• Ian Gibbs

Exam Tip #4: Making The Most Of Your Revision Timetable


You have a busy life.


Lots of stuff to do, lots of stuff to think about.


This is why a revision timetable is important: it helps you get organised without having to think too much.


You might shudder at this idea. After all, no one likes to be controlled, do they?


But it’s important to understand that a revision timetable is a tool to help you get more done, not an iron rod to dictate your life.


If you don’t follow it perfectly, it’s not a problem. It only becomes a problem if you don’t follow it at all.


Deciding to start or finish earlier or later is ok.


Swapping subjects is fine.


Moving a slot from one place to another isn’t the end of the world.


So long as you’re getting through the revision you’d planned to do, you’re on the right track.


Draw up a table with seven vertical columns—one for each day of the week. Then divide each of these into half-hour slots.


As there are 24 hours in a day, that gives you 48 slots per day. But since you’re going to be getting a solid seven hours of sleep (which is important for effective learning), that’s 14 slots you can forget about. This leaves you with 34 slots per day.


Then fill in your time commitments for the week: your classes, activities, travel, meals, etc.


What’s left is potential revision time.


If your life isn’t so predictable, prepare your weekly revision timetable separately a few days in advance.


It’s your life. You decide.


Then decide how many slots you want to dedicate to each subject.


If you’ve got eight subjects and want to spend two hours a week on each, that’s 32 slots you need to find.


I recommend varying your subjects often. Two hours of German is more than enough (for anyone). I’d much prefer to do an hour of German then an hour of Chemistry and return to German another day.


Varying subjects (aka interleaving) is a proven way to improve learning as it helps keep your mind active and interested.


If you only have one subject, vary the chapters.


Swap things around.


When you feel things are becoming stale or you’re getting bogged down, switch to something else.


A change really is as good as a rest.


I also recommend colour-coding your subjects. This makes it easier to distinguish between subjects and makes it easier on the eye. If your agenda looks good, you’ll have a better attitude toward it.


Two other points to bear in mind…


First, don’t overlook the opportunity of early morning revision. This might sound like sacrilege for some students, but there’s a lot to be said for getting up early.


If you get up before everyone else, it’s quiet with no distractions. Wake yourself up with a short, invigorating shower, fix a simple breakfast and then settle down with a mug of something stimulating. You’ll be able to do an hour of revision before anyone else bothers you.


Secondly, I recommend including half an hour of self-testing as part of your bedtime routine. Regularly testing yourself by going through your flashcards just before you sleep is a good learning tactic. It gets your mind working on things while you sleep.


Don’t overdo things too early. If your exams are months away, one or two slots per subject per week is fine.


Steadily introduce more revision slots as you get closer. You are the best judge of how many is the right amount.


Be realistic and don’t punish yourself.

Even during the last few weeks before your exams, it’s important to include downtime into your revision plan: time to get out and take your mind off things.


It’s not wasted time.


It’s not running away from your responsibilities.


You will learn better if you and your brain are healthy.


This means getting exercise, fresh air and enjoying yourself.


In fact, I know of students who get up and go for a run BEFORE early morning revision. They say it puts their brain into top gear.


It’s your choice.


Finally, just the simple action of crossing out a revision session once you’ve completed it can give you that all-important sense of satisfaction that you might need to help keep going.


Crossing them off as you go with a nice thick marker gives you a clear sign you’re making progress.


So draw yourself up a weekly revision plan and make sure you have as many sessions as you need. Vary the subjects to keep things fresh and interesting, and remember that the early morning and bedtime are also potential revision slots. Lastly, cross them off as you get them done.


A solid revision timetable is a substantial step to getting better grades.


Tip 4: Make yourself a revision timetable and then make the most of it.

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