And Alex Said: Revise

7 March 2003

Column 18: Revise, 7th March 2003

There are only two weeks of this term left now, which means it’s probably time to start thinking about revising for your exams. I say revising, but if you’re anything like me, that means reading your lecture notes for the first time and trying to understand what the hell it all means. You sit there thinking – next year you will work harder, steadily, throughout the year, so you don’t end up learning it all from scratch next Easter, and you won’t do so dismally, but really you know you’ll end up making all the same promises this time next year. Except if you’re going to graduate this year of course. But then, that could be a very big “if” indeed. The shit has hit the fan. It’s time to get down to work. But can you really be bothered? Right now?

The first thing to do, obviously, is to construct your revision timetable. Try not to waste time by making it too elaborate – if yours is carved out of mahogany, exquisitely decorated with paintings of Biblical figures and encrusted with jewels, and illuminates in a range of hues when voice-activated, you might want to consider brushing up on your time management skills. Of course, the trap here is that you then end up spending hours and hours searching Google, looking up ways to use your time more effectively. Then you sit there, pondering for a while about the irony of it all. Then you realise pondering the irony for so long was itself ironic, as now you’ve wasted even more time, and then you’ve only got a week to go until your exams begin.

It can all get very stressful when you realise how little time you have left. The best way to relieve stress, of course, is to take a holiday – so why not book a last-minute flight and get away from it all for a few weeks?

If you do stay at home though, you’ve still got ways to waste time. For example,  when revising, make sure you take regular breaks. There’s no point in revising unless you’re concentrating fully, so make sure you’re fully rested and recovered before you go back to your desk. Go and get yourself something to eat – roast a chicken, bake a loaf of bread, marinade a steak for twelve hours, have a five course meal, and then go to bed to make sure you’re in tip-top condition for when you go back to that nasty textbook.

You can probably kill quite a few days with nice long breaks alone. But then you’ll find you’ve only got two days left and you still don’t understand a thing. The shit has well and truly hit the fan now – in fact, a whole dungheap has been fired at a ship’s propellers – and it’s time to cram. No time for sleep now – staple your eyes open, and connect yourself to a drip wired straight up to a Starbucks espresso machine, pumping boiling hot coffee through your veins.

Next, eliminate all possible distractions from your study area. Put your telly in the attic, post your computer to an oil rig in the North Sea and bury all non-relevant books at the bottom of the garden. Then take a deep breath, and revise.

Condense your notes – take your original lecture notes, abbreviate them, and get them down to a few sheets of A4. Then do it again. And then do it again, until you can write a whole lecture course onto a contact lens. Then you’re all set – it’s so quick and simple really. Why does it take so long?