Lesson planning

13 April 2023

Our six tips for effective revision

Katie Marl

Primary Curriculum Design Lead

Are you wondering how to support your pupils with revision this term? In this blog, we share six top tips that will help you and your pupils prepare for their exams and assessments.

There’s no denying that preparing pupils for revision can feel daunting. Revision is part of a pupil’s knowledge recall, and an important part of learning.

While memory and retention are boosted by careful lesson plans, curriculum plans, sequencing and homework, it’s important for pupils to continue consolidation and deliberate practice of areas they find challenging in order to boost success.

Although teachers aid their pupils through clear and explicit instruction, pupils need to know how to revise the content that has been expertly taught, honed and curated for them over many years and key stages, including their early foundations of education.

For example, in a carefully constructed and purposeful curriculum, it might not be unreasonable to expect pupils to recall key stage 3 knowledge for a key stage 4 assessment. In this instance, GCSE revision should incorporate key knowledge and ideas explored several years before.

To help sharpen your pupils up and give them the best guidance, we’ve got some tips to help you get your class performing to the top of their game.

  1. Quizzing and retrieval practice

    Practice testing has been shown to lead to greater knowledge retention over time (1). Encourage pupils to create their own practice questions for revision, or make flashcards to quiz themselves and others.
  2. Little and often

    Spread out your pupils’ revision by revising regularly but in small chunks. This will reduce overload and maximise memory (2). Your pupils’ brains will retain much more information if they study a topic for 10 minutes six times compared to looking at it only once for one hour.
  3. Mix it up

    When your pupils are revising independently, encourage them to alternate topics for study rather than learning about a topic in a block (3). This has been shown to be highly effective in boosting long term memory. It also matches the format of a test or exam which flips from one topic to another.
  4. Minimise distractions

    Pupils who study without listening to music perform better in exams than those who do (4). You may want to consider the sensory experience of your classroom and how to optimise focus.

    No need for complete silence though — reading aloud when studying has been shown to improve memory retention.
  5. Paired work teaching another pupil

    This helps pupils to stay focussed, structure their knowledge and identify essential information. It also gets pupils more comfortable and confident with the topic they’re studying and quickly highlights things they need to check back on (5).

    Paired work could be incorporated through ‘think, pair, share’. You could also model the roles you expect each pupil to play for the benefit of the class.
  6. Encourage self-care

    Talk to your pupils about getting a good amount of sleep (6), eating breakfast (7) and going for walks to get outside regularly (8). Pupils who stay alert for longer perform better on tests than those who don’t. Keeping the body well will benefit the mind too. What an easy way to boost performance!

How can Oak help you to revise with your pupils?

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(1) Test enhanced learning: taking memory tests improves long-term retention. Roediger, Karpickle

(2) Improving Students' Learning With Effective Learning Techniques: Promising Directions From Cognitive and Educational Psychology. Dunlosky, Rawson, Marsh, Nathan and Willingham

(3) The shuffling of mathematics problems improves learning. Rohrer and Taylor

(4) Does listening to preferred music improve reading comprehension performance? Nick Perham, Harriet Currie

(5) Expecting to teach enhances learning and organization of knowledge in free recall of text passages. Nestojko, Bui, Kornell and Bjork

(6) Overnight therapy? The role of sleep in emotional brain processing. Walker, van Der Helm

(7) Breakfast reduces decline in retention and memory. Wesnes, Pincock, Richardson, Helm and Hails

(8) The cognitive benefits of interacting with nature. Berman, Jonides and Kaplan