29 Mar 2013

university: effective revision

With exams coming up soon, I felt it was appropriate to do a post on effective revision. Now, I must confess, I'm not the best example as I used to cram for exams but I have learnt the error of my ways and have been rapidly scouring my mind for ideas of how to revise effectively in preparation for medical school later this year. My first year at medschool will be super intense and so, I am putting a lot of effort into trying not to make the same mistakes.

I have mentioned lecture notes in the past but I feel now is a good time to reiterate some of the points.

1) write things in your own words

Writing things in your own words mean that you are more likely to remember them because you had compiled the sentence/paragraph yourself.

2) make your notes as compact as possible - use keywords

Using keywords mean that you won't feel so overwhelmed by the sheer volume of content you have to learn. University is a big step up from A-Levels and from having gone from achieving straight As (80% or more) to 60% or so in exams, it was a major shock.

3) look over your notes regularly

This is one of the most important thing to remember. It is no good making notes if you aren't going to look over them on a regular basis. The more times you look over your notes, the more likely they will be ingrained in your memory. Having studied neuroscience, I can definitely vouch for this. 

After making notes in a lecture, make a note in your diary to look over it again in a few days' time (say, three days' time) and then a few weeks' time (say, three weeks') and then again in a few months'. That way, you're improving the odds of remembering the notes you have made.


Sleep is also important for laying down memories. Sleep is when our memories are consolidated in our brain, so a lack of sleep (i.e. pulling all nighters) actually has more of a detrimental effect than if you got your six to eight hours every night.

5) Eat healthily and make time for play.

Credit: BBC Good Food
All too often, exam time can mean 'no-fun time' and this can be just as bad as no sleep. Make time to relax and also make time to cook healthy meals. Eating a pizza once every so often isn't a bad thing, but eating it a few times' a week is. Not only are you lacking nutrients you might need to ensure a healthy body and mind, you're also compromising the health of your immune system.


  1. Great post!!
    Something students should also do long before the revision period starts:
    Make clear and efficient notes about every lecture, tutorial and seminar, immediately after those sessions. You will kick yourself if you leave it all to the last minute (like I did), so make sure you do it way before time, ASAP so it's still in your memory. Then use those notes for revision.
    Also, it's a good idea to use those notes to do a quick recap of your topics once a month, especially if you have mid-terms or pop quizzes. Maybe turn them into compact notes like in Paper Lovestory's No. 2, just to keep them fresh in your memory! Then you can take those index cards on the bus with you to do some quick revision in the morning, or while waiting in line for lunch!

    1. Great tips Kate, I have the best intentions of doing the things listed above, sadly I never do and kick myself later on.

      I always seem to fall off the band wagon half way through each semester (like right now we are at the half way mark and I haven't done anything in 2 weeks :( )

      Thanks for the kick up the bum with this post angela :)

    2. Definitely agree with making notes straight after lectures/tutorials, etc. Record cards work really well for me, personally, and I think they'd work for most people as it's all about condensing the info in order to learn it and then expanding on that knowledge using more detailed notes.

      I think the hardest part is keeping up the studying mojo as it's so easy to just take one night off and then fall behind. And then it's a vicious cycle, etc but I think the main part is efficient planning - something I will be blogging about in a few months' time! :) xxx

    3. Hey Angela!

      I love your posts - they've given me some great ideas! I am a little confused about what my exact plan is going to be though. I'm going to be taking in a small ring binder and refill paper to write out detailed notes after every lecture. I was then considering condensing these notes into muji notebooks as part of my revision, and then further condensing them on to record cards which I can use on the bus (basically what has been suggested above). However, I'm not sure how practical this would be as it involves quite a lot of note-taking? Also, I've been wondering when I would begin condensing my notes? I want to revise throughout the year so was thinking of writing them up again a couple of weeks later, or would it be better to do it nearer exam time and just use record cards to refresh my memory in the interim?

      In all honesty I'm just searching for an excuse to include some muji notebooks in my work schedule.. !

    4. Hi Kara,

      I would recommend you writing the lecture notes directly out into a notebook and while doing so, keep the notes condensed. The more you write something, the more likely you are to take something in as well - so all of the note-taking will come in handy :) Of course, this depends on what kind of course you do - if it's lecture heavy, then this approach might end up being too time-consuming for you.

      For me, I took notes during the lecture and then after, I would write the notes up but in a condensed form into a notebook or loose sheet of A4 paper. If I felt it necessary, then I would condense it further into a notebook designated for revision.

      I will be doing another revision-oriented blog post in a few months' time as I am going to try out a new method for medschool. Hopefully, this other method will work for more courses than for ones that are light on lectures :) x