Skills Hub

Revision strategies and memory techniques

Use active revision strategies

Think about what helps you to learn. Active revision, as opposed to passive revision, has been shown to be more effective in helping students learn. Here are some examples of active revision strategies:

Mind maps

image of mind mapMind maps can be a great way to identify connections between ideas. They don't need to be dull, you can use colours and images, which will help to aid memory. If you prefer to create mind maps electronically, free apps such as mindmeister, canva, mindmups are available. You may also find drawing diagrams useful to remember processes or cycles

Flash cards

Flash cards allow you to practice summarizing information and can help you identify any gaps in your learning. You can use them in a variety of different ways:

  • Condense notes about a specific topic on to a card
  • Write a term on one side and a definition the other
  • Write a question on one side and answer on the other 
You can include colours and images to improve your memory, they can also be used you want to be tested by your household. You can use an app like Study Blue to create flashcards.


Study groups

Explaining topics to other people can often aid your own memory and understanding, revising as a group can also give you an opportunity to quiz and test each other and share example answers
There are lots of apps and software available to allow you to do this online- such a Zoom, Skype, google hangouts, whatsapp/ facebook messager.

Rhymes or stories or mnemonics

Use songs, rhymes or stories to learn facts - e.g. ‘Horace fell down a well and started laughing' - Horace Wells was an American dentist and one of the first to routinely use nitrous oxide (laughing gas) on his patients.

Mnemonics can also be a helpful way to memorise facts. Use the first letter of a series of words to create a phrase that is easy to remember. For example, Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain (colours of the rainbow in order: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet).  

Practice questions

If you can access past papers or practice questions, working through these is a great way to test your knowledge. Practise planning the framework for your answers. Use lists to compare points for and against a statement. Try writing plans and full answers to past exam questions with and without your revision notes.

You can find past examination papers on the past exam papers website

Record your notes

play iconIf you find that you learn better by listening to things, use you phone to record yourself reading out short parts of your notes.
You can listen back to your recordings at any time, making it easy to find more short revision slots.

Post-it notes

Post-it notes allow you to summarise information and are a great way to remember key details.
Use colours to identify themes and stick them around your house - but move them regularly so you don't get used to having them in a specific place.


Read your essays and other assignments to get yourself in the right frame of mind. Reflect on your feedback, both the positive points and those you need to improve. Repeat the former; try to change the latter.

Avoid passive revision

The following techniques are passive and are unlikely to help you engage with large amounts of information
  • Typing out all your notes- unless you specifically need all your notes in an electronic format, this is a waste of time as it is not a technique that requires much brain activity and engagement.
  • Reading your notes- simply reading is passive- you are not doing anything to store what you are reading in your mind. 
  • Copying out material- this is a time-consuming activity but is not engaging with your mind enough to help you remember the content. 
  • Highlighting- it can be very easy to mindlessly over-highlight the majority of a document, combined with annotation this method can be effective, but on its own tends to be a passive strategy.

Keep motivated

  • Use active revision techniques
  • Vary the material you revise: from the difficult to the more familiar. This makes it more interesting, and small chunks are easier to remember.
  • Take regular breaks but be strict about returning to your revision. Even when you are on a break, your mind will keep working - often sorting out complex ideas!
  • Give yourself treats and rewards to keep you going
  • When you're revising independently at home, it can be a struggle to remain productive. It is important to establish a routine - set an alarm, get dressed and eat breakfast as you normally would to prepare for the day. If you are struggling to stay focussed, visit our pages on dealing with distractions.


Second year Maths

View Charlie's student perspective


To revise for my exams I summarise all of my lecture notes onto record cards and then revise from the record cards and do past papers.


Third year Chemistry

View Jess's student perspective


A lot of the time things you learn in Chemistry you need to practise them to be able to use them. If it is a mechanism for a reaction you need to use it and draw it again and check you know what is going on. The best way of revising for me is to get together with a group of friends and all take an aspect of the course and go and try and paraphrase it or draw it out or say to your friend, "Would you do this reaction?" By doing it yourself you have to make sure you know it and by explaining it to others it helps everybody else. It is a really great way of reinforcing learning and for me that is the best way to revise.

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