There’s Real Science Behind Revision Technique: Ways to Succeed

Retrieval practice, spacing and interleaving. What are they? Different revision techniques that help students learn more, in less time. It’s not necessarily how long you spend revising, but more about how efficient the revision period is.

You know the feeling when someone says they’ve been revising for so many hours and you feel a rush of panic because you did a lot less? Well, maybe you were just more productive. Here’s how:

Did you use a method called Retrieval Practice? This is basically answering questions. You can use past papers, questions from revision guides or multiple choice questions found on the internet. By having to recall specific details of what you have learned, it becomes more cemented in the mind.

Spacing is simply leaving ‘space’ between the revision periods. It’s little and often, with enough time to basically forget the material from one session to the next. But all is not forgotten and once the memory is triggered, it should come back to the forefront of your mind and be reinforced.

Interleaving (or rather than learning in blocks) is another good way to make the most of your time. It’s pretty much a fancy name for mixing up topics or switching between ideas. When you interleave, your mind can see what is similar between two or more topics, what is different and how/if the topics are linked.

Take Geography for instance: you could list a range of different responses to natural disasters in a table, by looking at a bunch of case studies from across the globe. The similarities and differences immediately come to mind and you start to file it away in your brain. You get the picture.

Then there are some practical things you can do to spruce it all up and make it less of a grind, like setting goals and planning rewards to look forward to such as meeting up with friends or watching a good movie.

It’s a matter of trial and error to see which method works best for you and it might be different methods for different subjects. One thing that remains for all is that cramming is not the answer. It may be that you have left it too late and it’s your only solution, but it’s not efficient, and the information doesn’t stay long term while making you feel more panicked.

One final tip: keep your mobile phone out of sight and out of mind when you are revising. There is recent research that shows that even having a phone nearby can make your revision less productive.