How has the education system got away with expecting students to take exams to determine their future life prospects without ever actively teaching you how to study? We’re given information. We’re given textbooks. We’re even taught each lesson in that textbook. But perhaps the most essential process – that of distilling, learning and memorising the content – is left up to you. Let me tell you, it took me a long time to realise that highlighting my biology textbook wasn’t going to get me an A*...
Now, my all-time favourite revision technique is blurting. What sounds like your friend accidentally spilling secrets is actually the method that got me my A*s. I was introduced to this by my wonderful A level biology teacher who made it a priority to mentor students in her free time about the importance of effective revision, without any prompting from my school. Shout out to you, Mrs Greenslade – you’re the true revision queen.
Ever since I introduced this on my YouTube channel, I receive daily messages from students whose studying has been revolutionised by this active recall technique. Unlike passively highlighting text or rereading class notes, blurting is one of the most efficient and effective ways to understand where you are at in your knowledge – and do something about it.
Blurting is easy to put off because it is mentally taxing. It forces you to stare your knowledge in the face and be honest with where you’re at, without the luxury of hiding behind a textbook. However, it is an essential self-assessment tool to show you what you need to spend more time on. The more you repeat blurting the same concepts, the stronger your knowledge in them will become.
To do this technique, take a concept or chapter you want to revise, then:
Write yourself a few prompts related to the topic to help jog your memory.
Without looking at any notes or your textbook, write down everything you can remember from that chapter. ‘Blurt out’all your knowledge from memory. Detail processes, list out vocabulary, define key terms. All of it. You can even set your- self a timer.
When you’ve written everything you can remember, compare your blurted knowledge to an official textbook, mark scheme or notes. Suddenly, you’ve got evidential proof of what you do and don’t know.
Did you recall things word for word? Were you actually able to explain that difficult concept or did you just think you knew it? What did you leave out?
Blurting became my go-to technique for almost any subject. From recalling maths formulas to drama practitioners’ theories, it saved me time and forced me to consolidate my knowledge.
Here's an example
To revise the process of river meander formation in geography, I’ve identified the following prompts of the chapter:
The river’s force causes the sides of the river to change shape. The higher the force, the more it changes shape. On the side with less force, there is more sediment.
Over time, a meander forms.
If the meander continues forming, it might become an oxbow lake.
Comparison to official notes:
The force of the water erodes and undercuts the river bank on the outside of the bend where water flow has most energy due to decreased friction.
On the inside of the bend, where the river flow is slower, material is deposited as sediment, as there is more friction.
Over time, the horseshoe becomes tighter, until the ends come very close together. As the river breaks through, e.g. during a flood, the loop is cut off from the main channel. The cut-off loop is called an oxbow lake.
Here, I can see that my knowledge of meander formation was shallow. So I need to go back and revise how ‘friction’ is a causal factor; the differences between the ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ river bank and to include key terms like ‘deposited’. Without blurting my knowledge using active recall, I would not have known that I lacked this specificity. Now that I’m aware of the gaps in my knowledge, I can revise more effectively and try this process again tomorrow.
Now try this
Choose a chapter from any subject and practise blurting by writing down everything you can remember! Check your notes to see if you forgot any keywords.
The Only Study Guide You’ll Ever Need by Jade Bowler (Blink Publishing) is out now.
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