6 ways to keep students revising in run-up to Christmas

There's no room for revision complacency with many students in Scotland facing prelims around Christmas time, says teacher Matthew Marr
6th December 2021, 1:14pm
Matthew Marr

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6 ways to keep students revising in run-up to Christmas

https://www.tes.com/magazine/teaching-learning/general/6-ways-keep-students-revising-run-christmas
Christmas Tree In Classroom

As we approach the festive period, not many people's first thoughts are of revision and study - but it's a different story for Scotland's students. Many will be sitting prelim exams in the run-up to Christmas, or when they return in January.

One of the biggest challenges many students face is learning not just how to revise, but how to do so effectively and ensure their time is not wasted. It's not always the easiest thing to do - but it's crucial, both for prelims and final exams.

A few years ago I started coming up with Christmas-based revision ideas. Taking inspiration from classic Christmas poems and songs, this has included 'Twas the Month Before Prelims, Revisin' Around the Christmas Tree and Rudolph the Revising Reindeer.


Christmas: Why heads should not face pressure over Christmas shows and nativities

Revision: How to get students to revise properly

Quick read: Are Scottish students the world's 'most over-examined'?

Exams: 'Prelims aren't perfect - but they're as good as it gets'


This year's Christmas revision tips will be based on The Grinch: our antihero starts by hating revision (and, of course, Christmas) before learning to embrace both. These are, as has become tradition, highlighted in verse:

The Grinch hates revision and Christmas time, too,

To his teachers' advice to plan, he simply says "boo",

He will not accept that to get exam-able,

He'd do so much better with a study timetable.

But if you can't wait for the full Christmas poem - which I'll gradually reveal on Twitter - here and some tips I think work best with my students.

1. Have a study timetable

One big problem students face when revising is knowing what to do, and when to do it. This can lead to procrastination and doing nothing, or even doing too much. The best solution is to plan a study timetable - but this must include time off to relax.

2. No distractions

Some people like to tell themselves that having a TV on in the background or checking their phone will help them concentrate and stay on task. Simply put, it won't. Ideally, students should have all of these devices switched off, preferably in a different room. This means they can fully focus on their work. Break times are for these distractions.

3. Past paper questions

Answering past paper questions (which can be found online) is probably the best single task that students can do. Not only does this give an idea of the type of topics and questions which might be asked, but it also allows them to develop skills in answering exam questions. I'm happy to mark any of this extra work that they do.

4. Flashcards

I find flashcards an active way of revising that can be used in different ways to help students. The process of making the flashcards and choosing relevant facts will in itself help students.

5. Ten words

If a student has lots of topics to learn, it's often a challenge to know where to start. A good idea is to have a full list of all study topics, then try to write 10 words that summarise the key points of each topic. This quickly shows students which topics they know about - or don't - and can help them manage their study time.

6. Breaks and relaxation

It's important to do some work - but not too much. Everyone needs some downtime, whether after school, at the weekend or during the holidays. Building leisure time into a study timetable is crucial.

These are some of my main recommendations to help students in all subjects - not just history - get ready for their exams. But if you want to read my full Grinch list, in all of its literary "glory", visit @mrmarrhistory each day throughout the Christmas period...

Matthew Marr is a teacher of history in Ayrshire. He tweets at @mrmarrhistory

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