There are some words in the English language that can send a shiver down your spine. ‘Moist’, ‘leakage’, ‘Donald Trump’… However, none come more blood curdling and more soul shaking than ‘revision’, or ‘deadlines’.
Now it’d be all well and good for me as a former university student to give you a few tips and send you on your way, but sometimes soldiers need a leader who’s in it with them.
This is why I called on some advice from our Coventry students Joe and Josh. Joe is a first-class Media and Communications graduate and Josh is currently in his first year of Adult Nursing (but he’s got a scholarly history that’ll leave you wide-eyed in disbelief!).
Here’s what Joe had to say about revision…
1. First things first, how do you get started?
Personally, this is the one thing I find proves most difficult when it comes to revision and/or coursework. It’s not just about what you are studying, but setting the time aside to get it done, without feeling overwhelmed by the workload.
Take it from someone who has done it often, delaying this time to set aside and study will only put greater pressure on yourself as deadlines and exams approach.
2. How frequently should you revise?
Obviously, everyone learns differently, and over time you find your own way to revise, work, write, panic etc.! However, by completing your work and revision little and often, you get that satisfied feeling. You’re making progress, while also knowing you still have time to do your own thing.
Dedicating 2 hours a day for 4/5 days of the week is surely more beneficial than cramming as much as possible into one long day. As a routine starts to develop from this, you may find that you’re easily completing more than 2 hours at a time once ‘in the zone’, which can only be a good thing when it comes to your results!
3. Where’s the best spot for someone to revise?
Again, this depends on the individual and where you feel most comfortable studying, but I’d recommend having a set place, room, or spot dedicated to your revision. Associating that particular place with getting your head down and studying helps you to focus on the task at hand, and avoids letting this part of your life slip into the relaxed and social elements of your week.
I like to go to a particular level of the Library (and a particular chair if it’s free!), or work from my kitchen table when at home. Lying in bed with your joggers on, books covering the duvet, might not be the most focused of environments. But hey, each to their own!
4. So how do you get it all to stay in your head?
I like to use the memory game, looking over my work, covering it up and seeing how much I can recall off the top of my head. However, there are many techniques you can try if this proves to be a difficult one to crack. Don’t panic, soon enough that “eureka!” moment will arrive.
Other tried and tested methods include: notepads, colour codes, doodles, mind-maps, flash cards, Q&A cards (which needs a trusted friend, family member, or partner to play quiz host!), key point poems/lyrics, blogging, vlogs or video diaries. You should have a go at them all and see what works best for you.
5. How do you to unwind when you’re revising?
When you start to become a revision master, it’s easy to turn to the other extreme, focusing all your efforts on those upcoming exams and deadlines. Granted, that shows your level of commitment is at its peak, but at times, the brain needs a rest. Overdoing it can mean your focus will waver and you get that weird melty feeling in your head.
Love it or loathe it, exercise is a great way to focus on the body instead of the brain. Building up a sweat, clearing your mind, then coming back to your studies feeling refreshed makes a world of difference. Take a walk, go for a run, hit the gym, have a swim – it might seem like an almighty effort at times, but I bet money you’ll feel all the better for it.
And now here’s Josh on the topic of coursework and deadlines:
6. Plan ahead…
Whether you’re at college studying a BTEC, or working towards a PhD, there are some thing that don’t change! I’m currently in my first year of a Nursing degree, and I’m still trying to figure out the best way to tackle deadline demons. They don’t like to make it easy, 3 different pieces of coursework, all due in the same week, and an exam chucked in before hand for good measure.
The first thing I do every term is plot out my deadlines on my white board or wall calendar. This might sound intimidating to some people, but I’ve found being greeted by a visual reminder every morning helps quash the urge to procrastinate.
7. Tackle one thing at a time
It can be daunting, not to mention difficult when you have multiple projects or pieces of coursework all due around the same time. Don’t attempt to be SuperMan (or woman!) here. Take it 1 step at a time. I always start with the project or essay I’m most interested in or looking forward to. Getting one thing done and dusted is a sure fire way to ease your stress levels, and motivate you to do more.
8. Value your time
This is something that took me a while to learn. But your time is important. It’s valuable. And you should have time in the week, and each day in fact, to do things you want to. I spent months and months taking myself away to the library every day (and night) to work on coursework, and was constantly feeling that I never achieved more than a couple of hundred words, and still had so much to do. It wasn’t until I started to really value my own time that I got more done.
I deliberately made social plans for the evenings or afternoons. I’d write out my weekly schedule of classes and work, see where I had gaps, and then halve them. Dedicating half of that time to coursework or projects, and the other 50% to things I wanted or needed to do – i.e. go for a run, climb, do the food shopping, or even just watch Netflix for an hour! It might sound backwards, but by allocating myself less time to do the work, I found I got much more done.
9. Start early
It’s just easier! And it makes sense. The earlier you start a project or a piece of coursework, the earlier you’ll finish it. So the more time you’ll have to proofread it, make any changes necessary, and the earlier you’ll have your time back to do with as you wish! It all sounds so simple. But quite often it doesn’t happen.
I think that’s partly because starting something in the first place can seem quite an overwhelming task. Break it down. Always start with research, whether that’s looking at projects that have had similar aims to your own, exploring the works of specific artists, collecting information on certain companies, or just reading around the subject, start that now. Take notes, photograph key images or texts. Sketch as inspiration strikes. Just do something. Then next week try to structure that something into a project/essay play.
10. Don’t try and do it in your bedroom!
This is something else that took me a while to grasp. But trying to do coursework in bed is never a good idea. In fact I can’t work in my house at all. The fact is I associate my bedroom with sleeping, and home in general with socialising or relaxing. Trying to work in those environments nearly always ended in distraction, and even when it didn’t I got much less done than I should. Going to the library, or finding a quiet corner in a cafe, where my brain knows I’m there to work, goes much better for me. Try it. You’ll be surprised just how much more efficient you become, simply by clearly dividing your spaces and structuring your study.