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Library Service Blog

Confessions of a revision 'crammer'

by Kirsty Hemsworth on 2021-12-03T08:00:00+00:00 in Skills | Comments

by Kate Parr, Academic Skills Adviser

Exams, I loathed them. It takes a certain someone to enjoy the process and that’s not me or any of you, I suspect. So much so, I opted to do a BTEC instead of A- levels just to avoid them. But, once enrolled at university, I soon learned there was no getting away from final year examinations. I needed to demonstrate what I’d learned over the course of my Psychology and Education degree - that meant sitting 13 of them. They were stressful and anxiety-provoking times, yet I got through them and so will you.

I was a ‘crammer’, burning the midnight oil in the library for hours on end. My exams were in quick succession of one another, giving me very little time to revise in between. I was essentially memorised facts, remembering dates and theorists for long enough to recall on the day but not committing the information to long-term memory. It wasn’t a fun time, or a good strategy!

As an Academic Skills Advisor, I advocate working smarter not harder through planning and organising time to maximise success in exams.

It is important to take stock of what you need to revise and give yourself enough time to study ahead of the day. You might want to make a check list of the subjects you need to revise and then identify and highlight the topics you feel less vs. more confident in, so you can allocate more time to revising for them.  Don’t leave it to the last minute. The key here is the earlier you start to revise, the less stressed you will feel!

Active learning

Try to adopt an active learning approach so that you can improve your memory and concentration. For more on this see: Six Revision and Memory Recall Tips.

The Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve below shows how much more information we can retain if we regularly review learning throughout the week.


Source: WRANX


We need to do more than read our notes over. It’s important to apply active revision strategies: Read, Recall and Review regularly. This means reading and then summarising in our own words what we’ve just read. An alternative would be doing a practice test to check our understanding and identifying subject matter to brush up on.

It’s also important to think about when we learn best. Are you more productive in the morning, afternoon or evening? Depending on your preference, plan an exam revision schedule around when you are most likely to retain information. Schedule the harder subject material into those time slots so that you are more refreshed and better able to absorb the information.

Don’t try to revise for long periods of time, as you are likely to lose concentration, and nothing will stick. Allocate time for breaks as staying hydrated and well fed is important for brain functioning and mental health.

Set enough time aside and mix up what you are revising rather than just focusing on one subject area as this will help to keep the motivation levels up. Work in short bursts and reward yourself.

Managing distractions

If, like me, you find you are easily distracted, note your distractions and think about how you can best avoid them so that you are more efficient with your time. Whilst working from home, there are distractions aplenty, so I have been experimenting with the App called Hold. It is essentially a block that you can apply to your phone or iPad to stop you being tempted by social media - Instagram, emails, texts. It’s a 20-minute timer that resets itself if you mindlessly pick up your phone and start tapping away. You might ask yourself what’s the incentive here? Well for every 20 minutes you can earn points which can then be redeemed against cinema tickets, for example. A reward for getting your work done! Or, for the eco warriors out there the Forest app does a similar thing. If you complete 25 minutes on the timer, you get to plant a tree. This isn’t just a virtual tree as the app is supported by Trees for the Future and to date 742,900 trees have been planted.

Another useful App is Quizlet. You can not only make Question and Answer flash cards but also set yourself mini-tests - useful for remembering facts and theories. It’s a good idea to mix up how you study to help retain information, so don’t just read your notes. Try different way to revise. Test and re-test yourself.

Play to your strengths - Happy revision and good luck!

For additional support with planning for exams, visit our online guide to exams and revision, or check out the webinars, 1-1 tutorials and resources that are available to book on the Skills Centre website.


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