Psychology of Revision

How to get the most out of revision using psychology!

Setting yourself up with a good workable plan in advance of any revision is key to gaining your best memory recall especially when you need it most!

It’s often said that there are no short cuts to the success in taking exams, however there is definitely a way of making life easier for you by understanding the psychology of revision or the way you think around revision activities.

If you take look at a lot of revision tips and hints out there you’ll find they are telling you to do such and such from their perceived point of view or generalised expectation such as get good night’s sleep and eat well.

Whilst on one level this goes without saying, there are many people who don’t want to sleep and they will thrive best on the stress of being at the edge, others will need lots of sleep and then there are those who need copious amounts of coffee or loud music and can’t function without it whereas others can’t sleep with it. The point being made is what is right for one is not right for another; this is why generalised advice doesn’t always work for all.

To revise well you need to use your brain and your mind which is the most active and essential organ in your entire being. Having a basic understanding of how your mind is working is essential especially when certain things happen against your will such as going blank when sitting at your exam desk and then becoming anxious because you’ve been overcome with a blankness which can make you feel anxiety and then fear of failure and so the cycle begins.

Anxiety comes off the back of going blank and going blank produces more anxiety and possibly then fear, apprehension of it not going away and that anticipation only gets worse and then fear of not being able to complete the exam and so on – nerves, stomach turning butterflies and sickness.

More people experience this than you could imagine and a lot of people will keep this private and not mention it to anyone, not even to family or friends for fear of ridicule or being seen as weak. It is mainly males who keep these feelings and fears bottled up as females are better able to communicate with their friends and talk about their anxieties and fears of exams and revision related issues.

And all because they didn’t revise properly.

If you put proper revision time in but you then draw a blank at the exam centre then you can feel you’ve done your best and it was not due to laziness, lack of interest or cramming it in the last few days prior to your exams.

Even the most intelligent successful people can behave like this which is often just outright neglect or putting other more enjoyable things before revision, therefore it’s all about priority and proper planning.

Don’t procrastinate!

There are those who will calmly revise and prepare properly over a period of time and these are often focused students, the calm and collected type, you know the sort, quiet, pleasant and non-revealing of any care or concern, they just seem to always have their head down in a book and these are the ones that do well in the exam hall because they have focus and a low distraction threshold.

Then there are those who like to drink and party and eat too much pizza and rush around like they were on Nitro and then start revising in a panic at the last minute cramming it all in and then talk nonstop about how they are anticipating failure and so on!

Revising thoroughly, slowly with a plan well in advance is the way to go, by setting yourself a set amount of time each study period. Just one or two hours at a set agreed time, as a matter of priority over anything else then sleep.

  • Revise then more sleep!
  • Revising small amount of time!
  • This is called ‘chunking’ or chunking it down.

Taking small tiny steps, small Japanese geisha girl steps, bit by bit.

Biting off small pieces at a time and nibbling correctly so that it becomes digested correctly as opposed to eating great big gulps and swallowing too fast so that it becomes psychologically constipated and blocked, too much too fast will always cause problems and this is what most students do and then wonder why they have anxiety nerves because they are cramming everything into such a small space.

Psychological research has shown that if we study a small amount at a time and then sleep, we absorb it better for later recall, whereas studying large amounts and then sleep results in information overload and bad absorption of the information which will result in failure to recall as well.

It is an absolute fact that taking small amounts of study info and then leaving it alone for a while, you will recall it better later, this is why artists, painters and sculptors work in small periods or sessions at a time and then keep returning to their work to stay fresh!

This includes inventors, strategists, problem solvers, scientists and experimenters who all walk away from what they’re doing to allow the brain to reset itself!

30 mins is the maximum before we start to lose our absorption of data!
So you see this is why chunking it down is essential, taking small pieces at a time and then walking away and ultimately sleeping after a long session of revision.

Spread that revision work out!

You may have often heard of cramming techniques! Or various tips on revision!

Keep away from them as they will do more harm than good. You will only be misled by other highly motivated and although well-meaning students, what works for them won’t work for you.

Your hippocampus part of the brain sends information into your neocortex part of the brain and it can only do this at a set amount of speed or time and anymore cannot be handled and will be rejected or bounced away as overload.

Therefore revision absorption of information is not just psychological but neurological and that part of the brain can only take so much, irrespective of how motivated and driven you are. What you put in this end will not match what happens later on at the other end which is your memory recall and may let you down when you need it most.

The brain needs you to wait a period of time before revisiting the information you wish to absorb. The longer you wait the greater your memory recall will be later and this has been scientifically proven. Those that have more breaks in between their work learn better than those who continue without the breaks.

Pneumonic memory system

The pneumonic memory system is a technique that allows you to associate certain information with other things which enhances memory recall later and that includes numbers, shapes and colours or sounds.

Remember you can only hold 6 or 7 pieces of information at any one time and anymore than this will be rejected!

If you are studying a certain topic or subject that you need to recall later especially if it’s unpleasant, mathematical or boring then associate it with something else that you will be able to remember. People with skilled memory abilities do this!

When revising!

Pick a set time in advance and stick to it and make that time your special study time as the outcome of the study time could change your life later on so your study time is super valuable now!

Make sure you eat well in advance so that you’re not hungry throughout which minimises distraction especially if you are a sugar sweetie!

Switch your phone off and become unavailable with everyone during this period. No texts, NO ding dings!

Spread your work out with plenty of healthy space in between. This space allows you to forget it and then relearn it!

Try to keep away from revision classes and just stick to the above, you can do it, you’ve got what it takes!

Test yourself later and get someone else to help you run your tests!
Demonstrate and/or teach others the information you have learned as this is known as the ‘protégé effect’.

Don’t use highlighter pens as this has been shown to isolate important pieces of information and partition off important information from the rest of the text!

Don’t listen to music while you’re studying! This has been proven to do more harm than good. Try it in a quiet place first before you dismiss it and see how you get on!

Remember the hippocampus and the neocortex are at work and the one is feeding the other with information to help with the recall of it later – it’s a learning process and playing music is just adding to the information (words) coming in – it’s too much! And will reduce the levels of data absorption! You did not know that!

Exercise, eat well and get fresh air!

Keep away from stressful people and stressful situations during your revision period! Don’t bring other or others emotional or psychological problems into your quiet study period.

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