Posted on 4th October 2023

Active Revision: Effective Techniques for Exam Success

Heading into exam season, we’ve all faced those late-night cram sessions, downing energy drinks, and frantically scrolling through lecture notes just hoping that something sticks. But does last-minute skimming really cut it? Let’s talk about active revision and why it trumps passive revision. 

While passive revision often feels like you’re just glossing over those seminar notes, active revision is where you really dig deep and truly ‘get’ the material. It’s not just about memory – it’s about understanding, which is crucial for those tricky exam questions. 

Ready to make the most out of your study hours? Here’s a run-down of some of the best active revision techniques that’ll guarantee you’ll ace your exams.

Pomodoro Technique

Heard of the Pomodoro Technique? And no we’re not talking about the best method to make an Italian tomato sauce! The Pomodoro Technique is a game-changing way to study, particularly when those lengthy lecture notes start merging into one big blur. Designed to boost productivity and focus, this method breaks down your study sessions into easy 25-minute chunks, called ‘pomodoros’, with 5-minute breaks in between to take a breather.

How to do it

Set a timer on your phone or download one of the countless Pomodoro apps out there. Hunker down and go through your study material for a solid, uninterrupted 25 minutes. When your timer rings, it’s time for your much-deserved 5-minute break. Shake off any stiffness, do a quick dance or have a snack. After you’ve done three or four pomodoros, you can reward yourself with a longer break. Maybe it’s time for a quick episode of that new Netflix show you’ve been binge-watching! 

Why it’s good

The Pomodoro Technique isn’t just about clock-watching; It’s about making what looks like a monstrous task manageable. It helps you maintain a high level of focus by reducing the chance of your brain feeling like mush, and, let’s be honest, it sounds way more fun than sitting down at your desk for 3 mind-numbing hours.


Why it’s good

Tried and tested by students worldwide, Flashcards are one of the best active revision techniques out there. Think of them like a Swiss Army knife in your revision toolkit – classic and dependable. These little cards pack a punch, promoting active recall and memory retention. Plus, making them is like a mini revision session on its own!

How to do it

Making flashcards is super simple. On one side of the card, jot down a concept or question, and on the flip side, its explanation or answer. You can even draw diagrams if you’re a visual learner. Go through the cards regularly, shuffling to ensure random order and keep your brain guessing. 

Digital or traditional?

Let’s be real, sometimes paper is boring and you work better digitally. If so, we highly recommend you check out apps like Quizlet and Anki. Not only do they save trees, but they also step up your study game with features like spaced repetition and audio cues. Thanks to AI, you can upload your notes and Quizlet will summarise it for you, and if you’re a bit more of an audio learning type, the app can even create a study song for you. Yeah, you heard that right.


Blurting, blurting, blurting … sounds weird right? We’re not going to disagree, but while odd-sounding, blurting is one of the best active revision techniques. Picture this: it’s just you, a pen, and a blank sheet, with your textbooks banished to the corner.

How to do it

Choose a topic, set a clock timer for 10 minutes, and then go wild. Write, doodle, or sketch everything that floods into your mind about that topic. It doesn’t have to be neat at all. Also, no peeking at notes! When the alarm buzzes, it’s time to check how you did against your textbooks or lecture notes.

Why it’s good

Blurting is like a pop quiz you give yourself, minus the sweaty palms, ticking clocks and invigilators. The technique sharpens your recall and pinpoints those sneaky areas that might need a little more care in your revision sessions.

Study groups 

Why it’s good

Remember the saying, ‘two heads are better than one’? Well, in revision, that’s gold. Group study isn’t just about gossip or sharing snacks (though that’s a bonus and hey, it’s bound to happen!). It’s a melting pot of ideas, where one person’s strengths can complement another’s weak spots. When you’re in a group session, you’re not just recalling info, you’re also seeing things from different angles and processes. 

How to do it

Round up a group of fellow students or flatmates and snag a cosy study spot in your accommodation. Before anything begins, make sure you decide what topics you’ll be studying on that day so everyone comes equipped and ready. You’ll also need to make sure everyone gets their moment in the spotlight, so maybe go around in a circle and let everyone say their piece about the topic. For an extra boost, turn things up a notch with mock quizzes. Trust us, it’s a game-changer.

Use Past Papers

Ever wished for a sneak peek into your upcoming exams? Past papers are the closest thing. 

How to do it

Grab past papers for your subjects – most are available online or through your uni. Put yourself in ‘exam mode’, with a timer and minimal distractions. Once done, check what you’ve answered against the exam’s answer sheet. 

Why it’s good

Doing past papers is a great active revision technique. It can help you familiarise yourself with your upcoming exam’s layout, and it also helps you understand the questions. By going through your answers, you’ll be able to see what pieces of your revision really stuck with you so you know what topics to revisit. 

Write Your Own Questions

Why it’s good

As far as active revision techniques go, writing your own questions would be the ultimate training drill. This method pushes your brain into the driver’s seat by turning passive study sessions into active knowledge workouts.

How to do it

Instead of merely skimming through notes, challenge yourself to form questions from your material. Not only does this reinforce the info, but it also preps you for what examiners might throw your way. Techniques like the Cornell method or SQ3R (Survey, Question, Read, Recall, Review) can help this process, making your questions even sharper.

The Feynman Technique

Named after the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman, the Feynman Technique works by making you learn material through teaching it. Essentially, if you can’t explain a concept in simple terms, you don’t truly understand it.

How to do it

Choose a topic from your syllabus. Now, pretend you’re explaining it to a little kid or your pet cat- simple, clear, no jargon. If you trip up, it’s back to the books. Then, rinse and repeat until you’ve got it down pat.

Why it’s good

This isn’t just about acing exams; it’s about truly ‘getting’ what you learn. The Feynman Technique digs deep by highlighting gaps in your understanding and cementing knowledge. Plus, when you simplify tricky concepts, they tend to stick around in your brain longer.

The Most Important Technique: Taking Care of Yourself

Our brains aren’t wired for sustained peak concentration for hours on end. By taking regular breaks, you’re giving your brain the space to rest, making it more efficient when you return to studying. 

While some people love the Pomodoro technique of 25-minute study intervals followed by short breaks, finding what works best for you is essential. You can even do 30 minutes and 10 minutes of breaks – as long as you can study that’s what matters most. 

Effective studying isn’t just about time spent on books; it is about overall well-being. You should prioritise a good night’s sleep, especially during intense revision periods. Also make sure to fuel your brain with a nutritious diet, and avoid pitfalls like excessive caffeine. Lastly, add some regular physical activity to your routine. Even a brief walk boosts cognitive functioning and relieves study-related stress.

Ready to elevate your uni living experience? At AXO Student Living, our rooms aren’t just spacious – they’re designed for success. From en-suites to study desks, we’ve got everything you need. Secure your space with us today!