The art of revising right

Young girl happily studying and revising
Photo: © Jason Salmon / 123RF Stock Photo

During the exam time and during extended study periods, most students often tend to cram as much course content as they possibly can and leave ‘revision’ for the last, or don’t revise at all. It is a famous misconception amongst students to first study as many topics as possible, hoping to recollect what is learnt later during revision time. Generally, this is a recipe for disaster because the human memory doesn’t work like that. An important part of thorough studying and recollecting what is learnt will always remain ‘revision’. Before we understand the strategies for revision, it is important to understand why the usual method of keeping revision for the last minute doesn’t work.

How the human memory works

Revision memory model
  • You begin with learning as many topics and course content as you can. This course content is taken to your Short Term-Memory by your Sensory Memory. At this stage if you don’t pay enough attention to what you are trying to learn, you may not recollect it at all. For example, if you are reading about the medieval period of Europe and you are distracted by noise or interrupted by your phone, you could easily forget what you have read.
  • Perhaps you were paying attention to what you were reading about the medieval period of Europe. After a moment of distraction, you are still able to recollect some facts about what you read. This is possible only because the information is now stored in your Short-Term Memory. This is the stage where students often falter. When they feel they can remember a few facts from what they have learnt, they begin to feel confident in their ability to be able to recollect what is learnt later during revision time or during exam time (if they decide to skip revision time).
  • Unfortunately, students often make the mistake of not getting the information that is stored in their Short-term Memory to their Long-term Memory by regular Retrieval, i.e., Revision. Hence, during revision time at a later stage or during exam time they cannot recollect substantial information about the medieval period of Europe that they have studied previously. They lose precious marks or end up feeling nervous.

Best strategies for revision

From the diagram ‘How human memory works’ it is clear that Retrieval of information is only possible if substantial revision is done on the subject. There are certain dos and don’ts that every student must follow during revision time which will help them revise seamlessly and retrieve information easily when needed later.

1. No distractions policy
Most of our problems when it comes to revision have very little to do with the brain’s capacity for remembering things. Paying focused attention to something is the key to memorizing. When you choose to focus completely on your task, you give it a personal meaning which helps your mind recollect facts more easily later. A ‘no distraction’ policy includes the following:

  • Declutter your desk. Anything that isn’t relevant to the subject you are studying or revising shouldn’t be on your desk. All irrelevant textbooks and notebooks should go off the study table. It even comes down to the stationery items on your desk. If that box of colour pens might tempt you to make a quick drawing in your notebook while you are trying to study, put those colours away. Organize your study material as per your requirements.

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Prof. Sherene Aftab
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Prof. Sherene Aftab

Prof. Sherene Aftab is a passionate counsellor and enthusiastic lecturer. Her expertise lies in the areas of personality development, career and relationship counselling and stress management. You can reach her at