Teenage Revision Habits

Andrew Buck is a lead practitioner of Design at Hastingsbury College Bedford and the inventor of the student exams app ‘Exam Pal’. He talks about his current perception of teenage revision methods and the use of digital technology against traditional methods of revision.

As a teacher of 20 years and the inventor of the smartphone app ‘Exam Pal’ I am constantly reminded of the importance of quality revision methods not only for my own students but also for our own app content.

As a company that scows the social media system hourly for potential customers a clear pattern is beginning to emerge. So what are the revision habits of your average teenager? Students will turn to twitter to state to the world that they have started revising or to vent their frustration at having to start revision. This is usually followed by another tweet of disgust having just received their exam timetable. Sharing their exam woes with others is a must. Through Instagram we see snippets of how students are revising. Many will be armed with the revision essentials such as numerous revision guides, highlighters and postcards. Many will be very pleased of their revision set up in their bedroom and proudly post a picture. Some will surround themselves with items of comfort for those long days ahead such as sweets, chocolate and a recent hot drink brought up by the parents.

Traditional methods are still the best and by far the most popular. Analytical note taking by working through their exercise book or revision guide onto a fresh A4 pad seems to be the order of the day. Flash cards in their hundreds beautifully presented and brandished with highlighters. Post-it notes in every wall space conceivable including the fridge and back of the bathroom door creating a skyline of yellow. The common use of a revision buddy seems to add company even though at times that maybe the loyal family pet.

All seems pretty normal, however there are a few trends that for us educational practitioners we may find slightly concerning. Procrastination is a common hashtagged(#) word. The boredom selfie, the revision pain selfie, the sleeping selfie, getting started for some is a huge battle to overcome. When to start and where to start can often be a problem especially when students can be sitting up to 23 exams this summer. Distractions of any kind are a relief from revision boredom. We very rarely see students studying without some kind of device in the background whether it’s a tablet with a movie, a music media player or games console. It appears that today’s teenagers cannot sit in silence and purely study for long periods, a detriment to the times. Last minute cramming before the exam, studying into the early hours of the morning, the appearance of endless energy drinks and poor diets. It does seem that many students are unprepared for the hours of revision ahead and have a lack of knowledge for best practice.However there are many ingenious ways to revise that we have come across. Leaving a favourite sweet after each page or paragraph of revision often gives you motivation to complete.

Revising in the bath with a wipe board to recall earlier revision is a common occurrence. Students revising on the go in their local café and revising in the car by using the multiple revision apps that are now widely available. The beautifully presented mind maps and flash cards that actually take longer than the revision itself, and of course the revision ‘onesie’. Telling your friends that you have locked your gadgets away in a safe or have deleted you social media apps will help progression. Posting a song or dance, without shame, to your revision notes and key terms you need to learn seems to be one of the strangest techniques we have come across. Recording revisions notes onto a media player and then listening to them whilst at the gym.
Maybe these revision habits have been going on for some time and maybe due to social media we are just more exposed to what is going on behind closed doors.

Here are the Top Twelve Do’s and Don’ts’s for revision to help you get started and avoid the dreaded pitfalls of #procrastination.

  1. Start revising 5-6 weeks before your first exam starts. Use the Exam Pal app to access and schedule your exam dates.
  2. Create a revision plan to help you comprehend the bigger picture. Write down all your subject and units. Split you time between those subjects that need more attention and those you are more confident with. Download revision plan templates from www.exampal.co.uk.
  3. Short spurts of revision (25-35 minutes) are most effective. Your concentration lapses after about an hour and you need to take a short break (5-10 minutes).
  4. Find a quiet place to revise—your bedroom, school, the local library—and refuse to be interrupted or distracted.
  5. Make your own revision notes, because you will remember what you have written down more easily. Stick keynotes to a cupboard mirror or toilet door so you can see them every day.
  6. Create flashcards and re-write the key points of your revision notes, read them out loud to yourself. We remember more than twice as much of what we say aloud than what we merely read.
  7. Use different techniques. Make your own learning maps. Use post-it notes to write key words on, create flash cards. Record your notes and listen to them back on your MP3 or mobile phone. Ask friends to test you. Use highlighter pens to mark important points. Chant or make up a song. Use mnemonics, summary wheels and revision booklets.
  8. Practise on past exam papers or revision tests available on the web. Initially do one section at a time and progress to doing the entire paper against the clock.
  9. You will need help at some stage; ask parents, teachers, or even friends. If there is a teacher who you get on well with at school, ask for their e-mail address so you can clarify points you are unsure of whilst on study leave.
  10. Eat properly and get lots of sleep!
  11. Believe in yourself and be positive. If you think you can succeed you will; if you convince yourself that you will fail, that’s what will probably happen. Remember a little revision is better than none and it’s never too late to start.
  12. Utilise all the revision aids you can. Revision guides for your subject, revision apps, pod casts and YouTube. Great for kinaesthetic and visual learners.


  1. Although it never too late to start revising, don’t leave it until the night before. Plan ahead for success!
  2. Don’t stray from your revision plan. A strict habitual routine with rewards is the key.
  3. Don’t revise for long periods of time. What seems to be successful and sinking in, is probably not, success will come when you have the ability to recall it or apply it to a past paper.
  4. Don’t stick to the one revision technique, which for most is note taking. If it doesn’t work for you move on and find another method. What type are you? Audio, visual, kinaesthetic? Testing yourself is the key.
  5. Don’t get stressed out. Keep things in perspective. You can only do your best and as long as you have prepared then what more can you ask?
  6. Don’t leave distractions lying around. Turn off all media players, phones, tablets from your revision environment.
  7. Don’t leave your social media app notifications on.
  8. Share your studying methods and communicate. Don’t struggle on your own. Talk to friends, family and your teachers.
  9. Don’t revise at unsociable hours. Get plenty of sleep and limit the energy drinks. The earlier the revision in the day the better. If you work hard in the morning then maybe take the evening off.
  10. Don’t copy or reiterate your class/exercise book notes again. Break these down to key units and keywords.
  11. Don’t use highlighters as a safety blanket. Make sure you understand the key concepts and comprehension of the words you are highlighting.
  12. Don’t procrastinate! Combine your revision with sleep, exercise and eating well and above all keep hydrated, the brain loves water.

Andrew Buck
Lead Practitioner in Design at Hastingsbury School in Bedford and App Entrepreneur

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