What revision technique works for you?

Memory is one of the most fascinating topics you can ever hope to study in any field. It is a fundamental component of daily life. We rely on it so heavily, that it is not a stretch to say that life without memory would be close to impossible. Our very survival depends on our ability to remember who we are, who others are, our past experiences, what is dangerous, what is safe, etc. Its importance can’t be understated.

Every student no matter who you ask will believe that they have an amazing set of highly effective, useful study skills. Everyone is different. I used to read and understand the material whilst highlighting things like crazy whilst simultaneously answering the profound summary questions at the end of the chapter. Nobody taught me how to study this way. It was just something I did through trial and error in trying and discarding multiple techniques. For instance, I tried highlighting, but it did little for me.

How does memory actually work?

The multi store model of memory is an explanation on how memory works. This was developed and designed by Atkinson and Shiffrin. They believed that memory was made up of three stores. These stores are the sensory memory, the short term memory and long term memory.

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One of the main features they developed was the fact that they thought memory worked in a linear fashion for  example information has to travel through one store to get to the next.



Information first enters the memory store by there being an environmental stimulus. This information enters the sensory memory. If this information is paid attention to it travels from the sensory memory to the short term memory. To stop the information decaying and leaving the short term memory you need to rehearse it. For it to be able to travel to the long term memory you need to elaborately rehearse it.

How to use your mind effectively. 

The working memory model looks at one aspect of memory, the short term. There are four parts to the Working Memory Model. These are the central executive, the phonological loop, the visuo-spatial sketchpad and the episodic buffer.

Each component explained:

  • Central executive: acts as supervisory system and controls the flow of information from and to its slave systems: the phonological loop and the visuo-spatial sketchpad.
  • Phonological loop: A component of working memory that deals with auditory or verbal information. It consists of two parts: a short term store of phonological information and an “articulatory rehearsal” process that functions to help maintain the information.
  • Episodic buffer: The episodic buffer acts as a ‘backup’ store which communicates with both long term memory and the components of working memory.
  • Visospatial sketchpad: This is responsible for the manipulation and temporary storage of visual and spatial information.

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The WMM consists of 3 main stores, the central executive, the phonological loop and visuo-spatial sketchpad. The central executive can store information for a brief period of time and has limited capacity, it is required to perform a number of tasks such as focus and switch attention, co-ordinate the sub-systems and connect working memory with LTM. The phonological loop is divided into two components, a phonological store which holds auditory memory traces for a few seconds before they fade and an articulatory rehearsal process which is essentially sub-vocal speech and ha a limited capacity of about 3-4 items.. Visuo-spatial sketchpad has limited capacity, it also is divided into two components, the visual component which deals with objects and features such as shape and colour and the spatial component which deals with locations and movements in space and it involves tasks such as planning routes.

You cannot use two processes at once. This means that you cannot read a map and drive a car as your using one component – the visiospatial sketchpad which can only do one task. This is why you find it easier to have a sat nav and drive.

Revision tips 

  • Start revising early – i.e. months, not days before the exam. Make a timetable (see samples) to plan your revision and stick to it.
  • Don’t spend ages making your notes look pretty – This is just wasting time. For diagrams, include all the details you need to learn, but don’t try to produce a work of art. Limit yourself to 2 or 3 colors so you don’t get carried away coloring things in.
  • In study leave, start revising early – i.e. 9am — that way you’ll get your day’s work done much quicker and will have time to relax in the evening.
  • Stick revision notes all around your house – so in the exam you think — “aha, quadratic equations, they were on the fridge…”
  • Don’t put it off – “Procrastination” is the long word for it. And it means rearranging stuff on your desk, getting a sudden urge after 16 years to tidy your room, playing the guitar, thinking about the weekend etc, etc, etc,… Sit down at your desk and GET ON WITH IT.
  • Don’t turn yourself into a revision zombie – if you stop doing anything else but revision you’ll turn into a zombie. It’s really important that you keep time to do things you enjoy… like cinema, shopping, sports, frisbee, rock-climbing etc.
  • Don’t hang around with the nervous paranoid – people on the morning of the exam. — they’ll just stress you out, which doesn’t help at all.
  • Dress as a medieval knight and demand ale – this is an old tradition, which states that anyone attending the examination in full knight’s costume has the right to demand a tankard of ale. Unfortunately, you need to be carrying a sword and if you try this you’ll be arrested and sent to prison.
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