Useful revision and memory techniques

Learn some useful revision and memory techniques for your exams

Revision can be tedious, and it often takes practice before you find a suitable revision technique that works for you. Some people prefer to learn visually, whilst others like to learn orally, and some of us like to mix it up. Here are some revision techniques that may work for you. Try them out and test your knowledge. Using a variety of different techniques usually works best for most people!

Visual techniques

Learning from mind maps

Mind maps help you to generate your ideas and make associations. Mind maps are a powerful memory aid because you create something that is visual. And in the process of creating your mind map, you’ll take it lots of little bits of information!

  • Start in the middle of your page and work outwards, starting with the name of your topic and branching out
  • Try to keep your points brief. Your mind map should be visually clear, so you can look at it and take in information without having to read to much – use keys words, names, dates, summarised theories and processes
  • Use lines to show a connection between things – link things with associations
  • Include different colours, symbols and images to make your mind map memorable
Mindmap example

Learning from posters

Creating a poster can also be a good way to revise. You’ll learn a lot from the actual process of creating one. Include different colours, patterns, symbols and your own drawings to make it memorable. Drawing something may help you to remember things. Display the poster in parts of your home where you may get a few moments to gaze at it on a daily basis. For example, you could stick the poster to the door of your toilet, or even on your bedroom ceiling. This will help to absorb lots of useful information.

Example revision poster

Retrieving what you already know

Information that you’ve learnt during your course will be stored somewhere in your memory – the hard part is retrieving it! Here are some ways that can help you to retrieve what you already know;

  • Answer past exam questions – this will help you get the feel of the questions you’ll be answering in the real thing. These will get you thinking about what you learnt on your course. You’ll also be able to spot any gaps in your knowledge!
  • Try to recall information – when answering practise exam questions, first try to recall what you already know. Once you’ve put down as much as you can remember, have a look at your course material and fill in any gaps in your answer. This will get you thinking hard!
  • Do some group revision – revising in a group is a great way to start recalling information. Create questions for your friends and share them.


Link topics together:

  • Use visual techniques such as mind maps, drawings, posters, watch clips
  • Use repetition – repetition is one of the best ways of revising. Re-read, re-listen, re-write, and so on. Try to revise key information on a daily basis. This is why posters and mind maps work so well – they can be placed somewhere that you can have a look at every day. Eventually, the information sticks!
  • Use word association techniques. Make up a memorable short story (bizarre ones work best) and link words to key information.

If you’re trying to learn an answer to a possible essay question, remember key words and phrases work better than large chunks of information. These can act as prompts to start you writing. Rather than learning an entire essay off by heart (which is very difficult), memorise some key words for each paragraph.

Remember definitions

It’s important to remember specialised terminology that you can use in your answers – this will get you marks. However, its incredibly difficult to remember complicated words without knowing what they mean, so be sure to learn the definitions of terminology. Write out a list of key words and get someone to test you on your terminology. Learning the meanings will make the words a lot easier to remember!


Mnemonics help you to remember facts – such as names, key words and dates. A mnemonic is, in fact, any learning technique that aids memory. An example might be a very short poem or a special word used to help a person remember something, particularly lists, but mnemonics can be visual, kinesthetic or auditory. Here’s an example that helps children remember how to spell the word “because’:

Mnemonic for revision

Mnemonics rely on associations between easy-to-remember constructs which can be related back to the data that are to be remembered. A common type of mnemonic is an acronym.

Acronyms – these can help you to remember lists or bits of important information

For example –

Laser – Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation
PESOS – Prepare, Explain, Show, Observe, Supervise (training model)


PESOS – Photo-Electron Spectroscopy of the Outer Shell

Acronyms can also be used to help spell words:

Acronyms for revision

Summarising revision

One effective way of revising is by using summary or index cards. These can help to boil down large chunks of information into a more simple form.

Index cards for revision

Summary sheets can help to collect information throughout the course, or information from books or units. They’re a great way to compare information or evaluate theories, because the information is set out on a table in columns.

Using index cards is a useful way of revising because they are small so can be carried around with you. This means you can revise when you’re out and about. Perhaps try testing yourself when you’re on the go – on a train or bus, for example.

Games and quizzes

Turning the information you need to learn into games or quizzes is a great way to revise! You can learn things whilst having fun and it adds a bit of variety to your revision. Try and get a friend to create a game or quiz for you, then test your knowledge!

This is a quick way to test your revision and spot gaps in your knowledge.

Listening to your notes

If you spend any time in the car, walking to college/university or sitting around on the bus or train, this is the perfect opportunity to listen to your notes. Record them as an MP3 and put them on your iPod or phone, then simply play them any time you have a few minutes to spare. You’ll be surprised how much goes in without you realising it!

Revising with others

Revising with other students is a great way to learn because people bring new ideas to the group. You can share revision techniques, marked assignments and plans. You can learn how other students are handling their revision, and share some great advice and tips.

Group discussions/debates are a great way to get you thinking!

Good luck with your revision and your exams!

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