May 20, 2014, by Ollie

Let me explain myself

Everyone has a style. Unfortunately my style is a little bit unorthodox and so is therefore shunned by everyone I’ve tried to introduce to it.

Over the last 6 years, GCSE’s, A-Levels and now University exams my revision skills have been honed, from starting out as a meticulous note maker, perfectly copying the textbook into a notepad with pretty colours everywhere to highlighting keywords in revision guides and to where I am now. Call them stupid or call them obvious but these are the techniques that work for me when it comes to preparing for exams.

Having previously spoken about my passion for highlighting and leaving no word uncoloured we’ll gloss over this, it’s something I’m sure the vast majority appreciate and have practiced as a revision technique before. We will start my list by delving deeper into what works for me.

1) Reading and reading and a little bit more reading

My standard go to revision technique is to just try and read through the material over and over. Through repetitive exposure to words I find I eventually take it in. Although there has been many a time in the exam where I’ve found myself picturing the exact layout of a page that I’ve read 10 times but I can’t remember for the life of the words on the page so clearly it’s not fault proof and so as my go to technique the problems I’ve encountered have contributed to the development of my other revision techniques.

2) Music? Nope!

I get very easily distracted. It’s getting worse the older I get and thus I’ve had to find ways to try and stop myself from getting distracted. Normally for many people a small distraction, such as music, is enough to keep them focused on work without them getting bored. This initially worked for me until I realised I spent more time singing the song I was listening to in my head rather than taking in the words I was reading through. My solution? Well I try and trick myself into thinking I’m listening to music… hear me out here before you judge. With headphones in (but not plugged into anything) the sounds around me are dulled out and I feel like I can concentrate more and people think I’m listening to something so don’t bother me. Win, win!

Headphones... not plugged in. You must be crazy! Why bother? It's the placebo effect, it works!

Headphones… not plugged in. You must be crazy! Why bother? It’s the placebo effect, it works!

3) Music? Okay, maybe sometimes.

Well this is brilliant but sometimes I just get too bored of being sat in silence. I need music, but as mentioned music with words distracts me… so it’s obvious right? Music without words. I’m talking Classical music, particularly Ludovici Einaudi which has never failed me before but of late I’ve started listening to 10 hour ‘songs’ of ambient sounds. Just a little bit of noise, with no words, seems to work!

Forest sounds, rain water. Anything natural with no rhythm really helps me focus!

Forest sounds, rain water. Anything natural with no rhythm really helps me focus as silence can bore me!

4) The bombshell

By this stage of revision, music hasn’t propelled me to concentration. I’m reading and the words are still not sinking in. I can literally see them float past my brain laughing at me. So over the years I’ve developed a method of making sure I don’t just skim over words and that I actually process them. Otherwise I’m just wasting my time. This has led to me developing a revision technique I’m scared to carry out in public for people will think I’m crazy.

I am a scribbler.

Yup, these are my 'notes' that got me through my first exam. It went well!

Yup, these are my ‘notes’ that got me through my first exam. It went well! Some previous masterpieces have been just pages with no white remaining!

Essentially I write out what I’m reading super fast. It started when I was low on paper one day and I was trying to write fast but properly. I wanted to save paper and as I knew I wouldn’t read back through these rushed notes decided it wouldn’t matter if I started writing over what I’ve already written and if that’s the case why bother making it legible. It’ll just slow me down. Everyone seems to freak out upon witnessing me blindly scribble over paper, seemingly baffled and assuming I will later go back and try to read what I’ve written and thus it’s a stupid technique. It really isn’t! Whilst slower than just reading on its own, its still a very fast revision method. By writing the first few letters of the word as I say it in my head I assure that I’m actually thinking and not just mindlessly going through the motions of reading.

I’m sure everyone has had the moment when they’ve been reading a book and after a few lines you have to stop and go back because you’ve trailed off and somehow not managed to remember anything you’ve just read. This technique prevents it.

Am I asking you to try it? No I’m not. I just needed to finally admit I’m a scribbler!

Posted in Ollie