Reflections of a current undergraduate student
In this blog, Adam will be talking about his experience of revising at university and his methods of learning effectively.
“In my previous two blog posts, I have outlined the different styles of learning that students adopt and how The University of Manchester, with its investment into buildings such as The Alan Gilbert Learning Commons and the Main Library, has ensured that students can learn effectively, regardless of whether they prefer to learn independently or in groups. To fit in with this week’s theme of reflection, I will be sharing information on learning strategies that I have found to be the most useful over the past few years.
One of the most important elements of successful learning is being able to identify what the main outcome of each session is before you begin. Are you looking to finish off an extended piece of writing, finish off tutorial worksheets, or consolidate your previously acquired knowledge? By setting clear, achievable objectives before you start each session, you can ensure that you are hitting all of your initial aims whilst you are working, reducing your chances of going off track. Keeping a simple checklist of the tasks that you need to complete can help to maintain this focus, and can be referred to in order to measure how much productive your revision session is. If you are not getting enough work done or find that you are being distracted in your current workplace, moving to different areas to study, such as your local library, coffee shop or bedroom, may help.
My own learning style has changed over the past few years. Throughout school and sixth form, I had always preferred to study in small groups. I found the process of creating mind-maps and spider diagrams with my friends on key topics, such as the important themes of the novels and poems that we were studying for my English Literature exam, hugely beneficial for my revision. I often had many pages of notes from my classroom discussions that were difficult to process and understand clearly. By turning my ideas into easy-to-read visual diagrams, I restructured my work into accessible single page reference sheets that I could carry around with me and read over whenever I had five or ten minutes free. I also found that using mind maps would help me to find new connections and relationships between ideas, helping me to create and structure interesting arguments in a comprehensible and coherent style.
If you are prone to revision procrastination (like I am!), make sure that you plan time for frequent breaks. If you expect a task to take two hours, give yourself two and a half. By doing this, you will definitely be able to get all of your work finished in one sitting. When I was studying for my A-levels, I always tried to cram as much work into a revision session as possible, disregarding the importance of taking regular breaks from my work. At university, I tend to be more relaxed in my approach to revision, allowing myself opportunities to take food breaks, have a read, or take a quick walk to the shops for something different to do, giving my brain a chance to relax before I return to my studies.
One way of ensuring that you do not overdo yourself is through the creation of an exam revision timetable. To keep revision fresh, I used to revise a couple of closely related subjects within the same day, such as English Literature and Language, or ICT and Mathematics. This strategy would allow me to revise similar topics without getting too bored of reading through the same material. I would also set aside regular half an hour gaps away from revision and specific objectives that I aimed to reach before I started working, so I knew exactly when I needed to work until and what I needed to accomplish before a certain time.
Most of all, don’t over revise! Although it sounds counter-intuitive, it is better to revise for less time when you are wide awake and ready to work rather than throughout the whole night before an exam. Always prioritize sleep over last minute, rushed revision; if you don’t know the facts the night before, it’s too late for you to learn them!
For more information about revision strategies, check out The University of Manchester podcasts. The recordings feature a number of guest speakers from across the institution who discuss concepts such as learning styles, how to make the most of university open days, and how to ensure that the A-level subjects that you choose to study will complement your desired career choice.”