Students tend to do poorly in revision for one of two reasons:
1. Not enough time spent in purposeful activity (i.e. getting started and keeping going)
2. The time that is spent was used inefficiently (i.e. doing the most efficient activities)
Fortunately... psychology can help. Studies of learning, motivation, attention, concentration and many others have given us a detailed understanding of which techniques work, and which ones don't, and you can use their wisdom to improve your own revision time
In the 1920s, Bluma Zeigarnik was a psychology student in Lithuania when she noticed that waiters who were able to remember long and complex orders would forget them as soon as their deliveries were completed. She began to investigate what became known as the Zeigarnik effect, which has two main observations. Firstly, that incompleted tasks cause us anxiety and stick in our minds and secondly, that we are less easily distracted once a job is underway than before it has started.
The lessons here for your revision are clear:
1. Finishing stuff feels good and not getting stuff done feels bad! Procrastination causes anxiety, and anxiety is not fun.
2. JUST GET STARTED! Even if you are only writing the titles or organising your notes. However small the task, the fact is that if you've started, you're more likely to continue. Half an hour, or even ten minutes at a time to start making your notes may be all the time you have on some days before study leave... that doesn't matter - just do what you can. JUST START!
Once you've used the Zeigarnik effect to help you get started with revision tasks, it's important that you're doing the right things in that time. Here, Psychology has a huge amount to say, and a wealth of useful experimental results to make you learn more efficiently. These are summarised in more detail on the 'Revision Tips and Tricks' page of the site, but the most important ideas are:
- Test yourself! Self testing is a hugely powerful tool in learning.
- Do the same tasks as you have to do in the exam. Mindmaps etc can be great, but they won't be in your Psychology exam. In psychological terms... you need to make your preparation ecologically valid! Do a learning activity (mindmap, infographic etc), then do an exam question on that topic.
- Follow the three golden rules of practice. Practice should be distributed (spaced out over time... so NO CRAMMING!), varied (using a vairety of activities and tasks) and interleaved (mixing subjects and topics regularly - so don't try to have whole days on one subject. You'll remember it better if you switch)
If you arrive at the exam fit, healthy, rested and having revised efficiently, then there'll be no stopping you. Good luck and do yourself proud!