It’s been three years since I started teaching. Three years of teaching people how best to learn, to re-learn, to revise. Three years of learning revision techniques that I wish I had known about while being educated myself.
It’s not only those three years where I’ve learned how to learn, though. I had been in education my whole life before teaching others, and spent four years at The University of Birmingham to collect two degrees. In my time, I’ve learned a thing or two about works and what doesn’t when it comes to studying. You can find everything else in my study tips series right here.
This latest study tip is a tried-and-tested method: record, write, cover, check, repeat. Start sussing out your content with this study tip and you’ll be an expert in no-time.
The first step in this process is the easiest, but probably the most important. Create a checklist of every topic that you need to revise. Break it down into sub-topics if it helps. You’ll be using this later on to track how much you’ve mastered, and what you need to revisit to become an expert.
Take everything you know about a topic and write it down. We call this BLURT-ing, where you’re expected to spew everything you know onto a piece of paper. Whether it’s in the form of a spider diagram, mind map, flash cards, or simply bullet-pointed under headings, you need to determine a baseline for what it is you already know.
If you’re starting from scratch, use a textbook or your notes from class to help out; a helping hand is absolutely expected at this stage.
Cover up the parchment you’ve been writing on and take a separate piece of paper. Next, write down everything that you can remember, in whatever form or style you want. The key difference here is crucial: do this part without any notes. See what you can remember. You’re performing a low-stakes test to assess how much of the knowledge has stuck with you.
Now it’s time to compare your new notes to your old ones: how much did you remember? All of it? None of it? Make a note of what you couldn’t remember at all and highlight the parts of your notes that were just lacking. Use colour if it helps to differentiate your level of confidence, but don’t get distracted with making your notes gorgeous.
As always, we’re aiming for productive and efficient.
Time to track your progress. On a simple checklist, you’ll want to have prepared a list of dates, starting from now until your exam. If you were brilliant on your revision, and remembered every single thing you needed to, place two ticks next to the topic on the date that you studied it. If you had a few gaps, one tick will do. If, however, you knew absolutely nothing – or your level of detail was way below where you wanted it to be – go for an X.
Keeping track of how well you’ve done on each topic will show you what needs the most dedicated focus as you proceed with your revision, and what will do with a cursory glance every now and then.
At this point, you’ll know exactly where you are at in your learning journey, so it’ll be time to repeat the process. Write, cover, check, repeat – until you know it all. And no, you shouldn’t just read the notes you’ve already made – this is one of the least efficient revision methods. As we know, that’s not what I’m about.
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