Top 10 revision tips for teachers and pupils

Thanks to Charlie Anderson, Deputy Headteacher at The John Henry Newman School

I have recently been on what I call my ‘revision roadshow’ around our school, doing a short presentation to key year groups giving them proven revision techniques, tips and methods that will hopefully prepare them in the best possible way for their upcoming exams.  None of these ideas are new but if they are incorporated in to a pupil’s revision early enough that they become habit, it should have an impact on their performance.  Some of the tips can be supported by teachers, others are down to parents/guardians and the pupils themselves.

1. Come equipped – If a plumber turns up to mend my radiator without a spanner, I know they are not going to do a good job! The same applies to revision!  Pupils should be given a list of the essential revision equipment.  Basics are – stationary, calculator, flash cards, highlighters, post-it notes, pad of paper, revision guides, past papers, water bottle, fruit and any other items you deem necessary.  Teachers should provide this list to pupils and make sure the items are available from the school shop.

2. Have a space to revise – Most people work best if they know they are in their working environment – we don’t go to the cinema to revise. Use the kitchen table or study, ensure all your equipment is here and when you sit there it is your place of work.

3. Flight mode – For the periods you are revising turn your phone to flight mode! It may seem hard at first but once you have done it 3 or 4 times it will become normal and soon become a habit.  You will also soon realise you are not missing out on much!

4. Nothing is achieved without a plan – Things rarely happen by chance, there has to be a plan in place to ensure it happens and the same is true of revision. Provide pupils with a blank revision guide, prefill their exams, encourage them to do a copy for their study area and a copy for their parent/guardian to put on display.  Tick it off as you go along so you can see the time you have put in and hopefully see it coming to fruition.  Exam Pal is a great app for this.

5. Know what you need to know – Ensure pupils have links to all the specifications of the examinations they are taking. We send these home at the start of year 11 and again close to the exams.  Some pupils find these really useful as a checklist to see exactly what it is they should know for the upcoming exams.

6. Practice, practice, practice – Provide pupils with the links, even better paper copies, of past or practice papers. Encourage pupils to get in to a routine of completing the paper in timed, exam conditions.  Marking it or getting someone to mark it.  Highlighting areas or topics that need revising.  Spend the following session revising these areas or ask your MyTutor tutor to go over it. Do-Mark-Identify-Revise.


one-to-one tuition7. Flash cards – Most pupils I teach and present to, ask me what my preferred method of revision was and I always say flash cards. You can buy pre-filled cards (Corbett Maths cards are superb) or make your own and they can be used in conjunction with past papers and revision questions.  Once you have identified an area that needs more work use the cards to memorise and learn the specific area.  There is also a great app for flash cards – Brainscape.

8. Spaced learning – Don’t do 3 hours long stretches of revision, it just doesn’t stay in your head! Break it down in to 30 minute chunks, have a break and then go again.  Use the breaks in between to catch up on your phone, have a snack or go for a stretch.  Great advice here on the pomodoro technique.

9. Interleaving – Mix up the topics and subjects you do on your revision timetable, spending a long time on one thing often gives us the impression we have mastered it but upon returning to it, we have forgotten it. Interleaving means returning to topics and subjects more often, increasing the chances of it ‘sticking’.

10. Team work – Revision doesn’t have to be a solo pursuit! It is a great idea to break up study days by visiting a friend’s house and a group of you working together, testing each other, using each other resources and marking each other’s work.

And finally ‘do the hard work!’ – revision shouldn’t be easy.  Don’t just re-read and highlight revision guides and specifications.  To remember and progress you need to be pushing yourself and putting in the hard graft!  Imagine training for a marathon, it takes long hours pushing yourself to the limit, this should be the same as preparation for your examinations!  Good luck!

About the author

Charlie Anderson (middle) has been teaching for 20 years and is currently Deputy Headteacher and teacher of Physics at The John Henry Newman Catholic School.  His current remit is leadership and management, pupil premium champion and school accountability.  He has also recently completed an MEd in ‘Leading Teaching and Learning’.

Charlie Anderson

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