Revising to pass test

How to revise

The more you actively interact with the subject matter, making it your own, and linking it to previous knowledge the more meaningful and memorable it becomes. When making notes a useful strategy is the PQRST:

  • first skim through the reading material, concentrating on the charts, headings, summaries and conclusion to obtain a preview;
  • formulate questions or points that highlight what you hope to derive from the text, to guide your reading;
  • read actively by selecting material and making appropriate notes of key ideas;
  • summarise the main points using lists, key words patterns and flow diagrams, connecting them with ideas from other sources;
  • test yourself by reciting and reviewing the summaries immediately after learning the material, then at later intervals.

Making “spider” diagrams can help you process information and interact with it more. Straight down the page notes restrict you to a linear path of thought whereas a spider diagram enables you to connect information in many different ways. Make the learning process as distinctive as possible by using for instance different coloured paper and pens, rhymes, key words, drawings.

Testing yourself

  • Use cue cards to summarise key facts and figures. These can easily be carried around for frequent revision. You can also pin them on wall charts around your room.
  • Collect old exam questions and work on them. Choose one and ask yourself “how would I deal with this?” You may feel some initial panic – all the more reason to practise this in the security of your room! Get in touch with what you do know. Briefly list all the points that spring to mind and then put them into some form of plan. They help both in showing you where the gaps in your knowledge are and in helping you learn better by seeking the answer to a question rather than passively trying to imbibe mounds of information.
  • Try and answer some questions under exam conditions. If possible ask a tutor to set you a question and then mark it. Some students may shy away from testing themselves because they are afraid of finding out what they do not know. Yet clearly this is the time to do exactly that.



Motivation is enhanced firstly by becoming more realistic and aware of the task ahead and secondly by “psyching” yourself up with constructive self-talk, on your ability to face the challenge and its anxieties. Much avoidance behaviour is a defence against the fear of failure, so deliberately switch your focus onto the process of studying, rather than the ultimate result (the desired pass or high grade). Resolve to do this studying for yourself, not for anyone else.

If there are certain topics that you dread and therefore have a tendency to avoid, break them down into smaller bits; incorporate morale boosters – an enjoyable reward after each small task is completed. Find out what works for you and what doesn’t – avoid the latter. This may sound obvious but it is surprising how many students persevere with unhelpful and unconstructive methods of studying simply because they always have and it feels strange or worrying to abandon something familiar. Maybe you would find it easier to work with a friend or in a group, or at the library. You may try using a more flexible time-table perhaps studying less (then paradoxically achieving more). Minimise the competitive atmosphere by ignoring the amount of work others might be doing – focus on your own approach.