Learning vs Revising – An important distinction

January 16, 2019


One of the things I see time and time again with GCSE students when they come to revision is the vast number of them who sit down to try and revise a topic they don’t actually know and understand. What happens is that the task becomes very tricky and demotivating because they are using the wrong techniques for the wrong task.  Learning strategies are very different from revision strategies. Sitting and re-reading class notes for hours on end is not going to get the same results as more active learning-based strategies to get to grips with a specific concept or topic. So many students tell me that they are spending so much time revising and nothing is going in. Once students can teach themselves the topic and they actually understand it only then can they be truly effective with their revision.

So what strategies do students need to employ to boost the effectiveness of their revision?

  • Get to grips early on which subjects and topics they need to LEARN and which they need to REVISE. Getting hold of a syllabus list and coding it red, amber and green depending on their level of understanding (red for “do not understand at all”, amber for “understand some of it” and green for “understand the topic completely”) is a vital first step which can save students so much time and frustration. Red coded subjects are those which need to be LEARNED, green ones are those which need to be REVISED. Amber ones are a mixture of the two.


  • Choose their strategies accordingly.

Learning strategies can include:

  • Creating mind maps
  • Making timelines
  • Putting information into flowcharts or process diagrams
  • Watching videos
  • Carry out online research for further information
  • Working in a group to discuss a topic
  • Asking a teacher for help

These are very different from the ones students can use for pure revision. For example using a memory technique on a list of things students don’t yet understand can be a complete waste of time. Once students understand the subject, the memory techniques will be far more effective and worthwhile.

If you need extra help with GCSE revision strategy then take a look at my HeadsUp! Revision Strategy programme. Designed specifically for year 10 and 11 students to take the stress out of revision and make it more enjoyable! Available as a half day workshop, 4 part live webinar series or a 1-2-1 tailored programme.


Practical and interactive workshops to improve the effectiveness of GCSE revision and boost motivation.

Click HERE for more details


The HeadsUp! Webinar Programme is a series of 4 live and interactive webinars covering all aspects of GCSE revision.

Click HERE for more details


For students who prefer a more personalised approach, over 4 one hour 1-2-1 sessions we will cover a variety of techniques an strategies to improve GCSE revision strategy – either in person or via Skype

Click HERE for more details


for 7-11 year olds full of strategies to boost confidence, reduce worries, deal with anger and improve friendship skills.
Click HERE for more details


Calm Tookit for Parents stackEasy, useful and highly effective strategies to keep you in control even when your kids are pushing your buttons!
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Parent PowersA 4 week programme to take the stress out of being a parent and make family life more enjoyable.
HERE for more details

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This post was written by Beth Parmar