We Ask the Experts: What’s Your Top Revision Tip?


Robot standing on a desk

Exam time is here once again and that means plenty of hours spent at home, at the library, or wherever you like to work, getting down to revision.

We asked a range of experts including teachers, nutritionists and of course, you the students, to share their top revision tips for GCSE and A-Level students.

The revision advice experts

Divide up your day

Education and revision guide publisher CGP books says: "Other than getting yourself a really good Revision Guide…we recommend making yourself a revision timetable. Without a timetable you’ll revise some stuff a lot, miss out other bits and have a mad rush at the end.  Put all the non-revision stuff on your timetable first (school, sleep, fight club, exams etc.), then split up the remaining bits of each day into 1 – 1 ½ hour revision chunks.  Plan to revise a different subject in each chunk and aim for two chunks each evening.  Once you’ve done that, all you need to do is stick to your plan… What could be simpler?"

Know what you're being tested on

Serena Atkins-Bibow, education consultant at Tutorfair: "Make sure you know what exam board your course is from. Go to the exam board website, find your course and print off the exam specification. Read through it ticking off the topics you're happy with, and revising the problem spots. Once you're happy with the syllabus, go through a practice paper you've done with the mark scheme for that paper. This helps you understand how examiners award points in the exam. Finally, do as many practice papers as you possibly can and use the mark scheme to mark each one!" 

The teachers

Break down your revision timetable

Rachel Marshall, teacher, London: "Make your timetable more specific than just English or maths. Break it down into really specific topics. Do 20 minute bursts of revision then go for a 5 minute walk or listen to a song for a break, then get back to it! Get together with friends and share revision. Some of you will be stronger at different elements of the subjects so pick each other's brains!"

'The experts say break your revision timetable into manageable chunks for exam success'

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Left it late? Learn the key stuff

Alex Ogg is a teacher, author and journalist. He shares his English revision tip: "When I think of revision, I always remember the time a fellow English teacher was approached at the staff room door by a student 30 minutes before a GCSE exam with the plaintive enquiry, "What do I need to know to pass this?!"

If you have left it late, you’re not going to recover that lost year of study over a few weeks or days. What you can do is make sure that you learn and practice the key techniques that will allow you to interpret whatever text you're answering questions on.

Know what to expect from your exam paper

Look at past papers to see how questions are presented. For unseen poetry questions, don't be scared off by vocabulary that you might be unsure of – use context to try to decipher what the writer is actually trying to say. Exactly how do they create effect? That's where the marks are. And if you can, focus in on one key section that you do get rather than trying to document every little thing you notice. Keep asking yourself why the writer has selected these words and phrases to express her/his ideas.

Don't try to learn everything

And don't try to swamp yourself with knowledge while revising. It's far more important to be comfortable with the concepts of metaphor and simile, for example, than it is for you to know the exact date when Shelley wrote Ozymandias.  

The nutritionist

Eat wholegrains to stay alert

Sebastian Achterfeldt, Researcher in Nutrition and Nutrition Society Member, recommends choosing these foods when you revise: "Just like the body, the brain needs energy to work properly. Our ability to focus and concentrate relies on us getting a constant supply of energy in the form of glucose. One of the best ways to achieve this is to include wholegrains in your diet, which release glucose slowly into the bloodstream and keep you mentally alert throughout the day. The best choices are brown pasta, ‘brown’ cereals, wheatbran and granary bread.

Find zinc-rich foods to improve your thinking

Zinc is vital for enhancing memory and thinking skills. Just a handful of pumpkin seeds a day will provide you with the recommended daily amount of zinc to give your brain a boost.

Eat blueberries to beat memory loss

A study in the United States suggested that eating blueberries might be effective in improving short-term memory loss too.

Eat oily fish to boost your brain

Omega-3 fats are also great for healthy brain function, the heart, joints and general wellbeing. The best places to find them are in oily fish like trout, salmon, mackerel, sardines, pilchards or kippers".

Drink lots of water to reduce stress and improve concentration

@revisiontoptips adds: "Make sure you drink lots of water before and during your revision sessions. Drinking water regularly is the best way to stay hydrated. It helps improve your concentration, reduces stress and gives you an excuse to jump up and take short, active breaks too!"

The students

Revise in short bursts with mini breaks in between

Alyssa, 16, is studying for her GCSES: "10-20 minute revision breaks are the best. Going for a short walk, having a cup of tea or listening to music are all god things to do. Don’t play a game or start watching TV though as the time will fly by and you might end up taking a 2 hour break without realising!

Look at past papers asap!

Start looking at past papers as early as you can as well. A lot of people wait until the end of their revision to do this, but the more past papers you look at, the more you’ll know what kinds of questions you need to practise and what areas you need to revise the most!"

Revise thoroughly but don't learn stuff you don't need to know

Kirk Chalmers, 18, is studying for his A2 Levels: "Get your class notes, text books and revision guides out in front of you and combine them together so you have one good set of detailed notes to work from. Remember to check the specification for your exam first as well. There may be more information in your textbooks than you need, so don’t make the mistake of revising extra details that won’t appear in your exam.

Remember too, there isn’t just one way to revise; people love to revise in different ways. For me, I find drawing pictures helps me, especially with subjects like Biology. Other people might find the traffic light system useful (using different coloured highlighters to underline text according to how important it is), or developing posters, mind-maps, lists – whatever suits their learning style." 

For more information on revising for exams, check out our pick of 6 free apps for studying and revising.

Prefer learning with pictures too? Check out the top ten revision tips from TheColouredScribbles:


Got any suggestions? Let us know your top revision tips in the comments below.

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Image credits

Title image by Matthew Hurst CC Attribution

Other image by Nomadic Lass CC Attribution



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