Revising for an exam is something that no one looks forward to, especially if it is one where your future rests upon getting a good result. The pressure can, at times, be overwhelming, and students around the world have different revision techniques, but in reality, it is what works best for you. Some people prefer to study alone whereas others prefer to learn with their peers in groups, with some preferring cramming the night before an exam while others prefer revising in chunks.
British International Schools often advise students to devise a timetable for their learning and encourage them not to cram. You should decide how much time you will spend on each topic, allowing more time if you needed to read around the subject to gain a better understanding. Being organised is one of the critical factors in successful revision, but even the brightest students have limits on how much information they can digest in one sitting.
How much time should I devote to a topic?
Most academics believe that you should spend two hours studying for each hour of class time. Of course, this is just a general rule of thumb as you will inevitably find some topics easier than others. However, it is a benchmark to base your timetable on, but naturally, you will need to be flexible as gaining a complete understanding of the topic is more important than time. Some units will be more intense than others, in which case is it possible to break them down further to try and make learning simpler? Where possible, always structure your learning.
How long should I study for at a time?
There is no empirical evidence that says how long individuals should study for in one sitting, but the consensus is that it should be between one and two hours. Ideally, you will stop at a convenient place, such as the end of a chapter or topic, but if you feel like you are no longer absorbing the information, you should take a break as your revision serves no real purpose. Conversely, if you still feel sharp and alert, you may decide to carry on for another 30 minutes, but we suggest that studying for three hours in one session is too long.
The Pomodoro Technique is something that experts frequently advocate. It involves taking 5-10 minute breaks every half an hour. After you have had four “Pomodoros”, you can allow yourself to have a longer, 15-25 minute break. However, other experts believe that these breaks are too frequent and disrupt the follow of learning. The easiest solution is, if it works for you, then use the technique; if it doesn’t, don’t!
Breaks are vital; going for a short walk, doing some light exercise or taking a power nap are all excellent ways of refreshing your brain. Some people may prefer to look at social media or read a book; the most critical factor is relaxing. Breaks, other than breaks for food such as lunchtime, should be no longer than 25 minutes. If you stop for longer, you will likely lose your discipline and put off your revision until another time. Retaining your focus is essential as you will have plenty of time to relax once your exams are over.
How long should I study per day?
Everyone has different attention spans, and several factors need to be taken into account, such as the amount of sleep you have had and your stress levels. However, it is accepted that studying for around six hours a day with breaks is reasonable and will lead to more information being retained. Of course, some people will do far more than this, although it is always crucial to avoid tiredness when you are less likely to take in all the information.
Some students will start studying early in the morning, while others prefer to work in the evenings and nighttime. It doesn’t matter what time you study, so long as you put the hours in!
Is it best to study alone or as part of a group?
For most students, the majority of their studies will be done alone and at their own pace. It is undoubtedly a significant part of revising as everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses, but studying as part of a group or with a friend can help. Not only will it break up the monotony of studying alone, but you will also be able to help each other understand topics that you may be struggling with. If you are studying as part of a group, you will probably be able to study for longer during a session as it will probably be less intense.
What can help me to study for longer?
Getting enough sleep will have a massive influence on how long you can study. No one functions at the best when they are tired, which is one reason why we always advise against cramming on the night before an exam. Choosing a time that suit you will also help; some people prefer to work in two stints with a large break in the middle of the day, while others prefer to get things out of the way. Working in a manner that makes you feel comfortable will enable you to study for longer.
You could consider other things, such as drinking coffee, as this is a stimulant, but it should be avoided in the hours before you go to bed. Some people believe that chewing gum helps concentration, although there is little evidence to support this. It would be best to avoid distractions when you are working, so avoiding social media or taking snacks to your study area is advisable for some.
In reality, there is no optimal amount of time that anyone should study for in one session, and it will depend on the individual as much as anything else. It is more vital that you have a timetable that works for you and have the discipline to stick to that timetable. If you are unsure, our best advice is to try different techniques and find out what works best for you.