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!

Using AI at University: a new online resource from the Study Skills team

How do you feel about the huge developments in Artificial Intelligence we’ve seen over the past year? Depending on your point of view you may feel excited, overwhelmed, anxious, or all 3 of these things (and perhaps many more) all at once.  

Many of us in the study skills team felt precisely these things. We’re particularly aware of the opportunities and challenges that generative AI tools like ChatGPT, Google Bard and Claude present to students. When used appropriately they have the potential to massively enhance your learning and take your skills in any number of areas to the next level.  

But these AI tools can also be used unethically: to write essays or generate code for assessments which students should be creating themselves. We also know that lots of students want to use these tools but don’t know how, or are worried they may inadvertently break the University’s rules. That’s why we’ve put together a guide to help you. 

The online resource

Our online resource Using AI at University explores how generative AI works, so you can understand what it’s capable of and what it can’t do. We also set out some of the university rules about using AI for assessments, and explain why these rules will vary from unit to unit. The key principle behind these rules is to consider your own learning – are you using AI in a manner which develops and enhances your skills? Or are you using it in a way which is actually stopping you from gaining some really important skills for your subject? 

Besides understanding the rules about AI we want to help you start putting these tools to practical use as study aids. Our guide contains a catalogue of some of the most popular AI tools, and pages on writing effective prompts and turning these AI programs into your own virtual tutor. AI tools are far from perfect though, so it’s important you approach them critically and cautiously as we outline on our page about AI errors, hallucinations and fact-checking. 

AI playgrounds 

We hope that the online resource will help you to understand generative AI and how to use it within the university guidelines. However, we also believe that the best way to develop your AI skills is through practice. That’s why we’re running AI playgrounds in November. These are practical sessions where you can experiment with tools like ChatGPT, Claude, Google Bard and more.  

In the playgrounds we’ll show you how to how to access these tools and discuss some strategies for using them effectively before giving you some space to play around with them. Our Study Skills tutors and student advocates will be close at hand to assist.  

You can view times and dates of our upcoming AI playgrounds and book into them here. 

Student perspective: Staying motivated after receiving feedback

Steph, the author of the blog postby Steph Hook, French and Spanish student and Bristol Futures Advocate

We’ve all worked so hard on essay and exam preparation, but what happens afterwards? Receiving feedback can be both rewarding and helpful. However sometimes, it’s tricky not to feel disheartened if you receive feedback that you weren’t expecting. This happens to many of us at one point or another over the course of higher education, but it is important to stay motivated. The main thing from feedback is how we grow as learners.

 

1. Be kind to yourself

‘Be kind’ is something that has, rightly, been seen more over recent years. However, we often don’t offer ourselves the same courtesy of kindness that we would to others. I’m one of those people that reaches for a cup of tea in any situation, so personally I find myself putting the kettle on the moment that a mark has been released. That won’t work for everyone, it’s important to find your own cup of tea- if you can excuse the pun.

2. Look at the feedback comments, what do they mean?

It can be very easy after receiving a mark to close Blackboard and never look at the work again. However, the point of feedback is to help us grow as learners, which is what we are at university to do. Constructive feedback can be really helpful if you know how to use it. By accurately identifying what you need to improve on, you can increase the mark you receive on your next piece of work.

3. Focus on what went well too!

Human nature often means that we home in on the things that require improvement. A key feature of staying motivated is to focus on the positives too! Positive feedback is just as important as constructive comments, as it shows us what we should keep on doing. It’s also an acknowledgment for all the hard work that goes into a degree, which can be used as a boost for tackling future assignments.

4. Plan your next steps

To truly make use of feedback effectively, it’s not enough to simply read the comments. Think about what you’re going to do to give yourself the best chance of improvement in future pieces of work. Think about who you can talk to. Often, tutors will have office hours where you can speak to them. I’ve used this time before to ask specific questions on what I can do differently to gain more marks in the future. Do you have a friend on your course that you would feel comfortable talking to about the work? For more general advice, the Study Skills team have an array of tools which you can use independently to help yourself, from the Stepwise guide to writing essays, to Understanding essay verbs. It’s a resource on Blackboard that’s definitely worth a quick look at.

These are just a few things which help me to stay motivated after receiving feedback. Hopefully at least one of them will help you too.