How students’ brains like to be treated during an exam revision

If you're a 16-year-old student preparing for any exam, you must know one thing – your brain needs special treatment. We have the power to understand so many things about our memory's structure, which is why it's our duty to find the best training strategies for the brain and prepare it for intensive testing. The process is all about working its neuro-plasticity, compel it to stay organized and form new connections.

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How does the brain react to learning?

The information transmitted by the brain cells is called neurons. When we learn something new, a set of neurons set off in a special part of the brain better known as the hippocampus. Imagine an outline of bulbs lighting up to get an idea. Our hippocampus is compelled to stock up a lot of new patterns on a daily basis. When we're revising for exams, these patterns are extremely intense inside the brain. When provided with an adequate trigger, our hippocampus should have the capacity to retrieve any type of pattern. However, as it keeps receiving new information, the overload might get the brain to malfunction. That's exactly what happens when you read something for 10 minutes, you think you remember the information, but you soon realize it's not there anymore.

Mnemonics to the brain is like broccoli to kids

That's right; our brain doesn't like mnemonics. Teachers, speciality websites, and most books recommend students to use this technique because it's practical and easy to use. To some extent that's true. But did you know that mnemonics only help students remember order and not names? For example: you can recall a certain classification in biology, but you'll have troubles remembering names if you haven't revised them before. The strategy is based on a cue; however, the problem is you won't be able to remember the information you want to lay out if it's not there, inside your brain.

Practice makes better – a statement that never gets old

Forget about letters and turn to repetitions instead. With practice, the pathways between neurons can be improved. Retrieving that same piece of information over and over again is an excellent attempt of consolidating patterns and forcing data to stick in your mind. That doesn't mean you have to cook the brain by repeating the exact same sentence 100 times. There are other ways such as:

  • Using flashcards – write short sentences, keywords, and numbers
  • Post-its – once again, keep things short and stick the post-its all over the house (on the fridge, on the mirror, etc); you brain will involuntarily retain the information
  • Diagrams, spider-grams
  • Mind maps

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Spaced repetition is a blessing

That's true! A-level exams are challenging, so it's impossible for a student to remember everything in a week or so. Studies have shown that the brain should be stimulated using a technique known as spaced repetition. Our memories get stronger when we retrieve data over and over again at different time intervals. Repeat the information you just read after a few minutes, then repeat that same information after a couple of hours, and then after several days, and eventually it will get stuck to your head. You will remember it, that's a guarantee! The secret is to use spaced repetition the smart way.

Let's not take sleep for granted

Parents and teachers are constantly reminding students how important it is to sleep between exam revision sessions. You might find it extremely annoying, but we're going to say this again – sleep is vital for the brain, it's like food. Sleep consolidates the memory and it rejuvenates the body. A proper sleep session of at least 8 hours a night will guarantee a fruitful study session in the morning.

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The brain can't function to its fullest potential if we're not spending enough time to care for it. Exams are not just difficult, they're stressful. Sometimes, students are not worried that they'll fail because they didn't study; they fear that because of their nerves they won't be able to remember the information. Feed your brain with essential information step-by-step; devote quality time to your study sessions, and only do it when you're rested. The best time to revise for it is early in the morning, after breakfast when your full body is relaxed and ready to accumulate new and fresh information.