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Revising for Exams
As this is the third of a series of three articles, before we go any further, let's just review what I have covered in September and October. You will recall that in September, I described how you should prepare yourself for the coming academic year by asking yourself the following questions:
1. Why am I doing this course or subject?
2. What grades do I want and why?
3. How much effort do I need to put in to get the grades that I want?
4. Am I willing to put that much effort in?
5. Do I want to work for a short period every day and accumulate my knowledge gradually or do I want to go for the once-in-a-lifetime mammoth, night before, candle-burning stress inducing cramming session?
6. Am I willing to take responsibility for my education?
7. What time will I dedicate to study every day?
Having primed yourself to begin and maintain your efforts I then covered some tips and techniques that you could apply to your on going study to assist you in the learning process. These were:
1. Buy and read Use Your Head by Tony Buzan (see April 1998 from the main index).
2. Mind Map® all your course notes and lectures.
3. Review every Mind Map® frequently, at least to the guidelines I talk about in the October 1998 article on natural learning rhythms (after 10 minutes, one day, one week, one month and six months).
4. Generate huge master Mind Maps® for each of your subjects and place them on the wall of your bedroom or anywhere else where you will see them often. Review those Mind Maps® at least weekly and with increasing frequency as the time for examinations approaches.
5. Balance the use of the memory techniques listed above with the use of the Mind Map® technique to find a happy medium between memorising facts and figures and understanding concepts. Remember to review everything at least five times.
6. When you study do so to the following format that will help you balance the learning of new material and the review of information already covered:
|Warm up by stretching or doing some light exercise.
|Mind Map New Material
|Take a break (juggling is a good idea)
|Review information covered yesterday, last week and last month (5 minutes each)
|Take a break (juggling is still a good idea)
|Review the new material that you Mind Mapped during the 20 minute slot
So what is the next thing to know? I would imagine that the thing that the thing that will be worrying you most will be the examinations that you will be sitting at the end of your course. That is what I shall deal with this month.
The first thing that you will need to establish is the following:
1. When is the exam and how long will it last?
2. Where will the exam take place?
3. What is the format of the examination (eg multiple choice, essay questions, oral, course work etc)?
4. What part of the syllabus will the examination cover?
Armed with that knowledge, you will take away some of the unknown which can be a source of stress. The best way of reducing the "fear of the unknown" is to get hold of past examination papers. This will serve a couple of purposes. First of all you will get to know exactly what you will be facing in the form of question style etc but secondly, if you have a number of past papers, you will be able to spot common themes and recurring questions and that can help you target your revision more efficiently.
Once you know all of the logistics associated with the examination, the next thing to do is to plan when you are going to do your revision. If you do this properly, it will reduce the likelihood of you having to rely on last minute cramming. I would suggest that you get into the habit of doing a couple of hours a day so if you start early enough this will allow you to build up your knowledge at a comfortable pace without having to spend lots of late nights huddled over a desk. If you take it slowly and steadily and have lots of breaks revision can actually be fun (what a concept!).
I hope that you will have got into the habit of reviewing your Mind Map notes and your Master Mind Maps in particular because if you have then you are already well over half way to being prepared for your examinations. The secret to effective revision is not to keep putting the information into our memories over and over and over again but to practise recalling the information because let's face it, in the examination, that is exactly what we will have to do. The best way to do this recall practice is of course to try and recreate your Mind Map Notes and your Master Mind Maps from scratch, making corrections each time to fill in any blanks or minor errors. Another good way to practise your recall is for you to draw up a list of questions based on the information that you have covered in class together with questions from past papers and then get a friend to read them out to you and then see what you can recall. Alternatively why not make a tape recording of those questions that you can play on the way to school or during quiet periods? As you listen to the questions, you will be tested but more importantly, the answers that you do not know will send you into your notes and you will find that having been primed by the tape questions, you will be very receptive to the answers when you find them.
As you get closer to your examinations, sit down with the past papers and do your own mock versions under timed conditions. Practise your essay technique (the Mind Map is a great Essay Planning Tool) and get used to writing your answers within a particular time. Another excellent way to revise is to teach what you do know to your friends who are also studying the same subjects as you. Take it in turns because you will learn insights on your subjects from your friends that you may not have even considered before.
Eventually the big day will come and to overcome any remaining apprehension that you may have left (even having used Mind Maps and reviewed them like crazy), visualise yourself confidently walking into the examination room, sitting down and confidently answering every question within the desired time. Do that often enough and with sufficient emotional intensity and guess what? When the actual day arrives, that is exactly what will happen. Make sure that you get plenty of rest during your examinations and always turn up in plenty of time. When you are sat with the paper in front of you, make sure you read the questions carefully. Before you write down any answers, I suggest that you quickly Mind Map the outlines of your answers to all of the questions that you are going to attempt before you begin the first question. What you will find is that as you do begin the first answer, bits of information for the other questions will pop into your mind and so all you need to do is capture that on the appropriate Mind Map ready for when you actually answer that question. Believe me, this works very well.
So now that you have prepared yourself for your studies, you have the skills to learn extremely effectively and now you know how to revise. All that is left for you now is to go and do it. Good luck, you know you can do it so JUST DO IT. Let me know how you get on and if there are any revision tips that have worked for you that you would like me to pass on to our visitors to the site.
To ask about any aspect of Accelerated Learning, you can contact Michael Tipper direct via the link at the top of this page.
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4th March 1998: