If you're going to be taking exams, whether for GCSEs, A-levels, degree or professional qualification, it's essential to revise effectively. Effective revision needs to be carefully planned and structured. Here are some suggestions as to how to make a revision timetable that really works.
Break Down Your Time
There's no point planning on revising eight hours a day if you're also in work or school full time. So the first thing when making a revision timetable is to determine how much time you have to revise and when. Make a calendar and mark off all the time you're committed to doing something else. Don't forget to include hobbies and activities you don't want to give up during revision, as well as mealtimes and sleep. Then break the remaining time down into half-hour slots. Why half-hour? Research in cognitive psychology suggests that, on average, concentration on a single topic tends to start declining after then. There's also evidence to indicate that memory is improved by varying what you study.
Break Down Subjects and Topics
It's important that you know what you're going to be revising in any given slot. This is partly to avoid wasting five or ten minutes of it making a decision, but also to ensure you're getting your priorities right.
On the whole, it's best to tackle your weaker subjects early on, when your mind is fresh. Other things to consider are the amount of work to revise and the order in which your exams come. When you've listed your subjects in the appropriate order, then break them down into specific topics. You should be able to get hold of a syllabus from your exam board that lists all the various topics that might come up in the exam. Again, prioritise these in the order of topics you need to do most work on.
Be Organised but Flexible in your Revision Timetable
This level of organisation doesn't mean you have to be inflexible. If you feel you're still on a roll at the end of the half hour, then by all means carry on a bit longer. It'll mean adjusting subsequent slots, but that's a great deal easier to do if you have a clear structure rather than a vague wish-list.
Perhaps the most important aspect of planning your revision timetable is to manage your stress levels. Stress isn't all bad — a certain degree of it is vital to energise you, but beyond a certain level it starts to become counter-productive. If you try to revise while over-stressed, you'll find it difficult to concentrate and will retain less than if you pace yourself. A well-planned and well-organised revision timetable will help you keep your stress at an optimal level. If you sign up with TutorExtra, you'll have access to more advice on revising effectively, making a revision timetable, and finding a suitable tutor.