Assembly point - Revision is knot all bad

13th March 2009 at 00:00
Preparing for exams is not just about learning the facts - you also need the right attitude, a timetable and plenty of breaks

With the exam season approaching, I do an assembly about revision techniques before the pupils go on study leave. The first thing to point out is that revision is basically a guide to passing exams: if they want to do well, good techniques are essential.

Start off with what not to do. You need to dispel the myth that you can learn everything the night before. Tell pupils their memory won't cope and, apart from anything else, it may well turn out that they have more than one exam on the same day.

And it's never enough simply to read through your notes. Few of us have a photographic memory, and pupils will need to employ other techniques if they want to remember what they've learnt.

Tell pupils that life will not go on as normal during important examinations. This is a critical time in their lives so they must be prepared to make some sacrifices.

It's important to get rid of a culture of negativity about what pupils think they can achieve - telling themselves they can't do it is just opting out. Assure them that revising and receiving support will make a difference.

Then go through the positives: how can you make certain that you are fully prepared for exams? For starters, come to school. Listen in class and complete your classwork and homework to the best of your ability. Make sure your coursework is completed on time and, again, to the highest standard. Make sure that you know what your target grades or levels are and, most importantly, what you need to do to achieve them. Then check this against your own work. Identify with your teacher what you need to focus on to improve your work and increase your chances of improving your target grade.

Emphasise that revision is all about giving them the best chance to do well and encourage them to go to revision classes.

Just as important as how you revise is when. As soon as you know your exam dates, draw up a revision timetable. Be specific in your planning: don't just write "maths", write in "algebra", for example. Stick to your timetable, but build in room for manoeuvre. Make sure that all areas of each subject are covered within the timetable.

Pupils tend to focus on what they're good at or what they most enjoy. Tell them that we all do this to make ourselves feel successful. But when it comes to revision, they'll need to devote extra time to areas they find more difficult and less interesting.

Advise pupils to plan their revision in half-hour chunks with built-in breaks of at least five minutes. Then every couple of hours, take a longer break of about 15 minutes when they should forget about revision, have a drink and talk to family. Emphasise the importance of eating well to nourish the mind, as well as the body.

Summarise by asking pupils how they learn and what techniques they use. Go through a couple in detail - doing practice papers or even posting notes in places they go to regularly, such as the loo. Another technique is for them to become the teacher: once a pupil has grasped a topic, they could try teaching it to someone else.

Lastly, don't forget the internet. If pupils have a computer at home, point them to a few revision websites and the school's own revision site, if it has one.

Jackie Howis is an AST at Bennett Memorial Diocesan School in Tunbridge Wells To download PowerPoint slides for this assembly, visit

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