How does revision work?

Revision in simple terms is all about revisiting information that you already know. Everyone has their own techniques for revising, but psychologists agree that memory works using the following model

Everyday you are bombarded with new information which, unless we think about it, is usually lost. While the information may get into the short term memory of the brain, the link to where it is stored is lost which causes you to forget (the information link is lost) unless you revisit it on a regular basis. The more you revisit a piece of information the more likely you are to remember it (as you remember where the link is).

Think about how your favourite memory, whether it is your best day out, your favourite meal or your best birthday. As you enjoyed the activity that made your memory it transferred from your short term memory to your long term memory. You lost the links to the information that seemed unimportant which is why you remember the main parts of the event but may have forgotten some of the smaller details.


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A model of how psychologists think memory works.

The reason you can remember the main parts so clearly is because you have thought back to them many times. You may have been back to the place where the memory happened, talked to others about the memory, looked at photos and so on. Every time you did one of these activities you have revisited the same bits of information about the memory and helped strengthen the links to its place in your long term memory so that you can access the information when you needed to. This same principle has to be used when revising.

Smart revision therefore is all about finding ways of revisiting information lots of times before your exams so that you know where the links are and can recall it when you need to.

The big picture   What the evidence says