Revision Tips; How to Spice Up Those Good Ol' Traditional Techniques

Here we have highlighted some of the most traditional revision methods, but given them a bit of an upgrade - to compliment modern day busy lives, and the virtual era we’re currently living through.

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You certainly don’t need me to remind you that exam season is coming up – but here I am, doing just that (don’t run away – I promise this blog gets better).  So, with that looming grey cloud in mind, I think it’s time for a handy little post about how you can structure your revision to not only optimise your productivity, but also *fingers crossed* boost those final marks too.

It’s certainly not been a normal year (the award for most overused phrase goes to ‘unprecedented times’) – which means your education has been different, and your assessments are also not likely to be in the exact format you were expecting either.  Long story short, everything’s a little unfamiliar right now.  Therefore, the way we learn and how we structure our studies may change alongside this.

Before You Get Stuck In

First of all, get familiar with your assessments - the release dates, due dates, how they’ll be sat, and how much they’re worth.  Once you’ve done this, get out your calendar and start that trusty colour coordinated planning.  Break down the syllabus into modules, and further subtopics, and be sure to allocate enough time for everything you need to complete.

At this stage, I would also recommend getting to know what type of revision techniques suit you best.  This may be pretty obvious to some of you, but if you’re a little unsure, listen up.  How we learn can guide us to the best ways to revise.  The VARK model neatly rounds this up into Visual, Auditory, Reading/Writing and Kinaesthetic learners.  Head here for more information on these, and to figure out your category.  Once you know this, it becomes a little easier to narrow down the most effective revision methods.  You might find some crossover – I certainly do!  For example, as much as methods relating to the Reader/Writer learner work for me, e.g. writing and rewriting, I also find colours and highlighting super effective too – techniques that are usually associated with Visual learners!  You don’t have to completely rule anything out, or try too hard to rigidly fit into a category.  If you have time, try a different technique and see if this works better – this is just a handy starting point.

Two yellow post it notes, side by side on a white wall.

Oldies but Goodies

There’s no denying that certain revision methods will simply always be guaranteed crowd pleasers. 

  • Writing/Rewriting
  • Flashcards
  • Mind maps
  • Past Paper Questions
  • YouTube
  • Testing
  • Teaching
  • Placement Association
  • Recall Association
  • Voice Notes
  • Graphics/Tables/Charts

But how can you make the most of these traditional methods?  Well, I’ve done the searching so you don’t have to. 

Being Effective & Efficient

  • Writing/Rewriting & Mindmaps

    First let’s address the ‘What’.  What’s the content here?  Make sure you’ve made effective notes, with efficient summaries.  This way, you’ll be focussing your revision, and zoning in on the really vital stuff.  For some tips on this, head here.  Also, give colour coding a go, if it helps your recall – great, but even if it doesn’t, it’ll certainly make your work station a little more organised, and you’ll at least be able to quickly identify topics based on the colour difference.  Apparently, the colours blue and red are particularly good for brain function – more on this here

    Certain fonts can also help our retention.  More specifically, the easy-to-read ones – like Comic Sans, or Times New Roman.  Our minds are accustomed to seeing text in these formats, so they don’t have to spend much time deciphering words, as they might with a cursive font.  There’s a useful tool for dyslexic students called ‘dyslexie’, which is specifically designed to make these sorts of tasks easier!  If you need some help, check out Cardiff Uni’s Disability and Dyslexia Team

    Be sure to really focus on what you’re writing, and not copying without processing what you’re seeing whilst your mind wanders to what you’re having for tea.  To avoid this, try the Pomodoro method - more on this later…
  • Flashcards

    Flashcards usually take the format of small pieces of card with prompt word or summaries on, designed to trigger your recall around a topic.  Similar to the above, be efficient in your summaries (not least because you won’t have much room).  Pick out the key facts, dates, names, cases etc. and pop them down.  Flashcards are ideal for a quick prompt, not an essay on the meaning of life (unless that is your actual essay title, in that case, ignore me).  Again, colour coding works a treat, it organises your different topics and can potentially help with recall.  If the whole writing thing isn’t your vibe, flashcards on the topic you’re learning will likely have already been created online by other students.  So, if it’s relevant – use it!  Quizlet is great for this sort of thing.
  • Youtube Videos & Voice Notes

    Youtube, more often than not, will have something within the realms of what you’re looking for, whether that’s a deeper dive in to a more complex topic, or a nice summary to confirm the foundations of what you’re looking for.  It sounds simple, but do make sure the video is actually what you need, often the description box will provide a handy summary – and then you can follow the recommended list for more.  In a similar way to voice notes, it can be useful to have these sorts of things on in the background whilst completing other tasks, like a podcast, you’ll probably take in a lot more than you realise (plus it gives you an excuse to finally tackle the ever-growing pile of clothes on the chair – we all have ‘the chair’, I’m convinced of it).  This one’s particularly useful for our Audio learners.
  • Mental Association

    Essentially, this one is to do with sticking key word notes to different areas in the house.  These should be regularly accessed points (like light switches) that will prompt you to remember a fact.  Then, ideally, during your assessment you should be able to think of the fridge door and the corresponding fact!  This one can be fun, but do explain it to your housemates before they think you’ve gone loopy for sticking random EU Law case names to the kettle.  You could also choose facts from your topic and start associating them with things you’re familiar with, like TV show characters, music, or topics in the news!
  • Graphics, Tables & Charts

    This can be a big one for our Visual learners.  Converting facts into diagrams can massively help visualisation at a later point – try pie charts, graphs and drawings.  These days, even memes are a good shout for more complex topics because you’re bound to remember them.  I mean, even if that doesn’t work, at least it’s funny.

Some Final Thoughts

The take home message here is to plan ahead, find specific methods that work for you, try weird techniques where necessary - and above all else - take time for yourself.

Sometimes your personal circumstances can influence your ability to focus on your studies, and we can’t deny how difficult this year has been, particularly for students.  If you are struggling at the moment and this is preventing you from revising or finishing that coursework, you are not alone.  If you think your mental health may be affecting your studying capacity, do check our Mental Health support page for some super helpful resources.  Also, take a look at the Student Advice webpage; you might find that you are eligible for Extenuating Circumstances or reasonable adjustments for your upcoming assessments.  There is loads of support available from the University should you need it.  If you have any questions, or you want to know more about the support available, or how these policies and procedures could be applied to you, you can contact Student Advice using the contact details at the bottom of this page.


Apps To Take A Break





Optimal Focus

Peaceful Guitar

Peaceful Piano

Electric Guitar Chilled Vibes


Revision Hints & Tips


The Pomodoro Technique


This blog has been written by Charlie Mallinson from the Student Advice Team in the Students’ Union. If you would like further help and support with the issues raised in this blog, or any aspect of your student experience, please get in touch using the following links:

Contact Student Advice  

+44 (0)2920 781410