Active Revision

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Just reading and re-reading something is not the best way to remember it. The idea behind exam revision is not just to cover again [or maybe read for the first time!]  work that you have already done in class or for homework. You are revising in order to imprint information somewhere on your brain so that you can recall it when you need it in an exam situation. The key to remembering stuff in this way is to get active.

There are several ways of actively revising for examinations, all of which help to store information in your long-term memory.


These activities include the following:


This technique is very useful, especially for essay type questions. Brainstorming helps you to find out what you don’t know, and you can also surprise yourself with what you do know. Pick a topic that is the likely subject of an exam question, then jot down everything you can remember about it on a large sheet of blank paper. Just write down key words and short phrases, no sentences. Wrack your brains for three or four minutes; then compare your brainstorm with your notes. Learn the information that you had forgotten and then do another brainstorm. You will be surprised by how much more you know after the second brainstorm. This method can also be useful for planning out your answer during the exam.

Study Cards

Build up a card index of major headings for each subject. Don’t write in too many points under each heading: leave the finer details for your notes. Use the headings as prompts to see if you can remember the points under each heading. Refer to your notes to check on the information you can’t remember. Study cards are nice and portable. You can keep them with you and then take ‘em out on the bus, when you’re waiting for a friend, on the loo – anywhere. They will help you structure the relevant knowledge for each topic without having to constantly wade through too much information. Invaluable.

Answer Skeletons

Using your notes and/or textbooks, write down skeleton answers to past exam questions. These skeletons comprise the bare bones of a full exam answer and just need to include paragraph headings, important facts, theories and information that you can build a whole answer around. It is much easier to remember these skeleton lists rather than long complicated sentences. Read them out loud to yourself so that the sounds stick in your head. Then use the answer skeleton to do a full answer under exam conditions. This will link the skeleton with the full answer in your head.

Quick Quiz

You and a friend (try and pick someone who is fairly serious about doing well) can sit down and quiz each other about a series of likely exam topics. Next, both of you should jot down what you don’t know, then quiz each other again, either immediately and/or later in the week. There is nothing like a little healthy competition to provide some extra motivation!

Teach Your Family

As many teachers will admit, in an off guard moment, one of the best ways to learn a subject is to teach it. If you didn’t know your subject before you set out to teach it, you will certainly know it a lot better after you have attempted to explain it to somebody. So, be a pain in the butt at home! At dinner, or whenever you can seize half an hour, attempt to teach a subject to family members. Encourage them to ask questions. If they ask a question that you don’t know the answer to straight away, note it down, then come back and tell them their answer later.

Each of these active learning techniques can help you retain more information, while also making study time at least a little more interesting. Active revision is much more enjoyable than sitting staring at lines of text swimming across the page. Variety is, after all, the spice of life. Keep that brain working and you will surprise yourself come results day. is a national database of universities, colleges, institutes and providers of third level and PLC courses in Ireland. We operate a national search database of courses at certificate, diploma and degree level as well as providing information about career paths and directions.
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