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Revision Tips – Active Recall

Struggling to find a way of revising that works for you? Here we look at a method that has proved successful for many people – Active Recall. Delve into our blog to find out if this could be helpful to you.

Lots of you will be sitting exams this year, many for the first time after exams were cancelled because of Covid. Meic will be sharing lots of blogs and tips over the next few weeks to help you make it through click here to see
This article is also available in Welsh. I ddarllen y cynnwys yma yn Gymraeg – clicia yma

Whether you’re sitting your first exams or have taken exams before, many students still don’t have a clue how to revise in a way that works for them. We are all different, and we don’t all learn in the same way, so what works for one person might not work for somebody else. If you don’t think the method shared here works for you, then take a look at some other ideas on the WJEC website.

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What is active recall? 

There is a lot of evidence suggesting that Active Recall may be one of the most effective ways of revising. It is the process of testing your knowledge and understanding of the content that you’re learning. A helpful way of doing this is to follow the 3 R’s rule:  

  • Review – Go over the content that you’ll be testing yourself on
  • Recall – See how much content you can remember without looking at your notes or revision guides. Test yourself to see how much you can correctly remember and understand
  • Repeat – Repeat this process again and again. The more you do it, the more you’re actively recalling the information

Active recall is different from passive learning, which involves reading over the information and memorising it. Popular ways to passively learn include re-reading, highlighting or underlining, making notes and summarising the content.  

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The power of questions 

A great way to use active recall in your revision is by answering questions to test what you can remember and understand.  

After a lesson, or after going over your notes, write down some questions that relate to the content. Then answer these to see how much you can recall. You can reuse these questions repeatedly to test how well your revision is going.  

Another way to practice this is by completing past paper questions. You could ask your teachers at school for a copy of past papers, or you can search for past papers and mark schemes on the WJEC exam board website here.

You could start a study group with your friends or classmates so you can ask and answer questions together. This can make revision more social and help you learn from others too.   

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Tech can be your friend

If you’d like to put your phone to good use during revision time, there are some great apps that can help you with Active Recall.  

  • Quizlet – free app and website (with a paid upgrade option) that lets you create notes to use as digital flashcards. There are various options to help you learn the content and test your memory and understanding through built-in games
  • Anki – flashcard app. This app uses an algorithm to show content you mark as difficult more often than the things you can remember more easily. Anki can be used on Android for free but will cost on iOS. You could get around this by using the free version on a laptop or PC or borrowing a family member’s phone.

Further tips 

Visual learners: If you learn better by seeing things, mind maps are a great way to test your understanding of a topic. You have to link together bits of information that make sense. You can include active recall into your mind maps by creating them without your notes. Try to remember everything you can and put it in the mind map. Once you’re done, you can check it against your notes to see what you missed and try again.  

Auditory learners: If you learn better by hearing things, teaching someone information can be an effective way to revise. You can use active recall when doing this too; just make sure you’re not using your notes when you’re teaching. Pretend the person you’re teaching knows nothing about the subject, so you need to explain complicated concepts to them. This can test whether you understand the topic yourself. If you have no one to teach, using a stuffed toy as your audience or recording yourself teaching an imaginary class is also effective.  

For more helpful revision tips, check out this blog on Meic or these revision resources from WJEC promoted by the Power Up website. Power Up is your place to get hints, tips and information to get you through the 2022 exam and assessment season and onto the next level in your life.

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Meic is an information and advocacy helpline for children and young people aged 0-25 in Wales. We are open 8am to midnight, 7 days a week. You can contact us free on the phone (080880 23456), text message (84001) or online chat.