Revision tips…

As my students are now entering that end of year revision period we’ve been doing a lot of tutorials and revision classes.  These are always interesting as often the students seem to talk more and be willing to communicate what they know at this point because the onus shifts to them nedding to do so…I can only encourage them to do this more during the year – the more you articulate your own understanding of ideas verbally and in communication with others the easier it becomes to write student essays in situations like exams as your fluency with the arguments improves.

Anyway, aside from the core of all revision (get to know the material indside out!!) there are a couple of tips I’d offer:

1) The psychological anchor – lock some phrase, formula or quote into your memory.  Do this repetitively during the time you are revising and really learn it off by heart so you can recall it at any time.  This anchor will then be the tip of the iceberg, easily brought to mind and when you bring it to mind it will help connect you to the revision work your consciousness has taken in and filed somewhere you’re not sure of deep in your brain.  Think of it literally like an anchor – it provides a key to access the material you’ve taken in through activating a psychological connection.  It also enbales you to write something down when you get into the exam rather than encounter than dread silence of the mind when faced with the blank paper – instead of worrying about what to do, write down the anchor and then begin making a list of the various points that will come to mind, after which you can assemble them into the order in which they will be approached.

2) Use keywords and phrases (ie: intentionality, the a posteriori argument from design etc) – then ask – what does this mean, what does it do, how does it work.  Expklain these things when you introduce a concept and you will find things almost come naturally.

3) When writing and in the middle of a paragraph or line of argument a stray thought pops into mind, one that you know is relevant but which isn’t immediately relevant, write it down on a piece of paper to the side of the essay you’re workign on, then leave it alone and return to what you were writing.  Finish off the line of thought you were on and then look at the notes you jotted down and ask yourself how do I fit this in, what do I need to do to get to it?  This will stop the essays flitting about and enable you to write a coherent piece rather than meerely spewing up as much as you can as fast as you can – remember, the argument is the star, coherent essays with 6 main points are better than incoherent essays with 6 points.  Fluency and coherence are more than simple stylistic features, they form the points of knowledge into an inferential pattern with power and force rather than a set of random thoughts.

That will do for now – good luck in your exams all!

Article written by

philosopher and filmmaker from brighton, currently teaching philosophy at the Free University of Brighton

One Response

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  1. metaphilly
    metaphilly at |

    Good tips (sounds like a builder’s line). Since we are all a bit burnt out and frazzled – also since it is all getting so easy :-) I found that sitting down for 1.5 hrs and writing what I know about the subject helps to pin point the weak areas, also just sitting there reading and note taken can be a bit boring. It really does concentrate the mind and rather than waiting to be shocked at the exam because although you understood everything you suddenly realise that taken in is always easier than spitting out. It is also a practice for the nerves – do it in silence, but remember breathing, posture and the fact you won’t be able to smoke a spliff, swig beer or stuff your face whilst in the exam room.
    I tend to write a lot at the start, making the master’s words my own, so to speak, then begin to break it down into sub headings, then following Matt’s theme breaking it down into words. For example: Duration; quantity (numbers), quality (sensations), multiplicity (melody), unity (god knows), intuition (inner/outer), etc. Either way you do it, there still involves work.

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