own short films about the topic and explaining the information to somebody else are all forms of active learning. This way of learning forces you to take the information that’s coming in, and change it into another medium such as writing, talking and colouring. It’s creating. It’s the act of having to think deeply about how to change information that’s coming in into something you’ve created in your own words, it’s how the deeper learning happens. Psychologists call it multiple levels of learning.


Step 3: Practising remembering the information

This step is crucial, but it’s often missed out. it’s to do with making sure you can recall the information without having any prompts or reminders. One of the easy deceptions around learning and revising especially, is to fall into the trap of thinking recognising is knowing. They are two completely different things. Recognising is when you think you know something, but you can’t find the information in your mind. It’s stuck on the tip of your tongue. Whereas remembering is when you have nothing to help you recognise it, and nobody is giving you any prompts. Remembering only comes about from answering questions that direct your brain to stored knowledge. Think of a wall with hundreds of doors along it. Behind each door is something you have learnt. Recognising is where a sign is on each door, so you know what door to open to get the information. Knowing is when you’ve also learnt which door has the knowledge behind it without any signs on the door.  Not only have you learnt the information, you know where to find it without any hints. The best way of practising remembering information and really making your learning solid is by using flash cards. On the one side of a flash card you write a question, and on the other side of the flashcard you write the answer. Flash cards can be used repeatedly until it is effortless to remember.


Step 4: Applying the learnt information to something new

This step should only really be engaged with once steps 1, 2 and 3 have been mastered. This is the stage where you will practice past papers. Unfortunately, some people start here by mistake. The first step is to look for past papers on YouTube or online. Also, look through textbooks to find example questions or ask teachers for exam questions. When steps 1, 2 and 3 have been completed properly stage 4 really illuminates the areas that you are stronger in, that is where you found it easy to answer the questions and you’ve been able to get all the points when you marked them. Importantly stage 4 can highlight some areas where you might need to go back and repeat stage 1, 2 and 3 with. Don’t let that make you feel disheartened, because that’s what revision is. It’s learning parts of the material and then going back and re learning those parts. In the 1st week you may need to do lots of areas. In the second week maybe just a bit less. Each revision attempt is just a tiny step to knowing the whole. Revision is lots of little steps until you reach your goal.


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