What the evidence says

There has been a lot of research on different revision techniques to try to find which are the most effective. Some research has known to involve thousands of students of different ages and therefore can be thought of as being reliable giving us a clear picture of what works and what doesn’t.
The research suggests that all revision is effective in some way compared to not revising for exams, but there are some types of revision which are more effective than others. Researchers have ranked these different types of revision into highly effective, moderately effective and low effectiveness.


Highly effective – Questioning

All questions no matter how ‘low level’ are an effective way of revising. It is thought that in answering a question a student puts more detail into the answer than just reading, making flash cards, mind maps or discussing what they are revising. Examples of questioning can include asking friends questions when you are revising with others, completing questions out of revision books, watching videos and writing questions or completing exam questions.

Highly effective – Revisiting

We’ve already looked at how your brain learns new facts. The important part is revisiting information. Therefore, when revising, don’t revise a whole topic in one go and then leave it – make sure you plan time to revisit in the time after you have revised it – this should be on the following days and week.

Revision plan
Elaborative Investigation

Moderately Effective – Elaborative interrogation

This technique involves creating explanations on why stated facts are true. This way you are asking ‘why’ questions to yourself rather than just focussing on knowing facts. This method leads to a deeper understanding of the topic. You could use this technique by asking yourself questions about topics and then writing an explanation – eg Why do we get a fever when we are ill? Why do salts dissolve in water? You can create a long in-depth answer to these testing your understanding.

Moderately Effective – Self explanation

This technique involves recording how to solve problems – this could be a written account or it could be a recorded video or audio track. The idea of the revision is that you create a step by step method showing how to use a procedure which you can then watch back as part of your revision. By recording yourself you are more likely to remember how to complete the procedure. This could be used in solving some of the maths questions, the rules for drawing Punnett squares in genetics or interpreting common diagrams that come up again and again such as the blood flow around the heart.

Aelf Explanation

Low Effectiveness

Highlighting and underlining – This technique has shown to have little effect in preparing students for exams.
Rereading your notes – This technique has also shown to have little effect in preparing students for exams.
Reading notes and writing summaries – This technique is slightly more effective than Highlighting and Rereading but is not as effective as the other techniques mentioned.

How does revision work?   Suggestions for revision