Advice from the Principal on Revision and Examination Techniques
February 25, 2013
Dear Students of Grades X and XII:
Undoubtedly you are all now totally focused on your examination preparations, and all of us teachers are here to support you in your efforts every step of the way. We will always be there for you whenever you need us. Year on year, students find the following advice very helpful, so here are 18 strategic revision tips:
1. Maintain regular study habits. You should have a wholesome study hygiene, wherein you give yourself sufficient sleep and eat proper meals at the usual times, avoiding junk food and caffeine. Be systematic and methodical in your study routines and you will never need to cram or panic. When revising, give yourself short breaks on a regular basis but do not allow yourself to become distracted.
2. Be organized! The more organized you are, the less stressed you will be. Develop a comprehensive list of all of the topics that you need to revise and a comprehensive schedule for revision. Stick to your schedule religiously and tick off the topics from your list as you proceed through your schedule. In this way you can see your progress through the revision tasks and you will feel much better as you realize that you are really covering the syllabi thoroughly and systematically.
3. Create a master plan. Ensure that you have revision lists and schedules for all subjects and have earmarked specific dates for the completion of topics and subjects. Link your planning to your examination timetable so that your preparations in subjects peak at the right time.
4. Do not procrastinate! What you do not do today will haunt you tomorrow. Ensure that you complete today’s tasks today, and do not permit any distractions to prevent you from progressing in your revision.
5. Make your revision active! Do not simply stare at your notes or textbooks. Actively re-write, boil down and internalize your learning.
6. See the fine print as well as the big picture. There is a danger in any revision programme that you may become bogged down in the minute details and not see the interconnections between topics and concepts. The best students have a thorough grasp not only of the details but also of the patterns and links between topics.
7. Distill your notes. Your brain will not be able to absorb a vast amount of minute details. You need to distill your learning gradually into more digestible units by systematically and continuously reviewing and re-writing your notes.
8. Add variety to your revision. Bring in rhymes, rhythms, acrostics and visuals as memory aids. Test yourself frequently and ask others to test you. Be creative, innovative and colourful in your revision notes and diagrams.
9. Label it or lose it. Your brain is a bit like a filing cabinet. If you do not label the information within it, it will be very difficult to find the item when you are under pressure. It is very important to create prominent labels in your revision notes and to arrange your notes in a systematic and logical way. If you do this you will be much more likely to be able to visualize the label and remember everything that comes under that label, and thereby obtain total recall of your learning.
10. Review it or lose it! You need to review your notes on a daily basis or your memory will fade dramatically. Make sure that you do a complete review every day.
11. Do not try to predict what will come up in the examination. Revise everything and assume that anything on the syllabus could appear in the examination.
12. Practice under timed conditions. There is little point in solving a past paper at your leisure. You need to work to the specific time frame of the paper and not allow yourself any leeway. Set your alarm clock and aim to improve your speed, accuracy and confidence. The more you practice under timed conditions, the more confident you will feel in the real examination, because you will have absorbed the pattern of the paper and will not be taken by surprise by any aspect of the examination.
13. Develop a fast but legible writing style. It is important to complete your answers within the allotted time. Therefore in your timed practice sessions you need to ensure that your handwriting style has both speed and legibility. Remember that examiners will not struggle to interpret poor handwriting: they will simply deduct marks for anything which is illegible.
14. Aim for crystal clarity in your writing. Plan, structure and check. Read the question at least three times. Highlight the key terms in the question and make sure that you understand what the question is asking you to do. Plan your answer carefully: brainstorm by using mind-maps. Include all relevant evidence in your mind-maps. Then structure the plan in the order of importance of evidence, with the most important evidence coming first. If you do this, you will find that the answer actually ‘writes itself.’ Once you have written your answer, check it for accuracy. If you ensure that you always plan, structure and check everything, you will undoubtedly do very well in the end.
15. Know your weaknesses and play to your strengths. In your revision programme identify frankly and honestly the areas in which you are weakest and focus on strengthening your understanding of those areas. In learning anything you need to exercise all parts of your brain in order to improve your overall performance.
16. Arrive early! Do not leave anything to the last minute. Plan systematically and pack up all of your required materials the night before the examination, so that there is no tension or uncertainty in the morning. Aim to arrive at the exam hall at least 20 minutes before the start of the exam.
17. Remain calm! When you enter the examination hall settle yourself down and control your breathing and anxiety. Many students practice some breathing exercises, prayers, etc, to reduce the panic levels. You need to get yourself into a calm and focused state. Regular practice of yoga and pranayam is very beneficial in training the mind and body to relax.
18. Read the instructions! The most common reason for underperformance in examinations is simply the failure to read instructions carefully. At the beginning of the examination you should read through the instructions at least three times and highlight the key words in each question. You should also note how many questions you are required to answer, how many marks each question carries, how much total time there is in the examination, the total number of marks in the examination, and then calculate how much time you proportionally need to spend on each question. Thereafter, you need to work within those time constraints and not allow yourself to fall behind.
I hope that you find this small reminder of the essential skills of revision and examination strategy helpful. Please do get in touch with your teachers whenever doubts arise. We want you to be very successful in your examinations and we will support you in every aspect of your learning.
Dr Matthew Sullivan