Exam pressure and revision techniques by @NorthantsTeach

Ongoing handy tips...

The inevitable articles will start as we near the results days each August that ‘this year’s exams were easier than ever’. That we will see more and more students getting the top grades, implying that teaching standards have dropped and students are not working as hard. This isn’t fair on anyone, having seen the amount of work that students are putting in and the stress that it is causing them, it belittles the work that us, parents and students are putting in.

This is a re-blog post by NorthantsTeach being published with kind permission.

The original post can be found here.

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Every year we teach students not only the content that they need, the exam techniques and skills but also the ways in which to revise. There was a fascinating article from the BBC about different revision techniques and the success or hindrance that some can play.

As someone who loves their stationery and nothing more than colour-coding both their notes and work I’ve been a fan of highlighting when working. The BBC article, linked above, raises some interesting findings about this approach. That upon reading actually make a lot of sense; the idea that highlighting sections or sentences at a time means you are only focusing on one concept or issue at a time. Rather than building the bigger picture or connecting concepts, which for many subjects is essential.

Making summary points
This is an interesting one with Professor Dunlovsky suggesting that summaries do not help that much. Stating that students who re-visit and re-read learn as much as those who are making summaries as they read. This is an interesting finding, I found (or thought) that when I was at university this was something that helped me. Although I did make summary notes as I went along, as well as part of my revision.

Memory aids/mnemonics
Useful but with a caveat that they are only really of benefit for short bits of information, like remembering the order of the planets or colours of the rainbow. Rather than being of use for longer passages. This is perhaps not surprising. What was surprising was the suggestion in the research that this approach didn’t work for subjects like Physics or Maths. I remember at school being taught a number of mnemonics for both these subjects, although as with other things I revised the concepts and tested them out as part of my revision, so perhaps it was that they played more of a role, rather than the mnemonic. Which brings me nicely on to the findings about what worked well.

The successful approaches
This is based upon the research as discussed in the article and I do appreciate that individuals may still find different techniques work well for them. Spreading out revision over a longer period of time and testing yourself regularly were found to be the most effective. This is not surprising, giving yourself more time enables you to review, check and test your understanding in the hope of cementing it fully before the exam. I am sure I am not alone in suggesting that students start revising before May! Planning ahead and revising your subjects over time, acknowledging that you have possibly at GCSE 10 subjects to revise and balancing your time, rather than trying to revise Biology in one block before moving on to Chemistry is the sensible approach. This ensures you are doing little and often rather than trying to ‘cram’.

As we are well under way in the exam season there is still time to work on revision! Whilst research has identified the statistically more beneficial approaches, any revision is better than none!

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