Improve your revision technique to shine in your exams!

Exam season is in full swing. Late nights, frantic cramming, and endless coffees… but how to get through it without going crazy? Read on to find out about some study techniques to help you handle the exam season with grace and calm. Let's take a look at two methods that will make your study time more effective.

Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique is a method to help you plan and focus. Through improving your efficiency, you’ll be able to master the material on time, and without stress. Like other methods, the Pomodoro Technique may not be for everyone. However, it is definitely worth a try.

What is it?

The Pomodoro Technique uses 25-minute blocks of time separated by short breaks. Its main goal is to reduce the influence of internal and external elements that distract you while you learn. By alternating work with breaks, you achieve better concentration, are more immersed in your work, moving efficiently towards the completion of the task at hand. And it's all because you have a time limit.

We call each section a pomodoro (the Italian word for tomato) due to the fact that the inventor of this method, Francesco Cirillo, used a kitchen timer in the shape of a tomato when he was in college. As a student, he had difficulty concentrating and often experimented with ways to improve his productivity. Initially, he tried working for 10-minute periods with breaks, but came to the conclusion that 25-minute periods were the most effective in terms of productivity, enabling him to work at his best, and minimising his tendency to get distracted.

How to get started

The first important thing is to identify the task you want to accomplish. For example, “I want to learn three pages of material”. The next step is to detach yourself from distractions: turn off your phone, the TV, and other electronic devices, so that you can give your full attention to the activity.

Set a timer. According to experiments, the traditional 25 minutes works best for most people, but if you are new to the technique, you might find it easier to begin with shorter intervals.

Until the time is up, focus on your designated task. If you get distracted by a thought unrelated to the material, write it down on a piece of paper next to you and get back to learning. After the timer rings, make a mark on your note paper to record that you’ve finished one pomodoro cycle.

If there are side tasks or ideas that you noted down during the pomodoro that you can complete during the 5 minute break, then do them, but try not to exceed the given five minutes, as this will break the flow of the technique.

After the break, dive back into your work for another 25 minutes. After four cycles, it's time for a longer, more restorative rest, lasting 15-20 minutes.Then you can begin again.

Tips and tricks

The inventor himself worked with a kitchen timer. Nowadays, there are lots of apps and websites where you can set the length of time and the countdown according to your own specifications.

Websites that have been created for the purpose of pomodoro technology:

Active recall method

Like the previous technique, the active recall method can make learning more effective. Are you tired of reading and re-reading your notes? Then give active recall a try — it may help you remember a little more.

What is it?

Simply put, it is self-testing. The principle is that through actively retrieving information from your brain, you’ll take in far more than by passively reading it — hence ‘active recall’. As a result, you remember information better and it becomes anchored in your long-term memory.

How to do it?

The first and most important thing is to assemble your learning materials, whether scripts, notes or textbooks. Next, you need questions: go through all of your materials and make up questions that cover everything you need to memorise. Write the questions down, and keep them handy.

Next, read through a section of your materials — we'll leave the length up to you. Then, put your notes aside and try to answer the questions relating to that section of the material. It's okay if you can't answer them all the first time. 

Finally, check the answers against your materials. What did you miss? What couldn't you remember at all? What did you get wrong? And what did you get right? Make a note of your results, and use them to direct your focus next time you sit down to revise. 

So, if you’re struggling with your revision, try out these techniques, and let us know how they went for you. Good luck in your exams!