In the UK, the Spring Term has ended and the Summer Term is on its way. For many this means premium revision time. Some are enrolled on Half-term revision courses and others have begun stressing. Every now and then through friends, colleagues and web searches, I stumble across study resources for my Saturday school students and mentees. A couple of years ago I published this list over on the EIE website. This week, I’ll be spending a day or two to teach and mentor at the beginning of this final stretch to the June exams.
My biggest piece of advice at this point? Have a consistent focus.
This will be the longest summer you have for a while, so any time spent revising now, and missing out on new episodes of Made in Chelsea/Eastenders/WWE/[insert your fave TV programmme] here will be best spent listening to a podcast or watching a Bitesize video. And NOT gazing at a textbook.
It’s amazing how many people I see still clinging onto textbooks at this point in the game. As a big believer in using technology and applying it across your life, I find it strange that in the 21st century, a couple hundred years after the formal education system came into being as we recognise it today, people still feel that textbooks are the best way to learn. There are few other parts of our lives were we employ 19th century tactics…we travel using 20th century cars (rather than horse & carriage), we shop and purchase items using credit cards, bank notes and NFC (rather than gold bars) and we communicate over long distances with emails and Skype (rather than smoke signals or shouting) but yet we accept thick heavy textbooks as the primary way to learn.
I propose you try something different, more modern this time round…and make learning a more modern experience.
Your first step will be finding out what type of learner you are. You may be a visual, auditory or kinsthetic learner. Descriptions are available here and here. In short, visual learners ‘get’ things when they’re presented in a diagrammatic or very colourful way, auditory learners tend to not forget things they’ve heard and kinsthetic learners need to get their hands dirty, or watch someone else get their hands dirty in order to understand things.
It’s paramount that you have some idea of how best you absorb information, and make sure you vary your revision schedule accordingly. In each subject, there will be topics you find difficult and specific facts, formulas and methodologies that are refusing to stick in your head. You’ll need to be able to absorb the most difficult parts with certain techniques, and ensure that you can refresh easier topics, using your least favourable style. Work out what works best for you at any of the below. Perhaps do more than one, so you can work out your personal mix. I’m about 4 parts kinsthetic, 2 parts auditory and 1 part visual.
Then mix a cocktail of the following resources in your revision. If you know of any great ones that I’ve missed out, add them in the comments below
- YouTube – I used to YouTube all of my Computer Science topics. At one point, I was even playing Computer Science lectures in my sleep, in a bid to subconsciously learn concepts.
- Khan Academy – These are well organised videos on various topics, with some lovely people have made available for the general public. There are corresponding mobile apps too, so you can watch and learn on the go.
- MathCentre – In addition to PDFs, there are ‘iPod Videos’ and ordinary videos sprinkled throughout this site. It’s well organised and is quite self contained with matching exercise.
- BBC Learning Zone – I used to set the VCR (1990s version of the DVD) to record these shows when they were on BBC2 at midnight. Now, we have broadband and they’ve found a home online. Enjoy watching the archive.
- O2Learn – Like Khan Academy, but each video is from a different teacher. Search for topics and see what comes up.
Search Google and Twitter for revision videos too.
- iTunes U – This is definitely my favourite platform. Search any topic or flick through the organisations and download any number of videos, or more importantly, audio lectures. I still use it now, and I’m not even revising anymore! You don’t need an Apple device for this, just iTunes installed on your computer.
- BBC Bitesize podcasts – These are useful for sitting on the bus or travelling in public places, where you don’t necessarily want to be reading a textbook…or looking studious. Also, when you’ve heard something a few times over, it begins to stick.
- Make your own: in addition to converting video lectures into audio files, you can also record things yourself. I recorded a couple of lectures a university, in order to play them back. I spent more time reading my notes into my phone/sound recorder on my PC and playing them back. The process helps: you have to summarise things into succinct sentences, read them back (several times if you’re like me and hate hearing ‘um’s and ‘er’s) and then play them as part of a shuffle playlist on your MP3 player.
My optimum auditory technique: I’d do past papers, mark them and then write up lessons learnt. I’d then record these and play them back at times throughout the day. If I could complete the sentence before the recording, I’d know I’d learnt it. When it came to exam time, I’d sometimes ‘talk’ at my papers, to help recall.
- MindMaps – visualise linking topics in anything from Maths to Economics, Science to Medicine.
- Revision Sites – BBC Bitesize, S-cool, SparkNotes and the rest. Revision sites with flash animations and well laid out pages are available for pretty much any exam. Google ‘Revision site’ and you’re off..
- Google Books, Google Scholar and Google itself – search MindMaps, or flashcards or ‘Avogadro’s Constant‘ and a lot turns up. Click onto Books and you’ll see the relevant books. Click onto Scholar and you’ll see relevant search papers. It’s incredible what you can discover, if you only search.
- Wikipedia – The fact that you can click through on anything makes this an excellent resource. Search for a topic, molecule or historical figure and learn about related topics, molecules and historical figures too.
- This list – is the most exhaustive list I’ve seen for a while. Have a flick through: chances are, there will be at least one relevant resource.
- Openstax college – Some free, open-source ‘textbooks’ available in eformats. They’ve been put together by some professors, and look promising.
Make your own: I wrote up notes onto revision cards, which I put by my toilet. Every morning, during the revision period, without fail, I’d visit the loo, and without fail, I’d read all of them out loud. Before I knew it, the concepts had stuck. The various colours used – highlighted theorem names, results and related theorems – algebra on green, algorithms on blue and theorems on yellow – all reinforced the topics I was trying to understand.
Finally find someone and TEACH them what you’ve learnt. Or, make a ShowMe.
When you teach a topic, you’ll remember it more than just reading, listening or ‘acting’ out what you’ve learnt. In communicating something complex, you need to ensure you understand it, then process it to ensure you can pass it onto to someone else, then field their questions on what you’ve said – all proven ways to help embed whatever it is you’ve revised.
All the best.