Revise effectively with an AQS technique
I love to make up terms, and today is no exception. As most of my life is revision right now, I thought it would be useful to share my three revision imperatives: active, quality and selective learning.
Always revise actively rather than passively. Firstly, make sure you know what the main questions and debates are for a particular topic. These should be clear from the seminar questions and from your lectures. Then actively engage with those throughout your learning. Stop frequently to ask yourself what you have just read, how that answers the key debates around that topic, how that supports/counters your own opinion on the main questions. Don’t limit yourself to just reading through notes without realising how that enhances your wider understanding on the topic.
Quality rather than quantity. Make sure you identify the time of the day (or night!) in which you work best and maximise it, rather than trying to work 14 hours a day without no real achievement. Very importantly, take plenty of breaks. I use a pseudo-pomodoro framework: I completely focus on work, with no distractions whatsoever, for 45 minutes, and then I take 10 minutes off. I alternate what I do in my breaks to give my brain different stimuli that keep it awake but in ways that are different from work. For instance, I stretch, go for a short walk, practice quietness, do sudokus (which have somehow improved the quality of my work massively). I have noticed that taking regular breaks and maximising productiveness during those 45 minutes has a really positive effect on my revision and my mental state as well!
Because essay deadlines are all a couple of weeks before exams, revision is always concentrated within those few weeks. Therefore, there is really not much time to go through every single thing. After roughly understanding the key debates around a topic, be very selective with your reading. For secondary reading, have a look at abstracts and literature reviews. This works well for my subject and it might be different for others, but the essence remains the same: realise your time limit, and make the most out of fewer, selected sources. Combined with active learning, this allows you to form your own, original opinion, while maintaining some substantiation.
Once you apply these very simple techniques to your revision, it will make a massive difference! I am definitely not saying I have the perfect revision strategy, but realising these three things has made revision time less stressful and much more rewarding. Overall, remember to take some time off and to be gentle with yourself. Breaks are not a waste of time – nor is quality sleep or a nice, quiet meal.
I wish you all the best of luck with your exams!