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How to Help Students Get the Most from Holiday Revision

How much Easter revision is too much for a secondary school student?

How about seven hours a day?

With the advent of the Easter holidays, revision – and how much each student actually does – has once again become a hot topic. A press release published on the Independent Schools Council website argues the case for seven hours of Easter revision per day for GCSE and A-Level students.

Advice like this will always be polarising. Some have condemned it as a draconian stance, whereas others have praised it as sage advice.

While we may not agree on how much time students should dedicate to their revision, it seems that everyone can agree that students should use the time off to get ahead on their revision and improve their chances at a better grade.

And if you want to supercharge your students’ revision and raise attainment, there’s a tried-and-tested method that you can use to help them.

Visual memory

As humans, we have a strong visual memory. We’re great at recalling pictures, but written words are much more difficult. Humans didn’t evolve contemporaneously with written language; it’s a social construct. As a result, images provide deeper meaning and context for written notes, and are a huge boost to long-term memory.

True, lifelong learning doesn’t happen in a vacuum; it’s not a case of memorising a string of words. You have to learn the meaning behind those words. It may seem mundane, but by drawing pictures on one side of a flashcard and writing on the other side, students will have a much higher chance of retaining that information in their long-term memory.

Testing recall and comprehension

There’s two key tenets of successful revision to bear in mind: recall, and comprehension. Students need to be able to recall subject information at the drop of a hat, and they need to have a good understanding of the subject to be able to answer complex exam questions.

To that end, encourage them to create two types of revision flashcard:

  • Cards with a single word and no context, e.g. “Hypotenuse”. Cards like this test students’ ability to recall vast amounts of subject matter from a single cue. From the cue word Hypotenuse, a student who has revised successfully may be able to recall a number of formulae that they could use to answer the question.
  • Cards that describe the subject or object, or otherwise ask a question, e.g. “How do you find the hypotenuse of a right-angled triangle?”. These cards will challenge students’ comprehension and understanding of the subject. While answering these flashcards may mean glancing back at their notes, through repetition, they are guaranteed to gain a deeper understanding of the question.

Individual recall

If students revise solely from their notes, they will remember what they need to know as a laundry list of items. This can be dangerous in the exam hall.

Personally, I can’t locate a letter in the alphabet without going through the entirety of the Sesame Street alphabet song. It’s how I learned the alphabet, and now, I can’t break free from it. If students are sifting through the entirety of their notes every time they go through a revision cycle, they are essentially doing the same thing, and it will be harder to recall individual elements.

With revision flashcards, students can break down long, unwieldy notes into separate, simplified cards, and still refer back to their detailed notes as and when they need them.

Paper VS digital

There are dozens of peer-reviewed papers that demonstrate how taking notes on paper helps students to retain information better than notes on a screen.

We’ve outlined the advantages of both paper and digital note-taking systems in this article, but the long and short of it is, as useful as modern digital devices are, the human brain works better with paper.

Abstraction

If your students follow the advice above, their revision flashcards will be separate from their notes. To glean any kind of understanding from the cards, students have to have a good understanding of their revision notes. It is this abstraction that forces students to learn the information in its entirety.

This only works if they keep their revision flashcards brief, rather than rewriting all of their notes into individual text-crammed cards; they are prompts, not notes.

Still looking for more?

If you’re still looking for more revision card tips to pass on to your students, here’s our student guide to using revision flashcards.

Interested in revision flashcards for your school? We can create cards to match your school’s branding, and include any subject-specific reference materials you think students will need. Click here to find out more.

We also stock pre-made revision card booklets on Amazon.