Revision Myths Debunked: Part One

Learning Tips

Many students are now in the thick of exam season – and the more time they’ve spent at their desk, the better they will do, right? Wrong. In this Mentor blog, we’ll debunk some of the most prevalent – and unhelpful – revision myths.

‘An examiner’s goal is to catch you out’

One of the oldest and most off-putting revision myths. When you’ve been studying for what seems like weeks, you have past papers coming out of your ears and your palms get sweaty as soon as you hear the word ‘exam’, the thought of the examiner that looms behind the dreaded paper probably isn’t a comforting one. But honestly, trust us: an examiner is not trying to trip you up. Believe it or not, they want you to do well.

For a start, exam boards spend a great deal of time devising and testing papers: the questions aren’t set on one evil overlord’s whim. It’s a collaborative effort, in fact; a variety of different people – including teachers – work on the paper, before it’s looked over, revised and approved by experts in that particular discipline.

When the time comes for your paper to be marked, it will be assessed by a qualified examiner (again, usually a teacher), who has been trained to review your answers against certain criteria. Rather than aiming to strip away marks, examiners are in fact looking for reasons to reward you for a correct calculation or a sound argument. And, don’t forget, one person’s opinion is not the be-all and end-all: examiners themselves are assessed, either through a system of sample marking checks (when a senior examiner reviews samples of an examiner’s work) or through re-checks, if a student feels that their paper has been graded unfairly.

‘The more time you spend studying at your desk, the better your marks will be’

One of those revision myths that doesn’t seem so far-fetched: at first, this statement seems to make sense, but the truth is more complex. The more time you can spend usefully learning – as in, actually taking in information – the better your chances of academic success; but learning needs to be conducted in manageable chunks. Simply chaining yourself to your desk with your notes in front of you isn’t the best strategy. Instead, draw up a sensible plan that incorporates periods of proper concentration interspersed with other, less taxing activities, and regular breaks.

In fact, why not forget the traditional pen-pencil-desk routine, at least for part of the day? Studies have shown that a change of scenery can help increase learning potential; that if you vary your learning environments during the day, your ability to retain knowledge will improve. Physical activity is good for boosting cognitive function, too. So don’t be afraid to mix it up: go for a jog whilst listening to an educational podcast; watch the film version of your set texts; or move out into the garden whilst studying and take in some fresh air.

‘Timetables are a waste of time; I’ll just knuckle down when the time comes.’

Revision and forward-planning often go hand-in-hand; but if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t like to be tied down to a schedule, you may find the idea of setting a timetable rather daunting. Relying on your own ability to ‘knuckle down’ when exams are looming can be dangerous, though; and you also run the risk of running out of time (or skipping over some important revision topics). If a detailed schedule seems daunting, break it down into manageable chunks – what you’d like to cover in a day or even over the course of the week. Setting yourself achievable goals – however basic – will help you stay on track.

So there you have it: have faith in the exam process, give your examiner reasons to reward you, switch up your revision patterns and keep things interesting (and physical, if possible), and set yourself a basic schedule, and you’ll be on track for scholastic success.

This blog is part of a series, so stay tuned for some more of our favourite revision myths – we won’t even mention the one about the person who did no revision and still got four A* grades at A Level. Yeah, right…

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