There’s a few simple techniques you can use with your flashcards to trick your brain into retaining information.
Draw a picture on the blank side of each card. The human brain is excellent at recalling pictures, but can struggle with recalling words; pairing the two helps.
Make clever use of colour:
- Studies have found that you’re more likely to remember notes that are written in blue, rather than black ink.
- Underline important topics in bright colours.
- Highlight key phrases.
- Split different subjects or topics between the different colours of revision card.
- Draw in coloured ink or pencil on the unlined side!
Create multiple, different flashcards for difficult-to-remember topics. You will be far more likely to remember things if you create two types of card for each topic:
- Cards with a single word and no context, e.g. “Dog”. This will test your recall.
- Cards that describe the subject or object, e.g. “What wags its tail and chases cats?”. This will test your comprehension.
Separate them out
Don’t revise groups of words as a shopping list of items. Separate them out and learn them individually, or you will find you have to repeat each word in the group when you want to recall them.
Always keep your cards with you – you never know when you can squeeze in some revision! Because they’re coil bound, they’ll stay together in your pocket or bag, and the polyethylene covers and plastic binding are super tough.
Keep your cards short and simple. There’s no need to over-complicate your sentences – these are revision cards, not notes. If you find you can’t remember the topic and need more information, write separate study notes and refer to them as and when needed.
They don’t work for everyone, but for some people, mnemonics are a great way to memorise facts. The first letter of each word you need to remember can be used to create a phrase; for example, “Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain” helps you to remember the colours of the rainbow in order (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet).
Bonus: Overall revision tips:
You might find it helpful to associate sounds or images with the topic you are revising. An easy way to do this is to draw something simple and colourful on the reverse of each flashcard.
Some people also find it especially helpful to listen to the same album on repeat while studying – your brain will associate the music with the subject you’re studying, so you can recall those facts by remembering the songs. However, for some people, music can be really distracting.
Create a revision timetable
It might sound boring, but it will help you to get the most out of the time you have.
Research shows that 20-30 minute intervals for revision are best for concentration, with frequent short breaks to help give your mind a rest.
Physical activity increases your heart rate, making blood circulate faster. This helps the brain to get more oxygen, which in turn increases productivity and reduces tiredness and stress. If you’re not feeling up to anything strenuous, a brisk 15-minute walk is particularly effective – just remember to bring your revision cards with you!
Find a quiet space
It may seem obvious, but you need to find a quiet place that has minimal distractions. Consider leaving your phone with a friend or parent so you won’t be tempted, and try taking a trip to the library or a local park so there’s nothing around to distract yourself with.
Research shows that the earlier in the day you start working on something, the more likely you are to finish it. There are more distractions in the evenings, and you may feel more tired. Create a routine that works for you, and stick to it!
Use Past Papers
Past papers will help you to practice and learn exam technique. This will save you precious time in the exam hall. In particular, pay attention to how the starting word of a question can completely change the way you have to answer it (e.g. assess, describe, discuss, etc.)