Why Not Review: Revision Techniques

Six of The Tab’s writers take you through their top tips.

Anna Sheinman Eeyore Janis Burns Lise McNally Milo Yiannopoulos revision

With Cambridge University now scattered all over the country with the distraction of bossy librarians and sharing youtube clips with the person next to you replaced by the hum of the hoover, The Tab Reviews Team evaluate their secrets to success.

LOTTIE UNWIN still swears by Look, Cover, Write, Check…

It taught me how to spell cat and bat, and the ins and outs of the ontological argument for the existence of God. It’s not that I am afraid of change, just that routine is comforting.  I can persuade some part of my angst ridden head that it is as though all I have to do is change the first letter.

Where once my chubby fingers would carefully fold the page into quarters I now scribble across A1 drawing paper, trying to copy out essays of notes in each attempt.  A fifth stage has been added that I term ‘Correct’, although the reality is ‘Punish’.  Normally with a blunt colouring pencil, I attack my effort scrawling the right answer all over it, and if the day is going badly a condemning motivational slogan.  What I am left with is abstract art 5 year old me would despair at the sight of as she sat meticulously drawing cats and bats.  It goes in the bin, and I try again.

PHOEBE LUCKHURST gets back to coloured pens basics…

Resembling a Rorschach Test for the intellectually able, rather than the psychologically unstable, the mind-map, in theory, is predicated on the idea that a visual, aesthetic representation of your ideas will help you to connect and recall them. Of course, this correlation with the Rorschach Test also indicates that those intellectually able who use mind maps may also be psychologically unstable. Opening my folder to reveal eight pages of mind maps elicited not, a mixture of awe and terror in acknowledgment of my superior ‘study skills’ but rather the mixture of awe and terror elicited when you realise you are in the company of a genuine, insane person.

Advantages: related closely to the timeline and flashcard, which both employ visualisation and simultaneously take you back to Year Eight History/French when you always got full marks and a congratulatory Miniature Hero in your Friday afternoon vocab test, and exams didn’t matter anyway. Regression to childhood with a healthy dose of self-delusion is crucial to exam term.

Disadvantages: the aforementioned social stigma of the mind map; one of those techniques likely to take more time crafting than actually being used, particularly since those with a proclivity for the mind map often display symptoms of OCD. If so much as one ‘bubble’ isn’t placed just so, the entire map must be scrapped and created again from scratch.

LISE MCNALLY has an approach she is a little embarrassed to recommend…

Revise your chosen topic using any of the sensible techniques at your disposal, then bid a hasty farewell to sanity and maturity. Take your beloved teddybear of choice, and try to explain/repeat what you have learnt. Eeyore has borne the brunt of this approach for 10 years, and is now extremely well versed on everything from the 7 times tables to the causes of the Dutch Revolt.

Staring into the supportive, loving eyes of a childhood friend (sorry-inanimate and insentient stuffed animal, I *am* a grown up) keeps you calm when you just can't remember who said that pretentious but bloody clever thing about Keats.  Speaking out loud also triggers auditory recall in the exam, but whatever.

Note: You are (to all extents and purposes) talking entirely to yourself so this technique is best not practised in a library or indeed any public place where there is a potential for sectioning.

MILO YIANNAPOULOS tries anything and everything…

Revision? Give me a break. Every factoid that enters this head is stored forever, along with the time and date I learned it, available for immediate recall whenever I need it.  At least, that's how it should have been.  But at Cambridge the sheer volume of stuff I have to do, coupled with five nights a week out on the town has left my brain completely frazzled.

So, the week before an exam, you'll likely find me poised on a chair in my room, sellotaping a mind map on the ceiling for last-minute recaps before sleep – or during particularly uninspiring sex. Or writing bullet points on my arms in permanent marker so the pain involved in scrubbing them off burns the key terms into my memory forever. Or bribing friends with lollipops to test me on dates and spellings. (Past revision techniques have included making recordings of my notes, taping primary texts to my body in the hope they'll somehow leech into me, and of course sleeping with books under the pillow.)

I guess we'll see how the ceiling thing works out in a few months' time.

ANNA SHEINMAN proposes Total Sensory Deprivation…

You see, I get easily distracted. Take the smallest room in the house. Bathrooms and broom closets are possibilities, but I find there are too many fun things to do – buttons to push, taps to twizzle, brooms to… sweep? Turn off all the lights, close the blinds. Still trying to guess the weather from the little slivers of light that get round the edge? Put your duvet over the window. Added bonus: naps become less fun. One spotlight desk lamp allowed, illuminating keyboard only. Preferably one that only has on and off options, otherwise it's too much fun turning it up and down, up and…. Doors and windows shut. High spec 'had-to-go-to-Denmark-Street-to-get-them, no-this-is-not-procrastination-it's-revision-preparation' earplugs in.

Now you can hear nothing but… OK, you can hear nothing. Apart from weirdly, when you yawn, you can hear yourself typing. Any scientists care to explain that to… no, focus. Suitably focused, let the work begin.

For JANIS BURNS revision is just not the problem…

It doesn’t matter that by definition of being at Cambridge I’m not stupid. I know that come one  day at the end of May I’ll be sitting in the Examination Halls knowing that if the Sun is in Aries when the tyrant/senior examiner sets the pass mark only the bottom 20 of us will be forced to deal with the humiliation of failing.  But, if Pluto should be in Scorpio then the bottom 40 are going to be logging into CAMSIS to read “not classed/no allows/fail” as their tears, symbolising their summer lost, drip onto their keyboard. Ask yourself, is it really my revision techniques that’s to blame or are you suffering from undiagnosed exam anxiety?

Having sobbed my way through an exam and recorded as a “significant event” by the invigilator I know I do. I’m not in denial, unlike some I know, so this year I’ll be taking my exams with the aid of some performance enhancing diazepam and propranolol.

Note: Diazepam allegedly encourages risk-taking behaviour that may or may not pay off in a negatively marked exam.