- Go Offline: this can be implemented twofold - firstly, cutting the cord on any attachments to social media, the Internet, your phone etc. clearly aids concentration, but also - secondly - using tangible offline tools (such as coloured pens, notebooks etc) can actually help content sink in better than by using digital media when revising.
"We believe that information is an enlightening agent, but I can assure you it is not. We consume information, but we can't read. We forget how to sit down and engage the dense layers of a text. We are so busy devouring information that we forget how to dance with ideas. We confuse linguistic bits of data for knowledge and ideas... They are not the same." - R.F. Georgy
- Make a Schedule: this is crucial for both organising your work and rewarding yourself. Planning time to relax validates the time you take to relax. Plan ahead. Lay out all of the topics or modules you have to cover and create a time-plan for covering them twice - starting with the hardest first.
"Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe." - Abraham Lincoln
- Sleep: you can only perform if your body is rested. Don't be fooled into thinking that all-nighters are the key to academic success. In fact, many of the highest achievers attribute their success to adequate amounts of rest and down-time. It is, ultimately, the quality and not the quantity of work you put in - and if you've followed step 2 you should have some well-planned time to get those Zs (in pursuit of A*s).
"My single most effective trick for getting things done is to stop what I'm doing and sleep." - Ariana Huffington
- Eat Right: you can only perform if your body is fuelled. The brain requires nutrients just like the heart, lungs or other organs and muscles. Include snack breaks in your revision timetable and, while you're at it, why not make sure you get enough of the right ingredients in the mix? Look out for foods rich in vitamin E (such as avocado, dark leafy greens, sunflower seeds, peanut butter), oily fish (packed with omega-3 acids that aid brain function), whole grains (these release glucose slowly and steadily to the brain, giving you cognitive stamina) and berries (especially blueberries, which researchers from Tufts University found both improve memory and can reverse memory loss).
"Never work before breakfast. If you have to work before breakfast, eat your breakfast first." - Josh Billings
- Keep It Simple: in everything you do. Being overly ambitious is counter-productive - be conservative in your estimations for how long tasks will take to do, for example. Making elaborate revision notes that look like pieces of art is wasting time - prioritise. If a specific topic or module of your studies is confusing you, remember to take it back to basics and build up slowly from there. Most of the time we get confused by things that have been unnecessarily over-complicated.
"When any real progress is made, we unlearn and learn anew what we thought we knew before." - Henry David Thoreau
- Take Breaks: everyone recommends this, so you would think it goes without saying, but some people feel that a break is time wasted while you could be studying. There is no escaping the science of the brain, however, and it has been proven that frequent short breaks generate greater productivity. You should never work steady for longer than an hour before taking a break, even if you possess an enviable concentration span.
"Have regular hours for work and play; make each day both useful and pleasant, and prove that you understand the worth of time by employing it well." - Louisa May Scott
- Read the question carefully: as students, how many times are you told to do this? Countless. As an examiner composing the questions, the answer precedes the question. Consequently, as an exam taker, read the question carefully to consider what answer the examiner is looking for. Often (and depending on the subject) exams are marked according to a positive mark scheme, where mentioning specific 'key words' in your answer will gain you points and absence of these key words mean you don't score as high. At other times, clues can be found in the wording of the question itself.
"The solution of a problem lies in the understanding of the problem; the answer is not outside the question, it is in the question." - Jiddu Krishnamurti
- Read the mark scheme: following on from point 6 is another point regarding the mental state required to do well. It is vital to know how your work will be judged. For essays/dissertations, view the marking scheme. In the grade descriptions, what does the top mark band have that the second mark band doesn't? For exams, review past paper mark schemes to see where previous students slipped up with common mistakes and what examiners were most impressed by - there should be trends on both sides that you can exploit when it comes to sitting the exam.
"If everything else fails, read the instructions." - Ralph Waldo Emerson
- Talk: discussing your studies with friends and family may seem like the last thing you want to do during this time, but it can actually provide you with interesting reference points for memorisation, not to mention considering topics from other points of view that never occurred to you before (and which may help when answering essay-based questions). If you lack contributors, just talking aloud to yourself can be almost as beneficial.
"Mankind's greatest achievements have come about by talking, and its greatest failures by not talking." - Stephen Hawking
- Have Fun: continue to do the things that are important to your happiness and well-being. As long as you've followed point 2 and have scheduled enough time for working and making meaningful progress with your studies, there should be no issue with taking time to meet with friends, watch your favourite programme or honour your sporting commitment. In fact, it is crucial that you do.
"When you play, play hard; when you work, don't play at all." - Theodore Rossevelt