22 Sept 2011

revision timetabling

Jennifer commented on this post asking about revision timetables so I thought I would do a post geared towards those of us who study or want to study something - be it in their spare time or at university/college/school.

As you can see, I write my exams into my Filofax (this was back in January before my fling with the Moleskine) when I had two exams in three days (one on the Tuesday and the other on the Thursday). So the first tip is: write when your exam(s) are (if you have any), what time they are and also where. This must be the first thing you do - as it really reaffirms (in your mind, at least) that the exam is in the near future - near enough for you to write in your diary! Sometimes, you are also given a seating plan (I know I am for mine) so checking beforehand where you're sat can reduce panic on the day if you fail to find your seat. Luckily, I just follow my friend who is straight after me on the year list so I give him the responsibility of finding where we're sat.

Next, you'll notice that I wrote on each day not only what module I should be revising, but also what part of that module. I know it says 'PB everything' but on the previous week, it said things like 'PB NMR' or 'PB Mass Spec'. So the second tip is: work out what you need to revise for the exam. I'm lucky in that most of my exams can be selectively revised for in that I can choose what questions to answer. If this is the case for you, your task would be to also work out what you want to revise - as you'll do best on the questions relating to topics you're most interested in.

Once you've got the two most important bits sorted out, the next is to work out your 'body timetable'. Now, for me, I feel sleepy every single day (without fail) around 1:30pm-3pm and so, when it came to revision, I either avoided revising at this time at all or I did some light reading instead - such as reading a journal article about a related subject or reading a fictional novel. So work out what time of day is best for you. If you find that the best time for you to revise is 3am, it may be best to try and alter your sleeping pattern a little as I had friends who pulled 'all nighters' before an exam and came out of it feeling worse for wear! Needless to say, they didn't do as well as they hoped. Another way to combat your 'sleepy time' is to drink a cup of coffee or suck on a very strong mint. I find the Trebor XXX mints quite good.

After this, figure out how long your attention span is. I can work at a decent rate for at least two hours straight without a break. I know some people say you should work for an hour then take a ten minute break, or whatever, but I find that an hour for me is too short. I get so little done and by the time my brain is working at its best, I'm due to take a break!

Now that you've got all that done, your revision timetable can be devised. Stick to a certain routine with regards to waking up time and sleeping time. I tend to wake up at 8am for a 9am start to revision and then I go to bed at half 10 at night. I can actually function on eight hours of sleep but I'd rather play it safe for those nights where you can't fall asleep instantly.

Obviously, other advice (which can be useful) for revision is:
- to clear your desk (one that works wonders for me as it means less distractions!)
- work out if you need total silence or can bear a little noise
- and figuring out whether you learn better from writing things over and over again or need to use the a diagrammatical or pictorial aid. There is no shame in either method, or any method for that matter but I find that a mixture of both works well for me. As does colour.

I hope this has helped a little but this is basically the way I go about making a revision timetable. It has worked well for me thus far but of course, the main thing is sticking to a timetable and discipline :-)


  1. thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!

    this has helped me so much and it's really nice of you to listen to reader comments :) you should write a book on organisation or something. your advice is much better and much more concrete than so called "professionals" of organizing haha

  2. Thanks for your comments :)

    I just listed out the things that worked for me and I hope that at least one of them are useful :) I can do a much bigger and thorough post nearer to exam time when I'm actually in exam mode too if you want. My exams this year are in the second week of January and in mid Feb so I should be able to post about revision (properly) soon :)