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The psychology of revision: the best tips to help you ace your exams

By Lauren Buck on 09-04-2018

With the vast number of distractions pulling you away from your revision, it is no wonder we struggle to concentrate on studying. Luckily for us, psychologists have been researching proven tips to ensure we get the grades we need. The studies they conducted on learning and memory are still relatively unknown, meaning not everyone is in on these handy revision hacks. Adding in a few techniques to your studying routine will have you on your way to success in no time...

Being aware of what type of learner you are is very important when revising. Do you find yourself reading pages and pages of lecture notes only for nothing to sink in? We all know the struggle is real. There are four types of learner: visual, auditory, reading/writing, and kinaesthetic. Each learning type responds best to different methods of teaching. For example, if you're more of visual learner then it's time to get creative and get all of your coloured pencils and big sheets of paper out. Draw pictures which correlate to the most important aspects from each topic and visualise these images when you go into your exam. It really does work! For auditory learners, it's probably worth recording your lectures so that when the time comes to revise you can listen to them easily.

I'm sure you've heard of the phrase 'practice makes perfect'. A huge mistake that is often made when it comes to revision is the fact that too much time is spent on learning content and not actually putting it into practice. The best way to revise is actually to constantly test yourself. This will not only make you remember more, but will also help you familiarise yourself with the exam situation. Write out lots of exam questions (make them up and use past exam papers) and write out the answers. Keep on doing this and you're sure to pass with flying colours. Speaking of colour, this is also something that can help greatly and has been shown in studies to help students maintain 50-80% more information. If you use a different colour for each topic you revise this can also help you to build an association between the two which significantly improves recall when filling out your exam paper.

If you love listening to music whilst you study, then think about what you're listening to. Listening to the top 40 hits may seem fun, but is this going to aid your studying? In many studies psychologists have actually proven that listening to classical music in fact helps you focus more on your revision notes. The brain cannot fully focus on learning when listening to music with lots of words, so listening to music with no words but with instruments like the piano and violin allows the brain to focus completely. Now for a fun psychology hack: smell. The sense of smell is strongly linked with memory, even more so than any of your other senses. Smells often incite particular memories so how about the next time you revise you douse your revision notes in perfume. Just make sure to wear that same perfume on the day of your exam and you're onto a memory recall winner.

If you take all of these tips on board and put them into practice when you next revise then you are sure to get the results you want and more. Good luck!

Lauren Buck is a Criminology and Psychology graduate, freelance writer, blogger and Etsy store owner. She writes about a variety of topics including student and career advice for Inspiring Interns, which specialises in placing graduates in the best London roles.


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