The 1st key is you’ve got to spend long enough in the first place with the information you want to learn.
The 2nd key is that when you make revision notes you need to make the notes in a form your brain likes.
The 3rd and final key is the learning cycle.
The 3rd key of the 3 Keys to Learning is the learning cycle, the revision cycle. You need to keep revisiting what you’ve learnt if you’re to remember it for the exam. And the chances are you’ll remember it way after the exam if you’ve done this right. But so that you have given yourself plenty of time to learn new material, you need to revisit the old stuff in such a way that it’s quick as well as being effective. So you need to know about the learning cycle.
The 1st day you sit down with a new piece of information, you’ve spent enough time with it for your brain to make a pattern of it, you’ve created notes that your brain likes and you’ve written a question on the back to test yourself – no surprises here – this is what we refer to as ‘day one’.
You need to test yourself the day after, then a week later, then a month later and then monthly until the exam. Now, many people don’t know they need to do this. And some people have a vague idea that they’re supposed to revisit their revision, but still don’t. For some it’s because organising it becomes a pain in the neck. That’s why I’ve created the Online Revision Calendar for you.
It really is absolutely crucial that the 1st time you return to that chunk of information and test yourself on it, it is within 24-hours, and preferably after you’ve slept on it. Because, if, when you turn your page over and check that you have indeed remembered everything you intended to in your notes, you can leave that particular chunk, for a week. Because the chances are that you will again remember everything you intended to when you test yourself.
If this is the case you can leave that chunk for a month, checking again that you still remember everything you intended to a month later. If that’s the case, you can leave that chunk for another month and then monthly until the exam. Remember you need to have filed your notes away, question side up, so that you really do test your long-term memory.
Some people have a quick glance at their notes before they try to remember them, and of course all they’re doing then is testing their short-term memory. Don’t do that and sell yourself short. The important thing is that when you revisit your notes according to the pattern of the learning cycle, the notes that you’ve written are overleaf and you’re looking at the question side of the page.
Simply, answer the question first, while looking at the question side of your notes. Only when you’ve done that, do you then turn over the page and check your notes to see if you did indeed remember everything you meant to. And that’s the feedback you need, to discover if you actually do know that chunk of revision.
Don’t fool yourself.
You either know it, all of it, or you don’t know all of it. If you don’t know all of it you need to spend more time with the information and possibly to change your notes. And then, crucially, this day becomes day one of the sequence which you have to begin all over again, so that you go back again to your notes within 24 hours from now, to check you still know them, and then you need to check them again in a week, in a month etc.