How To Help Teens Revise Effectively

In the last semester of the year, I speak to thousands of Year 11 and 12 students in Australia about effective revision technique. Here is some of the material I present.

Students should start revising for five minutes every day from now on. This might happen at the start of homework or study time, during the ‘ads’ on TV or while waiting at the bus stop. Spending five minutes per day going over something learnt last week will save hours of revision time overall because when tests and exams arrive most of the information will already be familiar. I also suggest to students the following key points:

When you revise, you need to WAKE YOUR BRAIN UP. No more limply reading over notes so that you can’t remember what you read at the end of the page. Revision should take a fair bit of mental effort. If you are zoning out while you revise, it’s not working. Here are some ways to revise effectively:

  • Make the information you revise visual where possible.Use diagrams, colour, make things big, make models, pictures, put information on posters, use visual stories. 
  • Make the information you revise connected to other information you already know. Organise information into groups or categories, find out how information is related to other school subjects, find out how it is related to what you learnt previously. Make information connected to things in real life, connect information to words you know about. 
  • Make the information you revise provoke emotion. Use humour, make up jokes about your work, connect concepts to sexy things, shocking things, scary things. Make up a song about ideas. Imagine the emotional impact of concepts. 
  • Constantly test yourself as you revise. Make up cards or revision books that simply consist of sample questions/answers and use spare minutes in the day to test yourself.
  • Don’t just read over or write out notes. If you are reading over notes; READ ACTIVELY - read, cover, speak the info out loud from memory, check if you were right. If you are writing out notes; WRITE ACTIVELY - write, cover, speak the info out loud from memory, check.

Parents can be a huge help to revising students. A couple of suggestions for parents are:
Spend time interviewing the student about what they are learning. 

One of the best methods to cement material in our minds is to actually teach somebody else. If your teenager is willing, ask them to spend some time teaching you about what they need to know for their exam. Start by asking lots of questions about the subject matter. Have a text book on the subject open in front of you and ask about what words and concepts mean. Let your own curiosity direct questions. Try to be genuinely interested in what they are doing. 
Also be careful that this is not a “grilling” for the student. This exercise needs to be something that helps them rather than increases their stress. Be wary - if you find yourself getting frustrated, then cease the exercise!
Another similar method is to get the student themselves to come up with a list of written questions and answers, and then “test” them by asking them these questions.  
This doesn’t have to be done all in one sitting. For example, you could create a routine during the week before exams, to do this exercise ten minutes every morning over breakfast or after lunch. If you are really lucky – you could ask the questions and they can answer while they clear the table after tea!   You could make this more fun by using rewards (20 cents or an M&M) for each correct answer!
This method of revision is far more useful than simply reading over or writing out notes. Asking and answering questions ensures that the student is actively learning. They will radically improve their recall rate by using this method of revision.

For more information about how to help teens motivate themselves, manage stress and get better results at school, go to Products.

For counselling help for teens, click here on Counselling