The slacker’s guide to revision

Final assessments are right around the corner, but don’t panic, there’s still time to prepare, revise and map out your plan of attack.

Why bother?

Effective revision enables you to get material from your short term memory into your long term memory. Long term memory is like a library – information that is placed in it in a systematic way is more likely to be retrievable. Revision is more effective when you are actually doing something rather than passively trying to absorb information.

There are lots of things you can do to get the most out of your revision.

Here, we take you through eight simple things you can do to to help you prepare.

1. Understand the assessment format

“Make sure you have a clear understanding of the format of the exam,” says Swati Nagpal, La Trobe Lecturer in Management Sport and Tourism. “Every subject is different. For example, multiple choice, open book, case study etc. This will be the most important guide for how you approach your revision.”

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Multiple choice, true or false, short answer and essay questions – chances are in your time at Uni you’ll come face-to-face with all of them during final assessments. To help you get across exactly how to tackle each different type of question, we’ve put together a quick step-by-step guide.

2. Set tasks and manage your time

“Plan your study backwards from the assessment date. Cramming everything into the night before, or listening to your lectures during your sleep and hoping that learning through osmosis is not a great strategy. Instead, set up a calendar of achievable tasks to complete and reward yourself with a treat when you’ve completed these – perhaps it could be watching another episode of your favourite tv series, or some chocolate.” – Mathew Marques, Lecturer in Psychology and Counselling

Work in terms of tasks not time.  Set a task for each study period.  A sense of achievement comes from successfully completing small tasks and breaking the work up into smaller sections, making the whole process of revision more achievable.  Follow this link to view the Pomodoro Method, which breaks down work into 25-minute intervals with short breaks. 

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3. Narrow your focus

Be clear about what you’re aiming to achieve in each revision session. Your learning objectives will help with providing direction, says Mathew Marques, Lecturer in Psychology and Counselling. Mathew suggests studying to the learning objectives is the best way to integrate the important information you’ll need for the assessment into your revision.

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We asked some of best students how they succeed with study and they provided some fascinating insights. What study tips do you have for new students making the transition to University? Charlotte: Learn to use the Library search as soon as you can and don’t be afraid to get stuck in academic reading.

4. Develop a ‘concept registry’

Summarise, summarise, summarise! There’s a lot of content to learn going into a final semester exam. The way I stop myself having an existential crisis about this is to always reduce everything down. I go through each lecture and create one cue card per lecture filled with all the major points, especially if I don’t understand the topic too much. The day before the exam try turning all the things you’ve found you still can’t remember into one cue card. For poetic justice, throw this final cue card out as you walk into the exam.

Noah, La Trobe student

Swati Nagpal, La Trobe Lecturer in Management Sport and Tourism, encourages students to develop a ‘concept registry’ for the subject. “A concept registry will allow you to focus your revision,” Swati says. “Thinking of the subject content as a set of concepts will allow you to apply them more effectively when answering exam questions. Especially in written short-answer or longer discussion questions.”

If you’re unsure how to condense a large amount of content into a single concept, explaining it to someone is a great way to simplify and identify concepts.

“I find it really helpful to explain concepts or answers to questions to another person.”

Louis, third year Bachelor of Science student

5. Recognise, understand, recall

SWOT VAC is a time for refreshing your memory about content you have previously learned and understood. The key principle during this period is to move from recognising to understanding to recalling.

Many students, after having read over material several times, assume that because it looks very familiar, they have learned it. Simply being able to recognise material does not automatically mean that you understand it or will be able to recall it later in the exam.

The following suggestions may be useful for practising recall:

  • Revise definitions from your glossary. Cover the definition side and practice recalling definitions; then cover the term side and practice recalling the terms.
  • Use flash cards with the question on the front and the answer on the back. Keep aside any that you got wrong and then do these again. Keep doing this until you get them all correct.
  • If you need to memorise diagrams, make large ones and stick them up on your walls.
  • Use rhymes and mnemonics to assist recall. For example, to remember electron loss and gain in oxidation and reduction, the following may be easy to remember: OIL RIG – Oxidation Is Loss; Reduction Is Gain (of electrons).
  • Revise with a friend or a study group to share knowledge and exam strategies and to practice recall.

Write your own flashcards! Writing these are a great way to go over everything you know and sort it into mnemonics and groups that are already easier to remember. Then you can carry them around with you and read them on the go or whilst you are eating lunch.

Charlotte, La Trobe student

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At La Trobe, there are several reliable services to make a tricky assessment or study load feel much more manageable. Even though you’re not on campus, those services are still available – and you can access them from wherever you are right now. Learning Hub Need help navigating your uni work?

6. Do practise questions

Past exam questions or revision questions provided by your lecturer will come in handy here. During SWOT VAC, it is a good idea to practise answering questions under exam conditions in the time allotted, without looking at your notes or books.

Make sure you focus on anything you got wrong. It is critical that you study before doing the practise questions. That way you can check how effective your study has been. If you do the questions prior to studying, you will focus on studying those topics, rather than learning all of the material that could be covered in the exam.   

I like to collate a question bank throughout my semester of questions that I struggle with from things like online quizzes, lectures, or online resources.  These are a really good way of honing your knowledge and making sure you understand the content that you might struggle with otherwise!  Some lecturers will even provide revision quizzes or old exams – these are SUPER helpful.  You can also sometimes find previous exams online on La Trobe’s Library site, wink wink.

Grace, La Trobe student

7. Mock up a test environment

Assessment conditions can become less stressful if you’ve already sat mock exams at home in your own time under the same conditions.

“If you are sitting an exam, you could generate questions as part of a small study group and develop your own version,” says Mathew Marques, Lecturer in Psychology and Counselling. “Not only will writing them help you understand the material, but not being able to answer them will help you identify gaps in your knowledge. Try and use the learning objectives to develop questions.”

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8. Get enough sleep before studying

The amount and the quality of sleep we get each night is different for everyone and has a profound impact on our learning and memory. Research has suggested that sleep plays a crucial role in the consolidation of memory, which is essential to how we focus our attention optimally, learn and retain new information. If we are sleep deprived or have had a restless night’s sleep, we may not be able to study as well as we could or retain new information for a project we may be working on. La Trobe Sport has delved deep into the realm of sleep and devised strategies you can implement to get a better night’s rest.

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