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Education expert says Forget what you’ve learned about exams

School exams

Morrison said “Old-fashioned techniques like ‘copy, cover, repeat’ or sitting numerous practice papers are not nearly as effective as people think – at least in the ways that students are using them, but they still get passed down from parent to child.”

To help students prepare for their exams, Murray has put together a list of “revision hacks” that he has found to be far more effective than traditional techniques:

  1. 1. Don’t work through practice papers; Pick one question at a time, look at the mark scheme and then do the question. When you’re confident you know how the marking works, you can start doing questions and marking them to see if you’re getting all the marks.

It is as important to understand, strategically, HOW the marks are awarded as it is to know all the answers inside out.

  1. 2. Don’t use highlighters to mark the things you don’t know; use a pencil to cross out the things you do know.

This builds positive feedback - a sense of achievement as you cross things off, rather than highlighting your gaps.

  1. 3. Don’t copy your notes out again; make very short micro-notes on flash-cards.

Rewording and condensing info causes you to process and internalise information far more effectively.

  1. 4. Don’t just sit looking at your text book; read it aloud to yourself, your cat, your parents etc

Read it, sing it, perform it - make it memorable! The more processes (movement, hearing, speaking) you use when learning, the better.

  1. 5. Don’t “cram”; spread your revision over a long period instead of a single intense burst.

Studying over a long time allows the information to properly sink in and improves understanding.

  1. 6. Embrace technology; there are a host of online learning platforms that are easy to use and track your progress.

These platforms tailor their programmes around you, based on your individual strengths and weaknesses.

  1. 7. Don't revise for your exam; instead, teach that material to somebody else - a brother/sister, parent, grandparent, school friend, anyone.

If you can explain it to someone, if you can tell the story, you can explain it to an examiner.


Murray Morrison said: “We’re not suggesting that every student should throw away their highlighters or even that there is a ‘right’ way and a ‘wrong’ way to revise.  However, a lot of the emphasis when it comes to revision has been on trying to force knowledge to stick with little thought put in to making that information “sticky” in the first place.  To get the best results, you need to find interesting ways of engaging with the material – whether that’s teaching it to others, recording notes to play back or even singing it.”

Morrison has developed an online game called Tassomai that tutors students on potential exam questions in the GCSE science syllabus. The software can be used both in schools and by individual students at home and produces a tailor-made teaching programme based on each pupil’s progress.

The software is currently used by nearly 10,000 students in over seventy schools across the UK. As the exam season approaches, over 1 million questions are being answered each week on the program.

Around 5million students will be sitting their GCSEs this summer across the country.

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