Why do so many students revise using methods proven to be inefficient? Libby Rudd Fathers

With exam season coming up, I have been doing a lot of research into how I should best revise, and which tasks are a waste of time. Looking through countless ‘5 ways NOT to revise’ and ‘revision mistakes’ blogs, I’m coming across many techniques that I find myself using. These revision techniques have become a crutch to me and many others, and this is why. 

Everyone who knows anything about learning techniques and revision knows that reading notes is not the way to learn content. Reading notes straight from a textbook can be overwhelming and exhausting, as there’s far too much, but reading notes that you’ve written may lead to gaps in knowledge. Reading notes has also been proven not to embed content into one’s long-term memory, so whilst it may be a handy last-minute booster the night before an exam, it won’t be helping anybody weeks in advance. 

 

Another crutch many students use is writing out notes. Though writing note summaries is helpful, simply copying out notes doesn’t help one learn. This is because no thinking is required; everything is straight from a book. Writing out notes also takes a very long time, and one may be copying out things they already know. 

 

One reason I think these two obsolete techniques are still common in revision is that both techniques are low intensity, meaning the student can do it for longer and feel content about their revision for the day. Especially after a day of school, it is exhausting to get home and, for example, do a practice paper. 

Another reason is that writing notes and flashcards feels more rewarding than encouraged techniques, such as active recall or blurting. Finishing revision and seeing pages full of condensed writing makes it easier to feel satisfied with the amount of work one has done for the day, regardless of how much one has learned. 

 

Despite feeling content with the revision one has completed in the day, these methods are inefficient and a waste of time, as I feel I’ve been told a thousand times. 

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