Dreading trying to fit revision in over the Christmas period? I certainly know the feeling. Therefore, I've put together my top 10 tips to help you get through.
1. Write a list
Starting revision is similar to standing at the start line of a marathon. It can be daunting, and it is difficult to know how to get started. Having a to do list can help you to work out just how much time needs to be spent on each topic and gives you an idea how much time you can afford to spend enjoying the festivities. Personally, I broke down my 'checklists' into modules, then within the module (or exam), a list of topics, then within that a list of lectures. I'd also estimate how long I thought each lecture/topic would take.
2. Make a 'Day to Day Planner'
Personally, I made a table on Microsoft Word, dividing each day into morning, afternoon and evening. I inserted all of my pre-arranged plans, such as dinner out, family time etc, and blocked off days I didn't want to work (such as Christmas day).
3. "Catch Up Days"
I always pencilled in a few catch-up days at the end of the revision period, to use for going over things a second time that I was struggling with and to allow me a bit of extra time in case I hadn't got through everything I needed to.
4. Fill in The Table/Planner
I would then allocate either lectures or topics to each section, leaving 1 out of 3 sections free. For example if I had blocked off an evening for a meal out, I would fill the morning and afternoon sections with topics I wanted to cover. Taking the time to do this properly worked well for me, ensuring that big or difficult lectures were given more time, and shorter lectures could be squeezed in elsewhere. If I hadn't blocked off one of the sections already, I'd leave one blank for doing something on the day (usually the evening), then if I felt like it I could revise in that session and take time off elsewhere.
This is something which you have probably heard over and over, but it is really important. Having plenty of sleep and taking time out between revision sessions helps to keep things in perspective, relax and return to your work more focused and ready to learn. Using my revision plan I would stick to allocated breaks. If I had an afternoon off planned, I'd stick to that. It is tempting to just revise anyway due to panic, but having a table with it all planned out helped me to relax knowing that I'd be able to cover anything, with allocated catch up days at the end just in case. I also found that I didn't resent working as much because I knew I would be having some time off every single day.
6. Start Early
This probably seems like common sense, but getting your head down as early as possible can work wonders. It means you have more time to work with, allowing you to space out your leisure time and balance your Christmas break. University semesters are LONG!!! (and school terms can be too)...So you need some time to unwind as well as study. Leaving revision to the last minute can result in more stress and you're likely to burn out from cramming.
This goes hand in hand with taking regular breaks. Having balanced days and rewarding yourself is a great idea. By balancing your day, I don't just mean taking 1/3 sessions off to do something you enjoy. Personally, I would never revise two difficult topics in one day. I would always start the day with something I didn't particularly enjoy, then finish with an easier topic or something which I felt more confident with. I also tried to squeeze in some fresh air or exercise where I could. This can help you to feel better about yourself, endorphins lift your mood and it also helps to clear your head. A quick walk around the block can work wonders.
8. Youtube/Animations and Videos
For medical and dental students, there were a few YouTube channels I found really helpful as an undergraduate. These were Dr Najeeb, Geeky Medics, Handwritten Tutorials and Armando Hasudungan. All of those accounts have great tutorials and videos to help you understand some key medical principles. I am a very visual learner, so for me this broke up the revision sessions nicely and helped to cement things I'd already learnt about in my mind. In general it is quite easy to find videos on most topics, so try looking for ones on things you're struggling to understand as you may find this different approach helps you to see things differently and remember them. I also used online videos through school particularly for sciences, so there isn't only one topic this is good for - it can help with learning for GCSEs and A-Levels too!
9. Look at the Bigger Picture
Whilst it is really difficult to do this, remembering the end goal can be very helpful in terms of motivating yourself to get work done. Some people find a vision board on their wall or online can help them to remain focused, but ultimately just having a clear idea of why you are working hard when perhaps there are other things you would rather be doing, can help you to get on with it. University and school are not for ever and once they are done, your qualifications are yours to keep.
10. Don't Compare Yourself
It is hard to do your own thing and not compare yourself to your colleagues and peers. Sometimes you will be ahead, sometimes you will be behind, but that is just part of life. There will always be people saying they are working more than they really are, or discussing something really confidently (maybe that's the only thing they really understand!!), and there will always be people who pretend they've done nothing when in fact they are working loads. Its important to stick to your plan and not be put off or phased by what everyone else says they are doing - they're probably bending the truth anyway! Revising with friends can be good for helping you learn and to mix things up a bit, but again don't be put off or intimidated by what others seem to know. If you have a plan and stick to it, you'll know you've covered everything you needed to in the right amount of time for you. Revision is a marathon, not a sprint.
I hope this article was useful for you! Happy revising and Merry Christmas.
Dr Bethany Rushworth