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Preparation and practice are essential for success in your exam. There is no single best way to revise for an exam but you do need to adopt an organised approach. For example, timetable the work according to how much time you have and find out about the format of the exam. This section will help you figure out how to approach your revision.

Everyone revises differently and the techniques you use depend partly on what it is you are studying. However, the same principles apply to all subject areas. Rather than simply throwing yourself in and rereading your materials, try to adopt a strategic approach to your revision. The main principles are as follows.

  • Know what to expect - look at the exam format so you know many questions you have to answer and whether any of them are compulsory. Check the specimen exam paper.
  • Check for gaps in your knowledge - Review your own knowledge and understanding. Decide which topics you might need to revise intensively and which you need to review only briefly.
  • Create a timetable - Look at how much time you have available and create a timetable. Plan ahead to fit your revision around your work and domestic life.

Then do the work! Remember, it's less stressful to actually do some revision than it is to think about doing it.

When to start revising

It is best to start revision early and keep revising as you study, by doing little but often. However, even if you have left it a bit late, you can make the most of the time you have by adopting the strategic approach described here.

Listen to Roger, an OU student, as he shares his thoughts about how to prepare for an exam. Bear in mind that 'it's never too late to start but, equally, it's never too early'!

Revising during your studies

Revising as you study can make it easier to learn subsequent topics. Towards the end of a module you'll find that reviewing the material begins to bring everything together.

Some students collect material for their assignments while they study, which can be an effective time-management strategy. However, working through the material and then re-reading it for an assignment is very effective revision.


You tend to remember best the information received at the beginning and end of a learning session. So when you revise, it is a good idea to

  • take regular breaks
  • quickly review the key points of what you have been studying each time you take a break
  • review them again one hour, one day and two days later. Reviewing in this way is a very effective method of reinforcing memory.

Reviewing in this way is a very effective method of reinforcing memory.

This graph shows the effect on our memories of regularly reviewing what we have studied. Although we generally retain around 65 per cent of what we read, this memory will fade away quickly unless we review it again soon afterwards. If you review something soon afterwards (say around 10 mins later), then review it a day later, then a week later, then after one month, you will find that each review strengthens your memory of that information further and further.

Revision checklist

Creating a revision checklist can help ensure you're ready. During the last few days before the exam it'll be useful to check anything that you haven't completed or are unsure of. Consider using this checklist.

  • I have worked through the specimen exam paper.
  • I have obtained past exam papers, if available.
  • I have attended a revision session, or checked with my tutor about the key topics and issues to bear in mind when revising.
  • I have worked through a past exam paper, or specimen, for this module.
  • I know what topics are likely and unlikely to appear in the various parts of the exam paper.
  • I have decided which topics I will revise for the exam.
  • I have prepared a revision timetable.
  • I have sorted out the notes and course materials I am going to use for revision.
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