Did you struggle to find the best ways to revise this year? Did you feel like your classmates were always a step ahead of you in class? Do you just read your notes aimlessly hoping you will remember some of it later? What areas of revision did you fall down on this year?
Each student learns differently. Each student needs to trial different methods until they find the ones that suit them best. Learning is most constructive when a student approaches a topic from different angles to get a better handle on it. The more ways you can approach learning, as opposed to just ‘learning off’ material, the more successful you will be.
Successful students are those who can think critically about the content presented to them. To do this, you as a student should carefully read the information presented by the author, understand it as best you can, and then begin to question and really think about it. Being critical of text doesn’t just mean being negative; it also means being knowledgeable and really assessing the quality of the information. My ACE tip here is to use your imagination, challenge the question being asked and never be afraid to offer your own personal opinion on topics. State Examiners love personal opinions, as it shows you can think independently.
In 2013, The Open University (UK) developed a ‘stairway’ model to help students understand the skills of critical thinking. Students can apply these steps to a specific topic in order to understand it better. I think this is an excellent way of actively revising, as you are reflecting on all aspects of the information presented. This method would be particularly useful in subjects like English, Economics, History, Geography and Business. The steps are as follows:
- Process: take in the information (i.e. in what you have read, heard, seen, or done).
- Understand: comprehend the key points, assumptions and arguments presented.
- Analyse: examine how these key components link together.
- Compare: explore the similarities and differences in each idea you are reading about.
- Synthesise: bring together different sources of information making logical connections between them.
- Evaluate: assess the worth of an idea in terms of its relevance to your needs.
- Apply: transfer the understanding gained and use in response to questions, assignments, and projects.
- Justify: use critical thinking to develop arguments, draw conclusions, and identify implications.
In today’s more modern Junior and Leaving Certificate, you need to be able to apply knowledge to a topic. Learning off too much information is a common mistake made by students and is not recommended. This is the opposite of applying knowledge. There is more of an emphasis now on applying everyday life experiences to questions asked. Besides, if you were to feel nerves, you are less likely to remember a lengthy essay you have memorised.
Your revision time is better served by preparing summaries, bullet points, post-its, key points, and mind maps. The State exams are now more about identifying important information in a question and discussing its merits, as opposed to emptying the contents of your head onto the answer book. Mix the content you have revised in class with what is going on in your own life. This is something to reflect on as you plan your Autumn revision strategy in each subject.
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