Interleaving is a method to use when revising to help you remember more for the exam and to understand it better as well! It is where someone mixes up their revision to do different topics in a session. This is different to blocking learning where students study one topic or subject at a time. Blocking does not work as effectively unless it is very close to the exam and more focus is needed.

Your brain is continually changing focus and attempting to find different responses to bring into your short term memory. Having to think harder about something will help you remember it better.

What are the benefits of Interleaving?.

Each time you revise information it strengthens your memory recall.

By revisiting material from each topic several times, in short bursts, you can increase the amount you remember in the exams.

  • A study examined the performance of maths students who revised using blocking compared to those who used interleaving.
  • Students who used interleaving performed better on the examination if the examination was more than one day away.

How to plan interleaving?

  • Create a timetable – different subjects and topics on one day
  • Know the topics you need to learn
  • Do a little and often every day
  • Use a checklist to make sure you repeat topics more than once
  • Variety is the spice of life
  • Break units down into small chunks and split these over a few days rather than revising one whole topic all at once.


Dual Coding

What is dual coding

Flashcards/Revision Cards

One of the strategies that most students use is the use of Flash cards, this is an effective retrieval/testing method. This involves bringing information to mind from your memory.

Why does it work?

“Memory is the residue of thought.”

We need to engage in higher-order thinking

if knowledge is going to go into the long-term memory

 Retrieval works because the student is having to think hard about what they have learnt, simply the process of forgetting can help a student remember the next time.

How to make Flashcards

  • Ensure that the flashcards have a question or key term on one side and the answer or definition on the other.
  • The flashcard must work the memory.
  • If flashcards only contain notes then no retrieval practice will be happening.
  • Ensure the right questions and knowledge are on the cards.
  • Keep information as short as possible.
  • Write clearly. You should be able to read what you wrote at a very quick glance.

Alternatively you can buy them ready made from exam boards

How to use Flashcards

  • Studies have found that it’s more effective to review a whole stack of cards in one sitting rather than to carry them around with you and glance at them every so often
  • Use spaced repetition – Review your cards at specific, increasing intervals: for example on Day 1, Day 2, Day 4, Day 8 and so on.
  • Make sure you have a ‘thinking pause’ after picking one up and reading the question, then turn the card over to read the information.
  • Once you get an answer right using your flashcards – DO NOT DISCARD IT! You need to keep repeating the questions even if you get it right multiple times otherwise it will fall off your memory
  • Try writing the answer or definition in your own words and giving examples. This will help your learning and recall.
  • Try ‘interleaving’. Once you have several decks of flashcards for different subjects and topics, try mixing them up. This will test your knowledge across subjects in a single session. Make sure you are confident enough to do this every so often.

Using flash cards is a repetitive method. Repetition will help you remember what you have learnt.


However sometimes familiarity is not always knowledge.

The Leitner system is a well-known and very effective method of using flashcards. It’s a form of spaced repetition that help you study the cards you don’t know more often than the cards you already know well.

All flashcards start off in Box/Stack 1.  As you review the cards, each card you answer correctly goes into Box 2.  If you give the wrong answer the card stays in Box 1.  When you review cards in Box 2, if you still get it right, you move the card to Box 3 and so on until all cards are in Box 4.  If you get a card wrong in any box, it goes back to Box 1.  The key is that the cards you know less well are reviewed more frequently than the cards in the higher boxes.


What is the retrieval method?

One of the strategies that has the most impact when revising is the retrieval method. This involves bringing information to mind from your memory (without copying).The process of retrieving makes information easier to remember at a later date compared to reading your notes and copying.

Why does it work?

“Memory is the residue of thought.”

We need to engage in higher-order thinking

if knowledge is going to go into the long-term memory

 Retrieval works because the student is having to think hard about what they have learnt, simply the process of forgetting can help a student remember the next time.

This type of testing oneself can be also referred to as the Interrogation method

How can a student use the retrieval method?

  • Past paper questions
  • Text book question
  • Revision guide questions
  • Flash cards – see tab
  • Websites
  • Peer on peer questions
  • Creating notes/mindmaps from memory – then adding to the mindmap after checking notes
  • Describing a concept out loud from memory to somebody
  • Condensing notes from memory
  • Explaining a concept to someone then checking and adding missing information
  • Tassomai
  • Seneca
  • Quizlet

Retrieval Practice


Spaced Practice 



Condensing your notes

The best results are achieved by using the right amount of effort in the right place at the right time. Too often students will spend too much time rewriting their class notes word for word. There isn’t enough time for students to do this across all subjects and it is not time well spent. Revision guides have already condensed the course for them.

The actual process of condensing those notes in to bullet points and/or pictures can help a student remember more information as they have to “think hard” about how to reduce the information.

The notes can be done from memory then added to with any missing information. Doing it from memory will help the information go into the long term memory. Too often notes are just copied. Condensing can be done in many ways:

  • Reducing the content to so many bullet points
  • Reducing the content into words and images
  • Transforming your notes into pictures then transforming back
  • Reducing your notes into revision cards – use images, words and questions
  • Making foldable lapbooks using pictures images and different shapes to help memory


Anxiety & Exam Stress

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