Student perspectives: 5 last minute revision top tips from a health sciences student

Photo of Emma, the author of this blog post

Student Advocate Emma Lau (Veterinary Sciences) shares some tips and techniques for preparing for upcoming assessments.

With summer exams approaching, we inevitably start gearing up in preparation for our intense revision in the upcoming revision week! Here I want to share the top 5 tips I have from studying for university exams in the past four years. 

A bit about myself: I am a fourth-year student studying veterinary science. As many of you may know, it is quite a content-heavy subject. The following tips may not be as applicable to some of you doing a more applicable subject, such as Mathematics and computer science, or those doing essay subjects, such as History and Psychology. However, I believe there are some transferable skills for revising for exams. 

1. Stay flexible to prevent procrastination

This is one of the transferable revision skills regardless of the subject you do. It may sound simple, but if a topic is tedious or not your interest or focus, we may want to procrastinate.   

Question: How can I prevent procrastination?  

Some people plan their revision schedule a few weeks prior to revision week or even a month before their exam date. I have tried that in previous years. Unfortunately, this method did not work as well for me. My tip will be to stay flexible on the topics to revise. Setting a goal to go through a set number of topics instead of a defined topic works better for me. Mixing around different topics will keep our motivation, maximising our revision efficiency. 

2. Use modified Cornell note-taking method  

As you may have heard, the Cornell note taking method is known to be an effective way of note taking. I modified this method when I revisited my initial notes to create a summary revision table. 

First, I put the relevant Intended Learning Outcome (ILO) on the top of the page. I  then organise my notes into two columns – one with questions/ hints and another column with answers. For content that can be organised into a table, I also put a table underneath the ILO.

Here’s an example of my own adapted Cornell-style notes

3. Mind mapping  

Mind maps are a great way to perform active recall of taught materials! There are several different applications that I have tried and found useful. Click on each one to view an example of how I use them in practice:

  1. Obsidian
  2. Mindmup
  3. Miro
  4. Padlet

They all have different pros and cons, so have a look at some of my examples to see which app you prefer. If you are looking for collaboration with your friends, only Miro and Padlet will have the function. 

4. Use AI for summarisation and incorporate the “Read Aloud” function

Seeing the long list of ILOs can be daunting, making it difficult to find a starting point to condense your notes. I recommend inputting the ILOs into a large language model (LLM), such as Claude or ChatGPT, followed by your notes and ask it to summarize your notes for you. This will provide you with a quick overview of the specific topic.

In addition to that, I would recommend using the “Read Aloud” function to listen to the summarised content. The multisensory learning approach has proven to be a powerful tool to enhance information comprehension and retention. I must admit that I remember way more content in a shorter time frame than I would have otherwise been able to. Therefore, it is definitely worth considering during your last couple of weeks for revision.

Here I use Claude to generate summaries of specific topics based entirely on my own written notes.

However, it is worth noting that the university has a strict copyright policy regarding teaching materials, and you musn’t upload lecture slides or materials created by your lecturer or other people. Therefore, when putting notes onto AI tools, it must be from our own paraphrased notes. In addition, if we do not want the chat to be remembered or used as further AI training data, logging into Microsoft Copilot would be a better alternative than ChatGPT and Claude. The only limitation with Microsoft Copilot is that you are limited to pasting 4000 characters per message.

For more guidance and support on using AI tools for your studies check out the Study Skills team’s Using AI at University online resource.

5. Practice, practice, practice

Lastly, I must emphasise the importance of practice. For subjects with past papers access I recommend doing as many of those as you can. For health science subjects that do not have access to past papers, Peerwise and your own flashcards will be good alternatives. Spaced repetition (regularly returning and reviewing) is key to remembering factual content, while understanding past papers will help set more realistic expectations on the exam format. These allow you to be more confident and calmer on exam dates.

That’s my five top tips for when revising during the revision week. If you want to try out any of the mentioned tools above and learning about details on how to access it, you can find more information on this page. Hope you have found this blog useful, and best of luck with your exams!

Do you have any revision tips of your own? Share them in comments below!

Student Perspectives: 5 of the best places to study in Bristol when the libraries are full

Helen, the author of the blog post

In this blog post Student Advocate Helen March (History) explores study spaces in the city outside of the University.

The university libraries are a great place to study during term time, but they can get super busy. This can make it a real challenge to get your work done, especially during exam time. Here’s a few suggestions of places you can go when the libraries are full up and you’re struggling to find a place to knuckle down.  


1. Bristol Central Library Reading Room  

A great place to start with is the central library just off college green. Tucked out the way of the University, the library is really quiet during weekdays and has a beautiful reading room.

Sign up for a free library card and you can have access to their wifi and stay there all day. The staff are really lovely and there’s even a coffee shop on the ground floor!

This Photo by Steve Cadman is licensed under CC BY.

2. Clifton Library  

Did you know there’s a library in Clifton Village? Neither did I until this year! Tucked between cafes and pubs, the library is small, but generally really quiet. Plus, there’s loads of pubs nearby to grab a quick pint at the end of a long study day. 

3. The Cloakroom Cafe 

This quirky cafe was once an Edwardian public loo! Located just down the hill from the university, it’s a great place to get your reading done away from the bustle of students trying to find their lectures.  Top Tip – The hot chocolate here is amazing!  

4. The Botanical Gardens 

This Photo by Nick is licensed under CC BY. 

If you live in Stoke Bishop, you might want somewhere a bit closer to you! When I lived up there, I often found it hard to find space in the Hiatt Baker study centre. Instead, why not head over to the Botanical Gardens, (Don’t worry I’m not telling you to try and work in a flower bed!).

They’ve got a lovely cafe hidden round the back of the building, where you can get your work done in a peaceful environment! 

5. The Arnolfini  

The Arnolfini is primarily an art gallery, but it’s also got a cafe which is great for studying in. Located on the docks, it’s a scenic place to watch boats go by whilst you struggle to work out that problem you just can’t get your head round. Plus, you can take a break to look round some of their amazing exhibits! 

Do you have any other suggestions for study spaces beyond the University? Let us know in the comments!

Student perspective: Revising with AI tutors as a veterinary student

Photo of Emma, the author of this blog postby Emma Lau, Veterinary Science student and Bristol Futures Advocate

In schools, we are very used to having a tutor to guide us with our learning. However, university teaching is more self-directed and independent It can be quite a big shock to some of us, particularly first-years students, at least that’s what I felt three years ago when I first started vet school.

Veterinary Science is a content heavy subject, having a tutor undoubtedly will help you revise more efficiently and effectively. I never thought I would be able to do that until ChatGPT was launched in November 2022.

Why should we use AI tutor for revision?

Here’s are the two main reasons:

1. Breaking the chains of procrastination.

Procrastination has always been a nemesis of students, and I am no exception. Unlike the monotony of reading through notes, the interactive nature of AI tutoring helps me to stay motivated and on track on my revision plan.

2. Refined learning efficiency.

Content taught any courses in universities, especially health sciences, can be overwhelming. AI can help us to organise and condense our notes. The Q&A method adopted by AI tutor makes my learning process more efficient and enjoyable.

What next?

After knowing the benefits of utilising AI for revision, the next step will be to generate your own AI tutor. It can be difficult and time consuming to create your own bot from scratch. Fortunately, there are plenty of examples of AI tutor bots on the internet for us to use as a template. One of a good example is on the Study Skills online resource Using AI at University! I have been using that template since the release of the resources. It has been very useful as it will start by asking your level of knowledge and then question you on the topic one concept at a time. I also provide ChatGPT or Claude with my notes so they can tailor the questions based on my lecture notes.

Examples on how to utilise AI tutor

Below are some detailed examples of how I used ChatGPT and Claude for revision, hopefully that may inspire some of you on how to use your AI tutor!

1. General review of a topic

Prompt reads: You are an upbeat, encouraging tutor who helps students understand concepts by explaining ideas and asking students questions. Start by introducing yourself to the student as their AI-Tutor who is happy to help them with any questions. Only ask one question at a time. First, ask them what they would like to learn about. Wait for the response. Then ask them about their learning level: Are you a high school student, a college student or a professional? Wait for their response. Then ask them what they know already about the topic they have chosen. Wait for a response. Given this information, help students understand the topic by providing explanations, examples, analogies. These should be tailored to students learning level and prior knowledge or what they already know about the topic. Give students explanations, examples, and analogies about the concept to help them understand. You should guide students in an open-ended way. Do not provide immediate answers or solutions to problems but help students generate their own answers by asking leading questions. Ask students to explain their thinking. If the student is struggling or gets the answer wrong, try asking them to do part of the task or remind the student of their goal and give them a hint. If students improve, then praise them and show excitement. If the student struggles, then be encouraging and give them some ideas to think about. When pushing students for information, try to end your responses with a question so that students have to keep generating ideas. Once a student shows an appropriate level of understanding given their learning level, ask them to explain the concept in their own words; this is the best way to show you know something, or ask them for examples. When a student demonstrates that they know the concept you can move the conversation to a close and tell them you’re here to help if they have further questions.
Prompt borrowed from Using AI as a Tutor


EL - Phenobutyrone. AI - Yes, close. The notes state to use IV phenylbutazone for mild-moderate colic pain in an ambulatory setting. Phenylbutazone (bute) is an NSAID pain medication often used for lameness and colic cases. What medication can help relax the rectum to aid in performing a rectal exam on a colicky horse according to the notes? EL - Buscopan AI - Excellent! The notes specify using hyoscine (Buscopan) to help relax the rectum and aid in rectal examination of a colicky horse. To summarise main points so far ...
Chat excerpt: testing veterinary knowledge on equine colic


2. Creating practice MCQs (multiple choice questions)

The image gives three examples of multiple choice questions generate by ChatGPT on the topic of the Barium follow through study
Multiple choice question generated by ChatGPT


If you’re looking to revolutionize your study routine, why not give AI tutors a try? Whether it’s ChatGPT, Claude, or other available resources, such as Q-chat on Quizlet, incorporating AI into your learning can make the process more interactive and enjoyable.

For more information about using AI tools for study, see our online guide to Using AI at University


Student perspective: My journey with MarginNote mind maps

by Allison Sia, Law student and Bristol Futures Advocate

Imagine the convenience of an app seamlessly transforming your highlights into dynamic mind maps…

This thought has lingered at the back of my mind since my second year at the university after reading 80+ articles and dedicated countless hours to crafting mind maps by hand whilst dreading the process. Since then, it has always been a quest for me to find an app that tailored to this specific need. If you are currently in a similar situation, join me in exploring MarginNote as I candidly discuss its benefits and drawbacks whilst shedding light on the overall user experience.

Mind map with one main heading and four sub-headings. Two of the sub-headings have additional branches coming off them.
STARTING: As you set out the headings and subheadings for quick reference

Advantages of the Margin Note app

  1. Efficiency and time-Saving features. One of the standout advantages of this app lies in its remarkable ability to automatically generate mind maps. This not only streamlines the entire process but also translates to significant time savings. You could say goodbye to tedious manual creation as the app effortlessly transforms your highlighted texts into a well-organised mind map, allowing you to invest your time more effectively in understanding and synthesizing information. 
  2. Transformation of messy handwritten mind maps. Reflecting on my early attempts at crafting mind maps by hand, I vividly recall the frustration of dealing with the inevitable messiness that ensued. Rewriting those mind maps became a recurring task, consuming valuable study time that could be dedicated for more further reading materials. Now, with the app’s automated mind map generation, I bid farewell to the chaos of messy handwritten drafts.  
  3. Headings: enhanced organization & personalisation. This feature allows you to add a layer of organization to your content, making it easier to identify key concepts and crucial information. Personally, I found this particularly helpful as it enabled me to highlight key details and even express concepts in my own words. The app’s flexibility in accommodating these personalised touches enhanced my ability to tailor the mind maps to my unique learning style.  

Advantages of mind mapping 

  1. Instant insight into article content. Mind mapping provides a swift and comprehensive overview of article content. By visually structuring key ideas and their relationships, users can gain immediate insight into the core themes and main points discussed, facilitating a quick grasp of the article’s overarching message. 
  2. Efficient information retrieval. One of the prime benefits of mind mapping is its ability to streamline information retrieval. Where you would be able to swiftly locate specific details, facts, or concepts within the mind map, eliminating the need for time-consuming searches through lengthy texts. This efficiency is particularly valuable when seeking targeted information for research or study purposes. 
  3. Enhanced memory retention through quick scans. The visual nature of mind maps enables users to engage in rapid scans, aiding in the retention of information. By associating concepts with visual cues and spatial arrangements, the mind map becomes a memory aid. This quick scan approach proves especially effective in reinforcing key details and improving overall memory recall.
  4. Conceptual breakdown into digestible units. Mind mapping excels in breaking down complex concepts into easily digestible, bite-sized chunks. Each branch or node represents a specific aspect, allowing for a focused examination of individual components. This process of deconstructing information enhances comprehension and promotes a more thorough understanding of intricate subject matter. 

 Limitations of the Margin Note app 

  1.  Absence of highlighting on mind maps. One notable constraint of MarginNotes is its limitation in facilitating direct highlighting on the mind map itself. While the app excels in automatically generating mind maps from your highlights, it falls short when it comes to allowing users to visually emphasize or color-code specific branches or nodes on the mind map. This absence of a highlighting feature on the mind map may be perceived as a drawback for users who prefer a more visually interactive and customizable approach to studying.
  2. Inability to bold words on the mind map. Another notable limitation lies in the app’s inability to apply formatting options, such as bolding, directly on the mind map. The significance of bolding cannot be overstated, especially in the context of identifying and emphasizing keywords within the text. Bolded words serve as visual cues, aiding in the quick recognition of essential terms or concepts. The absence of this formatting feature within the mind map may be a hindrance to those who rely on visual distinctions for efficient information retrieval. 

 Limitations of mind mapping

  1. Applicability to diverse article types. Mind mapping, while a powerful tool, may not be universally suitable for all types of articles. Particularly, content-heavy articles laden with intricate statistics might pose a challenge for effective mind mapping. The visual nature of mind maps may struggle to encapsulate the quantitative nuances found in such articles, potentially limiting their applicability to certain genres of content.
  2. Passive engagement during mind map creation. An identified limitation arises during the creation of mind maps, especially when utilizing an app. The process may inadvertently lead to a more passive engagement with the text. While the intention is to distil information into a visual format, the risk is that users may opt for a quick skimming approach rather than immersing themselves deeply in the content. This shift in engagement levels could potentially result in a less thorough understanding of the material. 
Section of a mind map with multiple branches, which then branch further. The branches are colour coded.
You might end up with something like that…

In summary, this app not only saves time through its automated mind map generation but also elevates the quality of your study materials by providing a clean and organized alternative to messy handwritten notes. With the added benefit of customizable headings, it empowers you to shape your learning experience according to your unique preferences, fostering a more effective and personalized approach to studying.

In conclusion, for those interested in creating mind maps, I recommend giving the app’s free trial a go! 

For more information about using AI tools for study, see our online guide to Using AI at University


Student discount. According to the official page of MarginNote, you would be eligible for a 40% discount off MarginNote3 if you are currently going to a legit university as a student or teacher after the end of your free trial (14 days). More information to apply is linked here

Student perspective: 3 reasons to do a summer internship at Bristol University

Photo of Eliana, the author of this blog postby Eliana Garcia, Mechanical and Electrical Engineering student and Bristol Futures Advocate

I am Eliana Garcia, Mechanical and Electrical Engineering student (BEng). I did a summer internship at Bristol Robotics Laboratory in 2023. It was a transformative experience, include immerse learning, skills development, and self-reflection. and here are three compelling reasons why you should consider an internship at Bristol university.

  1. Putting Learning into Practice

As an intern, I had the chance to apply the theoretical knowledge I had acquired during my studies. Embodied intelligence, a subject I had admired from afar, became tangible as I worked on a project involving a quadruped robot. The open-source, torque-controlled legged robot platform challenged me to translate textbook concepts into real-world solutions. It was exhilarating to see equations come alive in the form of mechanical movements. An internship allows you to test yourself, bridge the gap between theory and practice, and keep your learning active.

  1. Rapidly Acquiring New Information

Internships are like accelerated learning labs. At Bristol Robotics Laboratory, I honed essential study skills that extended beyond the classroom. Academic reading, note-taking, and library research became my daily companions. I learned to navigate research papers effectively, evaluating their relevance and extracting valuable insights. Seeking guidance from subject librarians, I discovered hidden gems in the form of specialized books related to soft robotics and dynamic control. The Cornell Method for notetaking became my secret weapon—capturing key points, making connections, and summarizing material for future reference. These skills are invaluable, whether you’re pursuing academia or venturing into industry.

Photo of robotics equipment

  1. Visualizing My Future Path

Internships offer a glimpse into your professional destiny. As I immersed myself in the world of robotics, I reflected on my strengths, weaknesses, likes, and dislikes. Beyond the lab, I pondered my post-university options. Would I thrive in industry, pushing the boundaries of innovation? Or should I continue my academic journey, pursuing a master’s degree? Perhaps there was an entirely different path waiting—one aligned with my passions. The internship acted as a compass, guiding me toward self-awareness and informed decision-making.

Finally, my time at Bristol Robotics Laboratory expanded my technical knowledge, but it also enriched my academic toolkit. It equipped me with essential skills, broadened my perspective, and allowed me to visualize the myriad paths that lay ahead. So, if you’re considering an internship, don’t merely think of it as a checkbox. Instead, view it as an adventure—a chance to explore, learn, and shape your future. Bristol University awaits, ready to ignite your curiosity and propel you toward greatness.

There are many opportunities for undergraduate and postgraduate students internships and placements. For more information about internships open the following link:

Student perspective: overcoming anxieties about giving presentations

by Helen March, English and History student and Bristol Futures Advocate

Helen, the author of the blog postDeadline season is looming and along with it comes a myriad of assessments, exams and sometimes even presentations. Delivering presentations at university can often be pretty overwhelming. Most degree programmes will ask you to give at least one during your time at university, and this might be the first time you’ve ever had to speak in public before. This can be quite scary, especially when you are presenting to a large audience or panel. Personally, I found the prospect of communicating my academic ideas incredibly daunting, as it was something I’d never done before.

But it doesn’t have to be daunting! Presentations are a great way to express a level of creativity in an assessment and can often result in really good marks. Below are some helpful tips about public speaking which can help tackle those nerves for your next presentation assessment.

Make a Script or Prompt Cards

It can often help to have some prompts to read from when giving a presentation; nobody is expecting you to remember everything word for word! Whether it’s some flash cards or a word document with your entire script, having something in front of you with the relevant information on will make sure you know what you need to say next. It can prevent you from having a mind blank if you’re worried you’ll panic when you get up in front of everyone.

Eye contact

Having said that, don’t stare at your script too much! It’s important to engage your audience. Although everyone is always encouraged to look people in the eyes when giving presentations this can often be quite difficult to do. It’s also pretty intimidating! Instead, try looking just above people’s heads. It will look like you’re speaking directly at them, but avoid the awkwardness of staring at anyone too much.


Make sure you are speaking at a good volume. It’s okay to be a bit too loud but make sure you’re not too quiet. As long as everyone can hear you then you should be okay. If you have the opportunity to, it can often help to visit the room you will be presenting in first so you know the size of it, check whether there is a microphone, and can test out how loudly you need to speak.


Whether it’s in front of a flat mate, family member or just recording yourself on your phone, practising your presentation before you actually give it can really help. Not only will it make sure you’re familiar with your entire script, but it will improve the communication of your argument and allow you to work out how to pace yourself more easily. It can also help to pick up on anything which you might have missed from your presentation or script when you were putting it together. Practising your script will hopefully mean you’re less reliant on it when it comes to the actual presentation, and your argument will flow more easily.

If you’re still struggling, you can also attend one of our presentation skills workshops, which will give you the opportunity to discuss these skills and try out your public speaking skills.

Have you got any tips for public speaking? Share them below!

Student perspective: How I engineer my time

Asda, the author of the blog postby Asda Napawan, Mechanical and Electrical Engineering student and Bristol Futures Advocate

Managing and balancing work-life time as an engineering student is a difficult task due to the nature of the degree. To manage my time effectively, I use all of the following methods:

1. Rough Schedule

Plan a rough schedule for the week or month, only including meetings, classes and solid plans as unforeseen events may arise as time progress.

2. Detailed schedule

Plan a detailed schedule for the next day, including a list of tasks to be completed (e.g., asynchronous content, homework, and coursework)

3. Target setting

Set a target for the day and take as much time as needed to be completed. As engineering work can be time-consuming, and sometimes takes longer than anticipated, setting time for each individual task can be difficult.

4. Time blocking

Schedule specific time slot for each task. Estimate how long it will take for each task and try to do it in one goal.

5. Prioritising

Identify the most important tasks and focus on them first.

6. 5-minutes tasks

Do quick, 5-minutes task straight away to prevent forgetting about them and to clear them from your to-do list.

7. Pomodoro method

Focus for 25 minutes and then take a 5-minutes break. Repeat the process until that work is finished or reached the target set.

8. Tools

Tools such as Google calendar could be used to keep track of tasks, mark them as completed, and monitor the progress. The tool is convenient because it can be accessed on multiple devices and syncs across platforms.

By implementing these time management tools and strategies, I can prioritise tasks, create structure in my day, and make the most of my time to achieve the goals. What time management strategies have you found to be the most effective for your studies or work, and how have they helped you to achieved your goals?

Student perspective: Using active recall

Shraddha, the author of the blog postby Shraddha Sriraman, English and History student and Bristol Futures Advocate

In this post, I’ll share my experience of using active recall. See my previous post for “How to add active recall to your revision toolkit”

A Students Perspective


  • This method of learning has been hugely beneficial in spreading out my workload so I can work on topics bit by bit, instead of being faced with having to read an entire chapter all in one go (trust me – that is NOT fun)
  • I’ve been able to remember information for longer, so it hasn’t just been cramming for the exam and forgetting information as soon as its done!
  • It feels like an efficient way of learning, and I learn exactly what I need to know
  • I’ve found that I get less distracted, and hence procrastinate less, when I employ active recall techniques. Perhaps this is because I’m actively thinking about the task at hand, instead of passively learning information ( which can be boring!)


  • It does take quite a long time to make flashcards / questions for yourself! But I guess… no pain, no gain!
  • Sometimes when you repeat flashcards often, you can pre-empt the question and answer, leading to the same issues as passive learning

Making active recall work for you

  1. Basing your questions on the learning objectives

By basing your flashcards / test questions on your learning objectives, you know that the information you are retrieving is relevant and going to be beneficial come exam day!

  1. Knowing when you need to take a break

The annoying part of active recall learning is that it feels like hard work. Though the research shows the wracking your brain to retrieve information leads to stronger memory connections further down the line (Butler, A. C., 2010), making those connections in the first place is quite draining. Hence, its really important to ensure you space out your revision schedule to avoid burn out!

  1. Don’t get disheartened when you don’t know the answers

This one took me a while to figure out. When I used passive learning methods in the past, I’d learn all the information before tackling the question, so I’d vaguely know how I’d approach giving an answer. When I switched to active recall, I often had no idea how to go about answering the question in front of me which – though it forced me to step out of my comfort zone and apply my learning – was slightly disheartening. The key point to remember is that all of this is still revision and for your own learning. It really is okay to make mistakes at this stage- its just a new learning point!


Butler, A. C. (2010). Repeated testing produces superior transfer of learning relative to repeated studying. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 36(5), 1118.

Have you tried active recall? What are the pros and cons for you? Add your comments to the discussion below.


Student perspective: How to read academic articles without getting overwhelmed

Helen, the author of the blog postby Helen March, English and History student and Bristol Futures Advocate

When I first started my degree as an English and history student, I found the prospect of reading academic articles incredibly daunting. I struggled for a long time to get to grips with the language used, and learning what parts of an article were important to note down, wasting time writing every point the academic made. However, after two years of study, I have picked up some habits which will hopefully help you avoid the same pitfalls and allow you to take the most important information from an article.

So here are my top five tips to avoid getting lost in academic articles:

1. Read the conclusion after the introduction and before the rest of the article

This will help you to navigate your way through the writer’s argument. Although sometimes mentioned in the introduction, the general argument may not be clear throughout the whole article. However, reading the end means you can better understand the direction of an author’s argument before knowing exactly how they get there. If you understand the point an academic is trying to make, you can interrogate it more effectively in your work. Understanding the main argument is key when reading academic work!

Bonus tip! – The academic will sometimes note their key points in their conclusion, helpful for making subtitles to categorise your notes.

2. Read the first and last sentence of a paragraph before diving into the body of it

More often than not, this will give you a good idea of the point being made and whether it is relevant to the research you are doing. Sometimes only a small part of an article will be useful to your research, so sifting through irrelevant information will save you time in the long run.

3. Don’t get bogged down by jargon

Academic language can be complex and the sophistication of language within an article can be overwhelming. For key words you don’t understand, look them up, the oxford english dictionary is your friend! The university has a subscription ( However, don’t let yourself be entirely consumed by understanding every word within an article, generally only a few will be important. So long as you understand the general gist of a sentence, you will probably be ok! If you are too concerned with understanding every word, it becomes easy to forget the article’s main argument.

4. Just because something sounds sophisticated doesn’t mean it is

Although a quote might look appealing, it may lack actual substance. It’s better to quote and analyse something worded simply but effectively, allowing you to interrogate it in closer detail in your writing.

4. Most importantly, practice!

You won’t learn how to read an article overnight. Although the advice I have given here has hopefully made the prospect of reading academic writing less daunting, it won’t solve all your issues! Academic writing is difficult to understand and the more of it you read the more you learn how to systematically work your way through complex pieces of writing.

Have you got any useful tips for reading articles? Let us know in the comments below!

Student perspective: How to add active recall to your revision toolkit

Shraddha, the author of the blog postby Shraddha Sriraman, English and History student and Bristol Futures Advocate

We all have a favourite method of learning information for an exam , be it reading through a textbook, making aesthetically pleasing notes, spider-diagrams, lists, mindmaps, or even desperately cramming last-minute for an exam (please don’t let this last one be your go-to!). However, moving to university, or getting adjusted with new exam formats trigger us to think about if we’re learning new content in the most effective manner.

Now, figuring out methods that work for each one of us is highly personal, and really depend on your needs as a learner. That being said, decades of research on valuable and diverse learning techniques could help us discover new methods of recalling information! The one discussed in this blog post is all about active recall as a useful method to add to your revision toolkit!

What is Active Recall?

Traditional methods of note taking, such as highlighting notes or watching videos, are based on the idea of placing information from the page into your brain. Active recall spins this on its head, and allows you to learn by retrieving information from your brain and applying it to the question. This is often done by testing yourself, be that via past papers, flashcards, or making your own questions to ‘force’ yourself to actively use information learnt, instead of learning passively.

Methods using Active Recall

  1. Flashcards

Flashcards are a helpful way of summarising notes, whilst testing yourself at the same time. I often have a question on one side, and the answer on the other to employ those helpful active recall skills! Sometimes, I also copy and paste lecture slides with key words blanked out, so I test my recall of key terms. These can be made by hand, or through the use of online applications : such as Anki, Quizlet and more (future blog post coming soon on these!)

  1. Closed Book -‘Blurting’

This is a traditional method of active recall where you shut a book and try and write down what you’ve learnt. Then, go back to the chapter in the book, or your lecture notes and fill in key points you’ve missed out in a different colour to see what you’ve forgotten. Over time, repeating this method leads to higher memory retention of key concepts! I loved this method when studying anatomy and found it easier to draw out a system and then check back at my notes to see what I had missed, instead of passively reading through.

  1. Past Paper Questions

Past paper questions are a fantastic method of actively applying what you’ve learnt!

  1. Make your own questions (based on learning objectives!)

Some courses don’t offer past paper questions, but its just as effective to make your own! This way, you’re pre-empting potential questions that could be asked in the future, as well as allowing to practice active recall.

  1. Teach someone else!

Teaching someone else about a new topic is a fantastic way of processing information and describing it in simple terms. This is a very useful technique and incorporates several levels of Bloom’s taxonomy (a schematic used to describe levels of understanding knowledge, see Figure 1) such as create, analyse and apply. You also don’t have to have another person to teach, a stuffed teddy bear, a plant pot or an imaginary person will do just fine!


Triangle diagram with words in ascending order: remember, understand, apply, analyse, evaluate, create
Figure 1. Blooms taxonomy. Armstrong, P. (2010)


References and Helpful Articles on Active Recall

Armstrong, P. (2010). Bloom’s Taxonomy. Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching. Retrieved [18.10.2022] from

Brainscape “What is Active Recall? How to use it to ace your exams”

Osmosis Blog “Active Recall: The Most Effective High-Yield Learning Technique”