Monday, 30 November 2015

Revising For Exams

It is clear that revision is something that students need to partake in to be able to be successful at exams.  However, how many students actually know how to revise?  What is revision and how does it work?  How long does revision take and can I do it at the last minute?

Revision is the act of putting something to memory that you have recently discovered.  For instance, I could give you a fascinating fact right now about the 'Pianoforte' being an Italian word meaning 'Softloud' in english.  However, it would likely be you would forget this within the week.  Revision is the act of putting this into at least your medium but preferably your long term memory.

Your brain needs repetition to succeed in learning something.  Sadly, it is human nature to not like repetition, especially amongst children.  It becomes 'boring' and we can run away from the task at hand.

Making revision a fun, bite size and manageable task is the key to success.  Do not start revision too late.  Make a plan and stick to it.  A little and often is key to getting those new facts into your memory so they are there to recall in your exam.

Revision should start a few months before an exam.  Map out on a chart what you plan to learn.  Got 100 Italian terms to learn?  Learn 10 a week for 10 weeks and the job is done.  Try to cram all 100 the week before the exam and you will be overloaded and ultimately fail.

Don't just stare at your revision and read it.  The key is to have active learning as part of the revision process.  Teachers are trained to have different activities in lessons as we all learn in different ways.  It is also designed to keep the topic interesting but with the key repetition needed to learn built into your course.  I hate to say it, but it is also why homework is so important.  It allows you time to reflect on what you learnt in lesson and see if you can recall the information to complete a task at a later stage.

So, what should I do?  Make a poster.  Put it on your wall.  This way you can see it and every day you will start to picture your facts or diagram.  If you go wrong in the exam there is a chance you would question yourself if it looked different to the poster on the wall.  Use colours.  Don't write too much.  It is ideal for key signatures where you need to learn the layout of the sharps and flats in a visual way.

Play games with friends.  Music snap, music dominoes, online games and music apps are all ideal ways of engaging with the topic you are trying to learn.  We use these in lessons for good reason and this is to allow music theory to sink in but in a fun and relaxing way.  Reading music does not happen over night.

Try flashcards for hard words that you need to learn.  Write the word on one side and the meaning on the other.  Time how long it takes you to turn over your cards and give yourself a 10 second penalty if you get one wrong.  Keep trying to beat your time.  Have a family member time you.  Make it competitive.  Do it frequently to get those terms into your longer term memory!

Scales can be tackled in the same way.  Have a known pile for your scales and a not known pile.  Your aim is to tackle a pare of scales at a time then add to the known pile.  Mix them in without looking at the notes.  If you make any mistakes, place the scale back in the not known pile.  Be honest and make sure only scales you know are in the known pile.  Again, don't tart this process too late.  Ideally if you have a higher grade exam you would start this 6-9 months before the exam by taking one scale a week. So much easier than last minute cramming.

Revision is a skill.  We aim to support you with this at Primavolta and this is a skill that you will take with you into other aspects of your life.