Over the last few days, there’s been a steady increase in the number of people visiting my Open University ED209, DD303 and DD307 notes pages. It’s revision time, isn’t it? I knew there was something missing from my life this year!
Anyway, as I’ve been asked a few times about how I approached revision when I was studying for my psychology degree, I thought I’d collect all of my thoughts in this handy blog post. You may do it differently – and that’s ok as the first tip for revision I have is to make sure you do some – but do it in a way that works for you.
It’s worth reflecting on how much effort you put into TMAs when judging how much time you might want to set aside for revision. For example, if your course has 6 TMAs that (for the sake of argument) took you an average of 15 hours each, then a rough rule of thumb might be that you ought to consider 75 (6×15) hours of revision. After all, the OCAS (continuous assessment) and OES (exam) components are equally weighted on all of the OU psychology courses I took (with the exception of DXR222 which just had the examinable component and SD226, which had an end of module assessment in place of an exam – thank goodness!)
Having said that, it’s a good idea to work out how much time (realistically) you have to revise in and plan your revision around that time. I always found that setting myself modest revision goals was good (and by modest, I mean that if I achieved them I’d be able to answer at least one question from each section of the exam). I also found it useful to and to have a backup list of topics to revise once I was comfortable with my “must revise” choices. Looking back through my blog posts, it’s definitely what I did for DD307 last year and DD303 the year before that. In the end, the problem I had on exam day for both modules was too wide a range of questions to choose from … but that’s an infinitely better problem to have than having nothing to choose from.
I needed somewhere I could be quiet and spread my materials out. I found that our dining room table – even though it meant me having to share the space with our house rabbit (more of him later) was a particularly good place to work from for the final push. However, earlier on in the revision process I simply used anywhere I could find a few minutes quiet to work from. Quietness was really important for me. I know some people say they work better to music or the background noise of a television, but I definitely can’t.
I always found that reworking the course material was important. It’s why I created my notes in the first place. With the exception of my DSE212 notes, I wrote them all while progressing through the module. I was almost too late on DSE212 before realising that it would have been impossible for me to revise from the books and scribbled margin notes alone. I tended to update my notes during the revision process and/or make handwritten summaries, flow diagrams and mind maps to go with them. You won’t find these online I’m afraid and I’m not sure I’ve got them still – and even if I had, no-one but me would stand much chance of deciphering them. If you’re curious, then have a quick squint at the photographs on this blog post. There are calming photographs of my house rabbit on there as a treat, as well as the notes!
Use other people’s notes to help too if you can find them. There’s the professionally produced ones from Linda Corlett and others of course, tutorial handouts are often useful and while it’s too late for this year to go on the OUPS revision weekend at Warwick University, it’s well worth considering attending in future. I also found having the support of a few study buddies incredibly useful as well – invariably meeting up virtually rather than face to face.
Practice essays, based on previous year’s exam papers (and particularly, spending some time writing good openings and closings) were another useful way I found of reworking material.
Which brings me onto handwriting. That’s something I hadn’t done a lot of since I left University the first time around in the mid 1980s. Being able to write for up to 3 hours, by hand, takes some practice. I found that I needed to train to be able to write for that long (perhaps not quite like an Olympic athlete, but you understand my point).
Just like athletes, having the right equipment is important too. For me, that meant investing in an endless supply of this pen. They’re fairly inexpensive – it’s all relative of course, as even at £1 or so for each one is way more expensive than free biros from hotels or pencils from a well-known blue and yellow themed household goods emporium. But they meant I was able to write for longer and far more legibly than I otherwise would have been able to. In addition, they have the real advantage of being able to work sensibly on the “paper” the OU like to provide for exams. I learned the hard way on DSE212 that my nice fountain pen just wasn’t going to be able to cope.
There may be some other things that I’ve forgotten – and if so, I’ll add them in here as I think about them. And if anyone else would like to share advice, please feel free to add something in the comments. If you happen to be revising please feel free to say hello in there too.
I can’t believe that I’m writing this, but I’m really missing revising this year – and I’m sure that all of you who are definitely don’t believe me …