Revision can be a mind-numbing and gruelling task especially when time is of the essence and you have no time to spend reading articles and blogs (unlike this one obviously) that waffle about the usual revision techniques that you’ve heard a thousand times at school assemblies and once more from your mother.
Those techniques are all well and good but when it comes down to learning an entire module worth of information in a few days’ time, reading the 200-page textbook isn’t exactly your best option.
So, what is the best way on how to learn fast for exams?
how to learn fast for exams
Time is of the essence so let’s skip the waffle and jump straight in.
The best way to revise significant amounts of content in a short period of time and be able to recall it, HANDS DOWN, is using what I like to call brain engagement.
The best way to do this is through questions, drawings, and talking
Questions, in my opinion, are by far the best way to boost brain engagement.
By now you are probably thinking “how obvious josh, why did you even bother writing this”, but bear with me.
You might think that questions are only important if you know the content, but you’re WRONG.
Questions can be utilized regardless of understanding the topic or knowing anything about it.
They are the building ground to learning your content. How you use questions, however, is different depending on what you are revising from.
If you are revising from a book, there is most likely a questions section at the end of the chapter.
questions first, chapter second
Instead of reading the chapter, flip right to the question section and have a look at all the questions. Now, try and answer each question using your existing knowledge of the topic.
What this will do is create a link in your brain to what you don’t know already into very tangible and discrete pieces of information.
After that humbling exercise that has given you a rude awakening into everything you don’t know in that chapter, flip to the beginning of the chapter, ignoring all the introductory material and skim read the chapter until you find an answer to one of your questions.
Do this until you find an answer to most of them one by one.
Writes questions as you go
Make a note of the question and the answer in a word document; this isn’t necessary but helps when you come to review the topic right before the exam if you chose to do so.
What you will find happen is you will start to pick up the answer to the questions, provided they are recall-based and you have made a conscious effort to commit the answer to memory either by verbally speaking your answer or by writing it down one or two times.
These written answers can serve as your revisions notes right before the exam.
Revising from slides
If you are revising from slides your best option is usually to export your slides into a word document so you can read it a lot faster.
You can do this by creating handouts. Alternatively, I am working on code that will do the job better than PowerPoint handouts do.
the code simply exports PowerPoint slides information into a word document which turns a 60-slide document into 10 pages.
If you are interested in getting the code and instructions on how to use, write me in the comments section.
This can also be achieved by manual copy pasting if you choose to do so.
Revising from slides – cont.
Anyways back to not failing the year, if you are revising from slides you now have a much more compressed document in Microsoft word format.
All you need to do is get a fresh word document and split screen it with the PowerPoint word document.
Now go through and write quick questions on anything you see in the PowerPoint word document. This will act as your question bank.
For example, if there is a paragraph saying “during the creation of mature miRNA, pre-miRNA must be cleaved by a series of proteins of which DICER and DROSHA are amongst” the first obvious questions you can write about is what proteins are involved in the generation of mature miRNA?
Then simply copy-paste the answer beneath the question.
Do this and be as detailed as possible.
This should take 1 day. The second day should be spent going through those question and answering them (without looking at the answers first).
Seems like an obvious revision strategy but the number of people who believe that simply reading “during the creation of mature miRNA, pre-miRNA must be cleaved by a series of proteins of which DICER and DROSHA are amongst” will be enough for them to know how mature mi-RNA is generated is criminal.
Create good resources
Generate a resource, and engage the brain, ITS REALLY THAT SIMPLY! The resource is the most important as it prevents you from looking at 60-page slides for revision and allows you to get straight to the questions and answers.
Don’t overwhelm yourself right before the exam.
It is usually advised not to revise right before an exam but in your case, it is probably necessary to re-jog your memory.
Try not to panic over too much content as this is a sure-fire way of forgetting everything you worked so hard to learn over the past couple of days.
Best way to handle information overload and panic is to be ruthless in deciding what you will pick to make sure you remember.
Be balanced, it is usually better to have a wide breadth of knowledge than to have incredible depth in one topic.
You probably won’t be able to go over your entire module right before the exam so just quickly glance through the notes you made earlier as you remind yourself of the potential answers to the questions.
Focus on the stuff that you think will come up but don’t neglect the other too much – remember, think breadth not depth in this case. Ideally, both would be nice but that’s not possible right now.
summary of how to learn fast for exams
In summary, you must get your brain engaged when trying to learn information before an exam in a short period of time.
Simply reading through slides and books is the most useless form of revision, so useless you might as well be watching X-factor.
Always remain calm as panic usually leads to giving up which will make you worse off than if you put in at least some effort.
If you realize you can’t learn your entire course content, learn what you can and hope for the best, that is markedly better than giving up.
This is the best way on how to learn fast for exams.