Female looking at laptop for different revision techniques
Female looking at laptop for different revision techniques

Best Revision Techniques

Find the best revision techniques. Crush exam. Simple.

We’ve all been there – the night before a test, cramming in as much info as possible, believing it’s our only option. Surprisingly, this isn’t just an occasional slip-up. A a staggering 99% of students admit to cramming for exams. But let’s face it: is this last-minute hustle really one of the best revision techniques?

The answer is a resounding ‘no’. Research firmly points out the inefficiency of cramming. An article from the National Center for Biotechnology Information reveals that spaced repetition is best for exam success. Reviewing material at intervals significantly improves long-term memory and learning over cramming’s short-term focus.

Jade Bowler, author of The Only Study Guide You’ll Ever Need, sums this up brilliantly. She says, ‘Literally, why are we not taught how to study?!’

‘When you need to learn a lot of information for school or university, it’s so overwhelming to know where to start.

‘There are so many study techniques from highlighting your notes to using flashcards. It’s really hard to know what’s actually a good use of your time.’

Jade’s YouTube channel (UnJaded Jade) is packed with great content, including our personal favourite a real-time two-hour ‘study with me’ session.

Need motivation? Real-time ‘study with me’ sessions are super-helpful.

Why aren’t we taught how to revise?

It’s a good question. Especially as it’s a life skill that’s multi-purpose. Doesn’t matter whether you’re revising for GCSEs, A-levels, or finals. English, maths, biology, chemistry, history, geography – effective revision techniques apply to all subjects and situations.

So, if burning the midnight oil isn’t the way to go, how do you revise effectively?

Well, you’re in luck. We’ve scoured various study methods to bring you a list of the best and most effective revision techniques for students. 

Think flash cards, which are brilliant for both active recall and spaced repetition learning. Mind maps for visual organisation. Group study sessions for collaborative learning. And the invaluable practice of completing past exam papers.

The trick now is to match these techniques with your learning style and the subject matter. That’s because – spoiler alert – not every revision technique is a good fit for every subject. Some subjects might call for a mix-and-match approach to hit the sweet spot in your study strategy.

After all, you want to use your revision time effectively, right? Right. 

Read on. Exam success awaits.

Jump to:

What is revision?

But first, let’s answer the question: what does ‘revise’ mean? Well, it doesn’t mean spending all your time making a revision timetable (guilty). Or arranging and colour-coding your notes… although these do play a part. 

In a nutshell, revision is the process of reviewing and consolidating what you’ve learned. You need to remember information and access it. For a lucky few, simply reading their study notes will do the trick. But we’re definitely not *that person* and if you’re reading this neither are you. So what gives?

Using different revision techniques can help you max your grades.

If you’ve been successful in revising for your English Literature exam two things will happen. Yes, you’ll be able to explain key concepts. But you’ll also be able to use quotes or plot points from the book to support what you’re saying. 

Even better, you’ll be able to roll this all seamlessly together. No longer will you fear answering questions like: ‘Is Hamlet really mad, or is it all just a clever ruse?’ 

This, friends, is what we’re aiming for.

And, yes, you might think that after all those GCSEs and A-levels, you’ve got revising sorted. But university is a different level. What worked when revising for A-level history will need expanding, improving, and refining.

What revision is not

Revision is not a case of quantity over quality. More hours doesn’t always mean better exam results (although if you use that as an excuse to do just enough to scrape by, that’s on you). 

And let’s be clear – revision isn’t just memorisation. Well, it is sometimes (1066 and all that). But while knowing when the Battle of Hastings happened, you also need to know the why. Hastings was a game-changer. It lead to the Norman conquest which completely transformed England’s cultural, linguistic, and political landscape.

It's easy to get distracted when revising. Phone in hand

A revision session doesn’t have to take hours. You just need to plan it effectively. And actually start revising. But you knew that. (For more tips, see our article on When to Start Revising for your Exams).

Dr Krause’s study tips

Time to ask the experts. Writing on her blog, consultant clinical psychologist Dr Nihara Krause offers students some advice.

Krause says, ‘To help manage test anxiety, focus on specific revision and exam techniques. This should increase application enhancing competence through practice and promote a sense of agency.’

Dr Nihara Krause, a consultant clinical psychologist

In other words, using targeted revision techniques will improve your performance. This results in improved confidence and (hopefully) reduced anxiety.

She also adds that learning to make the most of stress, can actually help. ‘Good stress enables us to achieve our peak performance. When we are under stress, our brain gets sharper and our concentration is boosted.’

Be kind to yourself, though. Check out our guide on how to deal with exam stress for some tips.

Five of the best revision techniques

We’re going to look at the five main types of revision methods. As well as the best ways to use them.

Revision technique 1: Active recall

Fed up with reading your notes and not remembering anything? Level up your revision game with active recall. It couldn’t be easier – read a paragraph, close your book, test yourself. Active recall is one of the best revision techniques there is.

So if you’re revising exothermic and endothermic reactions, write down the definitions. Even better, record a TikTok of yourself explaining it. The more vivid your study experience, the better your results will be.

Flash cards are one of the best revision techniques for revising dates and facts.

Flashcards (like Anki) often make a great pairing with active recall. Plus, you can flip the story by showing yourself the answer and then having to write the question for it. 

Like this.

Answer: the Black Hand. 

Question: Which group assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914?

Ultimately, the aim is to strengthen your recall and make sure the information you need is readily available. Not buried under two cans of Red Bull.

Interested? Check out our article on how to use flash cards for revision.

Revision technique 2: Spaced Repetition

Spaced repetition is active recall’s hotter older sibling. While you’ll use active recall to go over the same answer multiple times in one session, spaced repetition is about stretching the process over days and weeks. 

You’ll figure out your own rhythm but start by revisiting a topic a day after a study session. Then extend your interval to two days, then four, then eight days and so on. It’s all about timing. You want to turn that card over just as your memory starts to fade (or gets drowned in TikToks).

Testing your knowledge every few days helps recall.

Wait – did we just say ‘cards’? Damn right we did. While there are apps that will help you with spaced repetition,  your study time will be more effective if you put your phone away. 

Trying to study using your phone is a gateway to distraction. Once you get up and running, you’ll be able to sort the cards into three different piles based on how soon you want to see them again. 

Can’t remember the answer to the question? No drama, put that in a pile of cards you review more frequently. Answer too easy? Put it in the pile of cards you’ll review ‘later’. As revision techniques go, spaced repetition is incredibly effective for consolidating knowledge and practicing recall.

Revision technique 3: Mind Mapping

Ever watched those true crime dramas where detectives link a web of complex clues on a giant board? That’s kind of what mind mapping is like, but for studying. It starts with a central idea – say, ‘Memory’ in psychology – and then branches out into a network of related concepts.

Imagine connecting everything from types of memory, like short-term and long-term, to the processes of storage and retrieval, all the way to factors that influence memory and key studies in the field. 

Mind mapping is one of the best revision techniques that can help when revising concepts.

Whether you’re an artsy type turning your mind map into a visual masterpiece or more of a ‘post-it note’ person, it’s one of the best revision techniques. Remember: a mind-map not about creating a work of art. It’s about forging connections between ideas that might seem unrelated at first glance.

It’s a powerhouse technique, especially for subjects where you need to see the big picture. As a result, it’s incredibly effective for weaving different concepts into one cohesive tapestry of understanding.

If you’re interested, we’ve got a whole article here on how to use mind maps for revision.

Revision technique 4: Past Exam Papers

Diving into past papers might seem like a final lap luxury, but it’s so much more than that. Think of it as your personal progress tracker. It’s not just about getting a feel for the exam format. It’s about pinpointing exactly where your strengths and weaknesses lie. 

You need to test your knowledge. Which, ultimately, is what exams are all about (even the multiple choice ones).

Most universities and exam boards will have a bank of past papers you can access. The Open University, for example, makes most of its marking schemes and past papers available online

Past exam papers help you check how your revision is going.

And yes, timing yourself while doing these papers might sound sadistic but it is absolutely essential. Especially for essay-based exams. When exam time rolls around you’ll be a pro – handling the pressure and pacing your paper. This is why, when it comes to revision techniques, past exam papers are effectively black ops.

Not quite ready to face those scary-looking official past papers? We get that. Crafting your own mock tests from the topics you’ve been grinding is a solid alternative. 

Or, here’s a thought: team up with a study buddy and swap quizzes. This way, you’re not just passively going through the motions. You’re actively engaging with the material and adapting your revision strategy as you go. Remember: passive revision isn’t as effective as active revision.

So, yeah, past papers aren’t just for the ‘almost exam time’ mega-panic. They’re a crucial part of your revision technique toolkit right from the get-go.

Revision technique 5: Study Groups

Finally, it’s study groups. Long a favourite of idealistic American teen dramas, Brits often give them the cold shoulder.

Personally, I hate the idea of spending any more time with people than I absolutely have to. But even I’ll admit that on the days when I’m lacking motivation, a group session in the library (other study spaces are available) forces me into the zone.

That’s a move which can turn a day that was failing into a winner. Joining a study group forces you into focus mode.

Study groups can be motivating and helpful for some students to figure out the best revision techniques for them.

You have got to choose the right group though. Personally, the fewer close friends I have in that group the higher the level of focus. You need people who you’re comfortable enough to help uncover those knowledge gaps around. But distant enough to keep everyone on track. 

If you’re particularly loving the group study vibe, then why not try testing your knowledge by sharing it? If you can teach someone else what you know, you can be pretty confident that you’ve got the material down.

Group study is a tough one to crack and it’s not for everyone but it’s all part of the puzzle.

Bringing it all together

So here we are. We’ve explored a variety of revision techniques to help you find the best one for you. There were some classic moments. Like the practice of active recall and spaced repetition. But we also went to the edge of consciousness listening to Aphex Twin and talking mind mapping. 

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach.

And that’s especially true if you’re neurodiverse. Check out our guide for how to study with adhd. We’ve also got some tips on studying at university with different types of neurodiversity.

Group study sessions might be great for subjects where you need a bit of peer pressure to get going. Past exam papers give you a great idea of your strengths and weaknesses. Each technique caters to different subjects and learning preferences.

But remember, the key to effective revision isn’t just about picking one method and sticking to it religiously. It’s about finding the right blend that resonates with your learning style and the nature of the subject. Experimentation is your ally here.

Find the best revision technique for you

Try different techniques, mix and match them, and observe which combinations yield the best results for you.

If you need more info, chances are you university might be able to help. The University of Sussex has a whole section about exam prep on its site, as does the University of Portsmouth. Be sure to let us know if your uni of college has a stellar resource that’s worth shouting about.

We’ll look at how to plan your revision in a separate article. But now’s a good time to check out our article on the 5 Things you need for Serious Study Session.

As we wrap up this exploration, keep in mind that understanding your learning style is crucial in this process.

Additionally, we’re gearing up to guide you through the digital landscape of revision with our review of the best study apps. In an era where technology plays a pivotal role in education, these tools can be invaluable.

By understanding and applying the right revision techniques and having the best tools at your disposal – you’re setting yourself up for success. Not just academic success, but a much richer learning experience.

And, best of all, you won’t have to pull a revision all-nighter.