GCSE exams 2021: 3 revision techniques to avoid

These GCSE revision strategies are unlikely to be as effective as you might think, argues one leading US academic

Jon Severs

Revision mistakes

The GCSE revision timetable, the snacks and the screen lock on the phone are all in place. You are finally ready: it’s revision time.

Alas, this is the point where it can all go wrong.

For although GCSE revision has been a "thing" for decades, many students still don’t do it very well.


You can read the full interview with Professor Dunlosky here.


So what are the GCSE techniques we should really be avoiding? Professor John Dunlosky, of the department of psychological sciences at Kent State University, Ohio, has done the hard work of finding out so you don’t have to.

GCSE revision tips

Here’s his list of techniques to avoid for being not very effective or efficient.

1. Highlighting

“Everyone uses highlighters; they feel that it really helps them improve their memory. But research suggests it has a very minimal impact,” Dunlosky states.

“Now, that said, I would never take a highlighter away from a student – I have a favourite highlighter I use all the time – but students need to know that highlighting is only the beginning of the journey. It is where they are identifying the content they need to learn. Highlighting by itself is relatively inert.”

2. Simply rereading

 “When a pupil simply rereads something, it feels productive and fluent, because they have already read it. It creates an illusion of knowing, when, in fact, they are not actually that engaged with the material – their mind is wandering, they have read it before so it is kind of boring,” says Dunlosky.

“Of course, if a student does not understand something, they should go back and reread [it], but when they understand it relatively well and they are trying to learn it for the long term, rereading really does not work well – in fact, studies show people get nothing out of it.”

3. Studying with friends

Dunlosky says that studying with friends is not ineffective, but it can be less efficient.

“Many students like to get together with their friends to study. We know that when that happens, the time will be used less efficiently – even if they are using a good technique – than if they were doing it on their own,” he explains.

“However, if those students would not study otherwise, then by all means do it – but we should tell them that if they did it on their own, they could do the same amount of work but in less time.”

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Jon Severs

Jon Severs is the commissioning editor of Tes

Find me on Twitter @jon_severs

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