Notes from the Library

Trinity 2011 revision

Let’s start off with my assumptions: no-one is good at revision; periods of life in which one is revising should not be expected to be good periods; periods of life in which one is revising don’t have to be horrendous periods. The last point is the most important, while the first two are just things to tell oneself. For me, it’s about not falling behind myself so that there’s no reason to worry, and about focusing on sticking to a schedule rather than focusing on actually achieving a particular academic goal, because that’s far less achievable.

Tomorrow revision starts, after a class in the morning. My revision plan needs to meet the following criteria: (i) make the most of 8am–11am when I get significantly more done (ii) finish at 6:30 so I can just go to Hall (iii) avoid the 12pm–4pm slot as much as possible as that is when I am least productive (iv) be seven hours a day. To do this my plan is: get up at 7am as usual (6:30 if running, again as usual), 8am–12pm in the Balliol library doing the harder parts of revision, 3:30pm–6:30pm in the All Souls library doing the easier parts of revision. A day off somewhere; probably Sunday.

I’m not entirely happy with this. First of all, breaks aren’t worked in—four hours is a long time in the library. My current thought is to take 15 minutes out at 10 with a hot drink in the JCR or something, and it’s less of an issue for the three hour stint in the afternoon. But I don’t know if this will be enough. Secondly three and half hours is a very long lunch break, and while I do work best outside of those hours, if I just drift for that block of time then it’ll be much harder to get going again when I head to All Souls. I plan to spend about ninety minutes of it reading, so that’s e-mail, blogs and the news, which is longer than usual but I can afford to read more. Lunch itself is half an hour tops, usually less. Then for at least a fortnight I will have boringish tasks to tick off from my TODO list, and then after that I can start clearing out my massive list of “interesting links”. But this may need to be changed up.

The evening is then free and I intend to do more social stuff than I would during normal term, even if that’s just visiting the bar a lot, because revision gives you a very steady schedule so you don’t have to work at weird hours to meet weird deadlines, but it’s frustrating and can be lonely. I’ve also got loads of stuff to watch and read for fun. The hope is that I can do my Oxford commitments in the lunch slot rather than in the evening, leaving it free.

Now some talk about sleep. This is an important thing. At the moment while if I get to bed really late I move my alarm forward accordingly, I generally still get up at 7 whatever, but it’s harder to do when I haven’t had eight hours of sleep. And this is the norm, because I normally get seven, and it’s usually my fault. The way I can tell is that instead of jumping out of bed and into the shower or into my running shoes, I take a good five to ten minutes to get my legs to work properly or whatever, which is annoying. So I think I should work on going to bed in good time, that is, by 11pm. The problem with this is that it doesn’t fit with others. For example tonight I am running “welfare tea” from ten until midnight, where tea and biscuits are provided in the JCR for people still in the library. Next week when the main humanities exams start (Philosophy, History), it’ll be at eleven til one. But at these times I want to be getting ready for bed and I’m tired; this doesn’t work because everyone else around here is going to bed at three as standard, even when revising. The revision habits of others baffle me, because they know it’s coming; why don’t they plan to be healthier to make themselves happier with it all? I was eating Hall food on the grass the other day and this PPEist girl was explaining ever so matter-of-factly how she was currently on about three cups of coffee and a pro-plus pill per day and how she wanted to change her caffeine intake as she went up to exams—I honestly can’t remember if she was saying she wanted to increase or decrease her intake. A fellow Math/Phil says that she is immune to pro-plus pills, to the extent that during her exams last year she had to take six a day in order to get an effect.

So here are my plans. I’ll try them for this first week of revision and see if they need revising (ha). If anyone fancies commenting with some “epic revision chat” they are most welcome.

For me, sleep is all the more necessary during revision. In the most recent exam diet (and some previous), my approach has been to sleep whenever tired. Since the time that I'm best able to revise seems to be somewhere between 11pm and 2am, this leads to a lot of afternoon naps and some coffee (more to help concentration than to stave off sleepiness).

Revision techniques can vary hugely - it's interesting. Good luck, anyway, in your exams!

comment posted by Martin at Wed Jun 1 19:34:22 2011

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