Picture the scene: you’ve successfully dragged yourself out of bed and all the way to the library. You’ve checked your revision timetable, and you know what’s on the agenda for today. So far, you’ve done everything right in theory, but when it comes to crunch time, you realise that you don’t have a clue where to start! Revision is hard, and often it’s not always clear how to set about using the time you have to to maximum effect. If you’re fed up of using the same old revision tactics without much success, here are a few concrete ideas for techniques you can use to mix it up and get results!
Remembering loads of information is really difficult when it is scattered all over the place: in your textbook, your class notes, your revision guide. One great way to revise is to collect all of the information you need for each subject into your own, super condensed revision notes.
Each time you sit down to revise, surround yourself with all of the sources of information you have about the topic you’ll be studying. Sift through each source and pick out the key information, summarising this in bullet points using a word processor. DO NOT just sit there and passively copy out everything! This will waste tons of time, and you’ll probably not remember much. You need to be selective, putting things into your own words, avoiding repetition and being as concise as you can. Avoid ending up with one long ream of plain text: use bold and colour to make key information stand out, and insert diagrams and pictures to help things stick in your brain!
Map Your Mind
Mind maps are great for essay-based subjects, because they help you to visualise the different points you are going to make and clarify how each links back to the question. If you fancy a break from staring at your laptop screen, it can nice to switch to pen and paper for this. Invest in some large sheets of sugar paper and plenty of coloured pens to help your points really stand out.
Alternatively, if you’d prefer your mind map to be able to evolve over time, online mind mapping tools may be better for you. Both MindMup and GetRevising allow you to save, edit and share beautiful, colourful mind maps of your own creation. You could even do this with friends, and see if they have any points to add to your essay! MindMeister lets you share your mind maps with as many friends as you want and collaborate with them in real-time.
Once you’ve got all of the information you need in one place, condense it down even further onto flashcards! This will enable you to go through the whole syllabus again and again in no time at all, ensuring that everything is well and truly stuck in your brain by the time your first exam rolls around.
As with mind mapping, you can either do this by hand, or use websites such as Quizlet, Anki and Memrise to make digital flash cards. These sites have the added benefits of allowing you to gamify your flash carding (using quizzes, matching games, scatter games) and track your progress. Beware, however, of doing absolutely all of your revision online – remember that your exams will be hand-written, and try to incorporate techniques into your revision plan that require you to put pen to paper.
Leave Your Comfort Zone
Another great way to revise for essay subjects is to print off some past papers, and give yourself 10 minutes to jot down an essay plan for a question you haven’t seen before, WITHOUT using your notes. Put yourself in the situation you’ll be facing in a month’s time, to see what you know so far (even if the answer is still not a lot!).
After those ten minutes are up, go back and see where the gaps in your knowledge were. Were you grappling to muster some historiography to back up your point? Go away and find it now! Need a bit more detail to flesh out your Geography case study? The Internet is your oyster! Wish you’d been able to back up that analytical literary point with a quote from the text? You have the book! Even though it can seem scary, it’s a good idea to start this process of testing your knowledge as early as possible, using real IB questions, to maximise the number of knowledge gaps you can identify and fill before exam day.
Many essay-based questions for IB exams require you to compare and contrast: the causes of two different wars in history, for instance, or maybe how symbolic imagery is used in two literary texts you have studied. Unfortunately, you can’t possibly have already answered all possible exam questions in class time. It’s therefore a good idea to see what you are up against! Download past papers, and look at the different themes that crop up again and again for each topic you have studied. Use this information to shape your revision, and get creating tables to ensure that you have plenty of good points of comparison for each essay question.
Here’s an example. For Language A Paper 2, you could make a big table with topic areas you’ve found from past papers along the top, and your set texts along the side. Fill it in with quotes and interesting points you think you could make in the exam! Those of you who study history: make tables to summarise how you would respond to particular questions. For instance, you could use a table to compare and contrast the First and Second World Wars in terms of things like causes, consequences, and the roles that militarism, colonialism and nationalism played in each.
The key to revision success is variety! Keeping things interesting will help you to stay alert and maintain focus. Don’t allow your revision to merge into one monotonous mess. Mix it up today and see how much you can learn.