How to Concentrate While Revising
Everyone knows that the examination period can be stressful, although some people tend to cope better than others. There’s no one method of revision that works for every student because we all learn and retain knowledge in different ways. Whilst one student may want to sit down and take notes from a textbook, another might find that this makes them lose concentration.
It can be frustrating trying to revise when you keep getting distracted or bored. However, as hard as it can be, there’s no escaping how useful revision is. Studying is fundamental to preparing you for exams and assessments because you will review what you have already learnt and cement your understanding of the subject matter.
In this guide, we’ll explore various revision methods that can help you concentrate and prepare for your upcoming exams. We’ll also take a look at where you should study and how often, as well as the things that could be preventing you from studying properly.
How to concentrate while revising
One of the best ways to revise is to pace yourself over the course of your revision period. This will stop you from tiring and losing the ability to concentrate. You should also set yourself a timetable to follow so that you are balancing your subjects alongside rest periods. Remember – revision isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon.
There is no golden method for revision because what may work for one person won’t necessarily work for the next. What’s distracting for some, might be the perfect way to focus for others. It’s helpful to take a look at yourself and think about how you learn best. Do you find it easier to understand a topic if it is taught using pictures and diagrams or is it easier to absorb information when you read it from a book? Adapting your revision method to complement your preferred learning strategies is a sure way to help the information stick.
Continue reading for more in-depth revision advice, and tips on what to avoid when studying for long periods of time.
What are good revision methods?
Over the years, students and researchers have come up with many different revision techniques to help with studying. There is no right or wrong way to revise. However, there are a few tried and tested methods that should be at the core of your studying system. For example, you should definitely start studying far in advance of your exams. This is so you have plenty of time to review all of the topics and can then pay particular attention to any subjects you struggle with. If you leave it to the last minute, you may panic and that will affect your concentration
Another good way to revise is to practice the examination process on past papers. This will allow you to see the question style and the type of answer that will give you the most marks. It’s also helpful to read the mark scheme so that you know what the examiner will be looking for. You can find these papers on the examination boards’ websites and your tutor should be able to point you in the right direction too.
A good way to keep your concentration levels up is to follow a timetable, as this will allow you to balance your work schedule with plenty of rest breaks. It’s very easy to overexert yourself because you want to cram in as much studying as possible, but this is a sure way to lose motivation and energy in the long run. Having a timetable will also help you to see which topics you need to study each day and for how long.
Another thing to consider is what time of the day you work best. Are you a morning person or a night owl? There is no right answer, but try and schedule the bulk of your revision for when you know you’ll be most productive and more able to concentrate. You’ll also find it easier to concentrate throughout the day if you cross off the harder tasks (and the trickier subjects to revise) first, and then move on to the less difficult ones. It’ll give you a sense of achievement and motivate you to finish off your revision more quickly, rather than leave the harder tasks hanging over you.
You could even decide to revise alongside a study partner as a way to keep you motivated and on track. It’s very important that you choose someone who will help you to stay focused, rather than a friend who will distract you from your work. Studies have shown that teaching someone about a topic is a really effective revision technique. As you come up with a good strategy to explain the topic, you will begin to remember areas that you might have otherwise forgotten, as well as identify areas that you have less knowledge of and need to concentrate on.
What is the best environment to study in?
The best study environment is usually a quiet space where you are free from distractions. Using a comfortable chair and desk is also important. You will be spending long periods of time in the same position, which can result in injuries if you have poor posture.
Another important aspect of your work environment is to make sure you work in the same area for each revision period. This is because your brain will come to associate the room with studying, rather than relaxation. Moving from place to place can be unsettling because you might not be fully comfortable in unfamiliar surroundings.
It’s important to make sure you study in a room with good lighting and ventilation. This is because you are at an increased likelihood of getting a headache if you are straining your eyes or if the room is hot and stuffy. You should also avoid sitting in a position that places you directly opposite a bright light, as this can be distracting and can hurt your eyes.
Some students like to listen to music whilst they revise, but this isn’t always helpful. You may find that you get distracted listening to your favourite songs or end up listening to the lyrics more than actually working. Listening to instrumental pieces, such as classical music, can be a good alternative if you don’t want to work in silence. Although music of any kind can still prove distracting, it can be easier to concentrate if you’re not listening to music that you are familiar with or songs that contain voices. You should also try to keep the music at a low volume so that it serves as background noise, rather than too much of a distraction.
One of the biggest distractions for most students is their mobile phones. The easiest way to get rid of this temptation is to turn off your phone or put it in another room. You can catch up on social media or missed messages during scheduled rest breaks throughout your study period. You should also make sure to tell the people that you live with that you are studying so that they can keep the noise down and limit their interactions with you.
How often should I revise?
Exam season can be an overwhelming time, which is why you need to start revising in the months leading up to it. You should aim to spend a few hours a day revising to begin with, which should then increase as you near the examination period. Most universities and schools recommend that you spend around 20 hours revising per week, which can be broken up into whatever time segments that you want. This is in addition to your usual classes.
It’s not possible to remember all of the relevant information if you only begin studying for an exam a few days before, especially if you are revising for lots of different subjects at the same time. You won’t have enough time to review all the materials that you need to properly prepare for the exams if you don’t dedicate enough hours to revision.
No matter how many hours you spend revising each day, you should always try to schedule at least one day off a week. This is to allow your mind a good rest so that you don’t get too tired and run down. You can take this time to participate in a hobby, spend time with friends or do whatever else to unwind.
As with the whole revision process, there’s no set definition of how long you should spend revising. Some people need more or less time than others – you’ll only realise how much time you need once you begin the revision process. There’s also no reason that you have to follow the same timetable week after week if you find it doesn’t work for you. Revision is an independent form of study, which means that you have complete control over how and when you do it.
What should I avoid when studying?
What some students fail to realise is that revision is about quality, not quantity. You should avoid spending hours and hours on an unhelpful studying technique if it’s not actually getting you anywhere. There’s no use in highlighting large chunks in your textbook if you are a visual learner who would work better using a mind map. It can also be beneficial to use multiple revision techniques as this can make the process more interesting.
A major factor that many people ignore is the benefit of a good night’s sleep. It can seem tempting to pull an all-nighter, but this is counter-productive as it’s unlikely you’ll be able to fully concentrate and you may find yourself falling asleep at your desk!
No matter what revision technique that you use, though, it’s never a good idea to compare yourself to other students. You will only end up putting extra pressure on yourself, which is just what you should avoid.
When you step into the exam hall, you want to feel confident that you’ve done everything you can to prepare for the exam. Whilst tutors spend time equipping students with the basic tools, it’s your responsibility to revise what you have been taught and do the extra reading to give yourself a well-rounded view of the topics.
There are various methods to staying focused during your study time. Building a daily routine can help you to find exactly what you need to concentrate on each day so that you can concentrate on one task at a time. You should set yourself study goals throughout each long study session so that you have something specific to aspire to. This could be something as small as remembering an equation or a larger goal such as turning an entire chapter of your textbook into mind maps.
Some students find that listening to music helps them to concentrate, although it can also prove distracting to others. However, methods that usually prove effective for everyone are keeping a clean space for study, and giving yourself regular breaks as small rewards. No matter how tempting, it’s not much use to force yourself to study over a long period of time because you will likely find that you lose all motivation. Try to stick to a maximum of two hours of revision at a time before giving yourself a break.
If you implement at least some of these techniques to help you improve your concentration, you’ll find that you feel much more prepared for your next exam. Try to pace yourself and find study methods that work well for you to help you maintain your focus during exam season.