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How to Structure Revision Time

Preparing for exams should not be a last-minute rush of activity. If you think of it like self-organised homework, this helps you be more productive, get better grades, and feel less stressed.

I often help my students prepare for their exams, and it’s always the ones who are organised and structured in their preparation who do best. During my own studies, I learned several useful methods for revising. These helped me to make the best use of my time, and get the most marks for my effort. Try some of these yourself to see which ones work for you.

Bite-sizes Tasks

Begin by looking at all the subjects you need to study in this revision period and write them down. Now you can expand each item on the list by detailing the topic areas you need to cover. Use this list as the basis of your preparation, and ensure you have sufficient time to cover everything. It will feel great to tick off all the sections as you finish them!

Daily Routine

The first key to revising well is to make it part of your daily routine. You are much more likely to stick to a schedule if it becomes a habit. For example, you can allocate a timeslot after school right before dinner and another one just after dinner. Sticking to a regular schedule reduces unexpected surprises and you’ll find it much easier to start working after only a few days in the habit.

Blocks and Breaks

Create a chart showing the whole week divided up into days and time-slots. Start by filling in periods that can’t be moved (e.g. school or family time). Divide the remaining time into blocks. For me, blocks of about 45 minutes work well, but each person is different, so be sure to modify your blocks to suit your level of productivity. Schedule 5-10 minute breaks between the blocks in order to give your eyes and brain a quick rest (this will make your working time more efficient overall). Here’s an example:

09:00 10:00 11:00 12:00 13:00 14:00 15:00
Saturday BLOCK 1 Break BLOCK 2 Family Time BLOCK 3 Lunch BLOCK 4 Break BLOCK 5

One you’ve worked-out your revision blocks on a chart, make copies of it for each week until the date of your exams. On the copies, break down each topic from your task list into micro-tasks you can achieve in each block. These micro-tasks could be things like: ‘Make flashcards and go through twice getting 50% of them correct’, ‘Research 5 animals that live in a tundra biome’, or ‘Write a 300-word practice essay’. Colour coding your chart can help make sure you have a balance between your subjects and also avoid fatigue from spending too much time with a single focus.

Planning Ahead

Always ensure you know what work is coming up so you can prepare properly, for example by getting any library books you need.

However, avoid allocating all your blocks too far ahead of the exam. Leave some time free that you can fill in later should you need. Once you get into your revision you’ll soon realise which topics you know better than you thought and which you’re really struggling with. You can adjust allocations accordingly to spend more time on the areas you’re weaker at.