What to do when revision isn’t going in

We've all been there. You're sitting at your desk, doing the right thing, and trying to revise for your exams.

However, you're very aware that you couldn't repeat a single thing that you've ‘revised' in the last 30 minutes.

It's disheartening, dis-spiriting, and when your exams are only days away, it's stressful too.

In this post, I'm going to show you what to do when revision isn't going in.

What to do when revision isn't going in

1. Take a break

One of the most common reasons for revision not going in is that you simply need a break. This is especially true if you've been sitting at your desk for hours without even stretching or you've been doing 13 hour days for the last two weeks.

So, the first thing to do is to get out of your chair, get out of the house and take a proper break.

Here are some ideas about what kind of active things you should be doing on your break to properly reset your brain so that you're ready to learn when you get back to your desk.

2. Change your revision technique

As they say, a change is as good as a rest. So, change up your revision techniques.

If you've been reading and high-lighting, try watching some revision videos on YouTube.

If you've been creating flash cards try teaching someone everything you've memorised so far.

If you've been making notes, try doing some past papers.

3. Get active about your revision

The most unsuccessful types of revision are passive.

What do I mean by this?

Well, they involve just sitting there reading, watching or listening and expecting your brain to absorb all that information.

The trouble is, these passive revision techniques just don't work. (Or, they don't work as well as other techniques).

Instead, you should be using active revision techniques. You can easily turn reading, watching or listening into active techniques. Here are some examples of how:

  • Reading – instead of just reading, read a paragraph or a section of the book and then summarise what you've read into bullet points using your own words.
  • Watching / listening – as you watch or listen take rough notes that summarise the key points. Then, turn those rough notes into a poster, flash cards or even a lesson to teach your dog (he'll just love learning about oxidation).

4. Do what works, ditch what doesn't

When you've revising you should constantly be assessing how well it's going in your head. If a particular revision technique isn't going so well, stop doing it and try something else instead.

Only by staying really tuned in to what is working AT ALL TIMES can you be really efficient about your revision and make every minute you spend with the books count.

So, as I tell my private coaching clients all the time, do what works, ditch what doesn't.

When you're choosing revision techniques, do what works and ditch what doesn't. #revisiontips #examseason Share on X

5. Get creative

The Ten Step Guide to Acing Every Exam You Ever Take

My book, as seen in The Telegraph

In chapter 8 of my book, The Ten Step Guide to Acing Every Exam You Ever Take, I talk about how you can reflect on successful learning experiences you've had in the past and get creative about how you can re-purpose them for revision.

Luckily for you, I give away this section of the book for free. So you can download and go through the exercise. I highly recommend it because it's radically helped hundreds, if not thousands, of students, to re-think how they do revision to make it a) more successful and b) more fun.

Download the free chapter here

Over to you

I've given you five ideas about what to do when revision isn't going in. I really hope they've helped you. In the comments below please tell me:

  1. What new techniques you've tried as a result of my suggestions and how you're getting on with them


2. How you've managed to rescue your revision when it wasn't going in in the past. This will help other students struggling with the same problem right now.

You might also like this blog post: 7 signs you might be revising the wrong way and what to do about it

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