Before the exam
Vision and Revision
One of the best forms of revision is to read new material that you have not looked at before (this is not, strictly speaking, revision at all — you could just call it 'vision').
The best things to look at are books that you couldn't get hold of when you wrote the essay the first time; or books you didn't have time to read as closely or deeply as you would have liked; or books that are a little more advanced; or even books that are slightly tangential to the topic.
The way to choose what books to read is to look back at reading lists, or to ask your supervisor, or simply to browse in the faculty library looking for anything that grabs your interest. The library's new acquisitions are often very interesting.
The reasons that it is important to read new material when revising are:
- Your thinking will be re-stimulated - new books will pose new questions and new challenges to re-awaken your thoughts on a given topic. When it comes to the exam your essays will have a greater chance of being fresh and alive, rather than just being re-heated versions of ideas you had months or years ago.
- The notes and essay that you wrote the first time round were produced many months previously, when your whole outlook and understanding were less well-developed. They are thus stuck at a relatively basic level, and revising them will only re-acquaint you with these relatively under-developed ideas and ways of thinking. Reading new material provides you with an opportunity to re-frame the topic in a more advanced and subtle way.
- Revising old notes and essays is relatively dull. Reading new material is more fun and will make revision more rewarding. Revision that relies solely on old notes and essays will put you off revising in general, and as a result you will revise less and do worse in your exams.
N.B. It is important to do both 'vision' (reading new books and having fresh ideas) and revision (re-learning facts, arguments, and ideas, from lectures, notes, essays, and supervisions). Combine the two and alternate between them to avoid monotony.
© Thomas Dixon 2001. This resource is based on a University of Cambridge, Faculty of Divinity document written by Thomas Dixon, entitled Reading, Writing and Taking Exams: A guide to academic success. See also the related publication How To Get a First, available for purchase at various outlets and to borrow at the UL, Faculty and College libraries.