Revision requires maximum brainpower and concentration; but with so many things around to distract us it can be difficult to truly focus on the task at hand. Modern technology is great; I mean, how many of us could live without a smart phone now? However, it has to be said that we've become a nation of over-stimulated tech addicts. Smart phones, tablets, e-readers, laptops, wearable technology, games consoles – there's always something there to help us procrastinate when we should be focusing on revision or essay writing.
So in this veritable sea of procrastination apparatus, how can we ignore Instagram, forget about Facebook, and take time out from Twitter long enough to focus on that all-important revision?
Everyone has different learning styles, so there's no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to revision. However, if you've hit a brick wall and are looking to try some different revision techniques then here are a few great tips that may just help to revolutionise your study time...
You can't possibly expect to do your best revision if you're neglecting your health and wellbeing. You may think that time spent exercising, cooking, and eating healthy food is time you could have spent drinking an energy drink, eating a takeaway, and going over your lecture notes instead. Prioritising your health and wellbeing will help you to achieve much better exam results in the long run, so it's worth investing your time in the following:
Cardiovascular exercise, such as running and aerobics, improves your circulation, which helps your blood to carry oxygen and nutrients to your brain. It also releases endorphins, the so-called ‘happy' hormone which can lift your mood and help you to manage any stress that you're feeling as a result of your impending exams. If pounding the streets for a lycra-clad run doesn't appeal to you, try yoga or pilates which both strengthen and condition the body whilst focusing on breathing and relaxation too.
Most of us need at least six to eight hours sleep per night in order to function properly the next day. Sleep deprivation can have a detrimental impact on your concentration and your ability to absorb information; it can also lead you to make poor food choices. Lose the attitude that ‘sleep is for losers'; sleep is most definitely for winners! Establish an evening routine of having a relaxing bath, doing some gentle yoga stretches, and reading a non study-related book, and you'll awaken feeling refreshed and better equipped to cope with a day of revision.
When you're neck-deep in a mountain of revision notes it's all too tempting to keep reaching for the instant noodles, chocolate bars, and energy drinks. Whilst these foods are convenient, they lack nutritional value and can make you feel worse in the long run. Try to cut down on caffeine and processed sugar, instead opting for water, herbal tea, and fruit to keep you going during the day. Additionally, by investing a bit of time on a Sunday afternoon, you can make a week's worth of healthy, convenient meals for your freezer, such as spaghetti bolognese, chilli, soup, chicken curry, and fish pie.
If you're a smart phone addict, why not make your phone a part of your revision? There are a number of apps available that can help you to focus on your studies; just try to avoid the temptation of checking Facebook every two minutes instead of revising...
If you have an Android device this app is likely to be pre-installed, and if you have an iOS device it can be downloaded from the Apple store for free. It works the same way as Microsoft Word, but it's free, and it can be synched and accessed from all of your compatible devices, allowing you to jot down quick revision notes whilst you're out and about, then expand on them from your laptop when you get home.
This app is free on Android and iOS devices, and allows you to store up to 2GB of data in the cloud. Documents, images, videos, and multimedia can be stored in the cloud and accessed from your phone, tablet, or PC whenever you have sufficient Wi-Fi access, allowing you to upload your revision notes at the library, and pick up where you left off once you get home.
If you're a fan of the Evernote app, you'll love Evernote Penultimate. You'll need a stylus to get the best out of this app as it lets you jot down notes and doodles in your own handwriting, allowing you to scribble things down quickly and access them on your phone, saving you from using endless reams of paper.
We all have different learning styles, and some people find that mind maps or spider diagrams are the best way for them to absorb information. iMindMap is a free app, available on iOS and Android, that allows you to create mind maps using the built-in sketch tool, and sync them to the cloud for access from other devices.
If you're revising for multiple exams at the same time it's important to get organised, otherwise you'll end up getting confused and not taking anything in properly. Dig out all that cute stationary that you bought at the start of the year, and put it to good use in organising your notes...
Draw up a timetable, splitting your days up into morning, afternoon, evening, or breaking them down into hour slots – whatever works best for you. Decide what subjects you will revise for in each time slot; and don't forget to plan regular breaks and give yourself at least one or two evenings or afternoons off to socialise or indulge in a hobby.
Don't try to cram too much into too short a space of time. It's important to be realistic and allow yourself enough time to adequately go over your lecture notes. If you struggled with a particular topic, allow extra time in which to grasp it properly.
Use sticky labels and coloured folders to organise your lecture notes properly. If your notes are easily accessible and organised efficiently it will be easier for you to get into the revision zone and absorb what you're reading. Unorganised revision notes will clutter your mind, overwhelm you, and lead to procrastination.
Keep yourself motivated by setting revision goals, such as highlighting key points from a group of lectures and reimagining them in a mind map – whatever works best for you. After achieving your goal, reward yourself with an episode of your favourite show, a nice bath, or a phone call with a friend.
There are not many people who are able to concentrate on revision when there's too much noise distraction around them. Most of us tend to need quiet, serene surroundings in order to focus, so it's important to set the right scene for your study time...
The library is a good place in which to study as it is quiet by nature. If you're more comfortable studying at home then try to do it without the TV on in the background, and let your housemates know that you're studying and don't want to be disturbed for a while.
Where possible turn off your phone, tablet etc, and avoid checking your emails and social media accounts whilst you're revising.
Classical music is good for helping you to focus on your studies, or check out one of the ‘focus' playlists on Spotify. The relaxing sounds of a beach campfire, waves breaking on the shore, or sounds of the rainforest can help you to tune out distractions and concentrate on your studies.
It's best to study in a room with a good level of lighting. If it's too dim you could end up straining your eyes trying to read your notes, whilst if it's too bright you may end up squinting which isn't good for your eyes either.