Revision at THS


The best revision is active. Don’t just sit there – DO SOMETHING! Revise Actively! Revising actively means you are thinking about what you are learning. ‘Memory is the residue of thought’ which means for revision to be effective it must make you think. The harder it makes you think the longer you will retain that information. This booklet will take you through the Do’s and Don’ts of revision and contains specialist revision advice for each subject.

The Don’ts


Simple, quick and easy but ineffective and sometimes even makes your revision worse. The only time it can be useful to highlight key words is when first learning them but it is not an effective revision strategy.

Highlighting is a task that requires minimal effort and therefore does not help with long term memory.  Looks pretty but is ineffective.


This could involve the re-reading of notes made in class or text books and is another low effort technique. It is a commonly used method and fairly time-consuming. Pupils’ time would be much better spent doing active revision techniques like those mentioned below.

Summarising text

When done poorly it does not promote learning and even when done well does little to promote retention as requires little effort.

The reason all these techniques are so ineffective, is that they require very little cognitive work and it’s cognitive work that makes us remember things. Their popularity with students stems from their ease and not their effectiveness. The time before your exams is important- use it wisely.

So what does work?

1) Self-Testing: Quizzing Yourself Gets High Marks

Regular testing improves learning and retention; short, frequent tests with immediate feedback on correct answers work best. Methods might include making flashcards, completing sample questions from past exam papers or from a text-book, creating your own multiple choice tests and any form of quizzing.

Flash cards work best when they contain an answer on one-side and a question of the other. This allows a student to test themselves or even better to be tested by a family member or friend. Any flash-cards you get wrong should be put aside and revisited at the end.

Practising exam papers is another great form of self-testing. Past exam papers and mark schemes can be found on course sites. Using a past exam paper can help you to test your knowledge, understanding and exam skills. Most effective when one question at a time is attempted from the past exam paper. Once you have completed a question you should check your answer against the mark scheme which can also be found on the course site.

Another good form of self-quizzing is creating your own multiple-choice questions on a subject or using apps like Quizlet or Kahoot that contain online quizzes.

2) Distributed Practice: For Best Results, Spread Your Study Over Time

Rather than cramming all of your revision for each subject into one block, it’s better to space it out – from now, through to the exams. Why is this better? Bizarrely, because it gives you some forgetting time. This means that when you come back to it a few weeks later, you will have to think harder, which actually helps you to remember it. Furthermore, the more frequently you come back to a topic, the better you remember it. This technique has been shown to be very effective. Look at the ‘forgetting curve’ below:

Combining this technique with an effective revision timetable can allow you to reap the full benefits. What this means in real terms is as follows: Day 1 you might spend twenty minutes revising the role of white blood cells and vaccination, you would then revisit this topic after 1 day, 7 days and then 30 days later. Start revising now, repeat what you have revised and you will reap the rewards come exam time.

3) Elaborate Interrogation

One of the best things that students can do (either to themselves or with a friend) to support their revision is to ask why an idea or concept is true – and then answer that why question. 

For example;

In science, infection with HIV leads to AIDS....why?

In geography, the leisure industry in British seaside towns like Barry Island in South Wales 

has deteriorated in the last 4 decades....why?

In English, Lady Macbeth calls upon the spirits to ‘unsex me here’....why?

This is a high impact technique that requires little extra-time or material but can result in massive gains. Whenever you learn a new fact ask yourself why that fact is true. This extra cognition results in extra retention. Thinking about it further also improves how it connects to previous knowledge also improving long term retention.

4) Interleaved practice

Students tend to study in blocks, finishing one topic or type of problem before moving on to the next.

But recent research has shown benefits for interleaved practice, in which students alternate a variety of types of information or problems.

The problem with revising like this is that it does not support repetition and repetition leads to mastery and greater retention. Instead of spending 1 hour on each subject a more effective method would be to split each topic into four 15 minute sections and interleave them. This means you keep revisiting topics.

In summary:

Don’t reread, highlight or summarise.


1. Create flash-cards

2. Self-test

3. Complete past exam papers

4. Complete more past exam papers

5. Distribute/space your study out and revisit topics

6. Ask why

7. Interleave - mix your revision up

Useful Revision sites