Updated: Sep 10, 2021
Hey everyone! Hope you’re all doing well in VCE.
This week we’ll be talking about content revision. I know you’re all familiar with this, since no doubt you’ve been doing it throughout the year. But what we’re talking about today is exam content revision – drawing together all of the content you’ve learned throughout the year, from that very first week you sat down in class to just this past week.
What I’m going to share with you today is how I personally approached my revision: cheat sheets. I found that compiling all of the most important content into cheat sheets divided by topic was the best way for me to get my head around it all. This is by no means the only way to do so, but it’s one that I found particularly effective in grappling with the huge bulk of everything that is History content. I’ll go over it in steps, but remember you can just take whatever seems useful or combine what I’ve done with your own methods.
Step 1: Compartmentalise
History is a subject with a lot of content. Across both revolutions you study, there are literally hundreds of pages worth of events, statistics, quotes, and people to remember. It would be ridiculously overwhelming to just start trying to learn it all again. So what I did, and what I’m sure the majority of schools do with this content is divide it up – compartmentalise it – to make it more accessible.
My school taught us each Area of Study over five weeks, with each week encompassing a different “topic” or part of the whole content. In my opinion this number of topics was just right, but given this year’s revised study design I would say you should aim for less when dividing Unit 4. I used these weeks to divide the content of the whole year into separate topics as the starting point for my revision. The table below provides an example for the Russian revolution:
These ten topics encompass the entirety of the study design for the Russian revolution – every single thing I could’ve been examined on fell under one of these topics. Count Sergei Witte? Under Imperial Russia. The role of the Dumas? Under Reform and Repression. The New Economic Policy? Crisis and Compromise. To help you decide how to divide up topics, you should consult this year’s study design.
Step 2: Compile
After dividing up each Area of Study, I pretty much just put the bits of content where they belonged. I created a Word document with 4 sections, each corresponding to a different type of content. I made boxes for each one, entitled them, and set them to 10.5 font. Then I simply went through the textbook, my notes, and the study design and added content where it belonged. My sections were:
Stats & Caps – events (with specific dates) and corresponding evidence/statistics
Primary Quotes – quotes directly related to specific points on the study design
People – names and roles of important people and groups (not only the major figures)
Secondary Quotes – at least 2 competing perspectives on major events and figures
These were the categories that worked best for me, because I preferred to memorise events in their entirety. Actually finding and categorising the content served as great revision in and of itself, cementing the separation between topics in my head and further compartmentalising.
One of my favourite things about this strategy is that it forces you to be selective. For each topic, we’re making a cheat sheet – singular. I kept every topic strictly confined to a page, and very quickly that space became valuable real estate. In History I always felt like I had to memorise everything, but that’s simply not something you can do. You’ve got to be smart about what you focus on and choose only the best and most usable content to retain.
Step 3: Colour!
Once I had finished collating content throughout an Area of Study – which mind you, does take a while – I printed out each cheat sheet. Then came my favourite step: colour-coding! It’s one thing to write up content onto a screen, but it’s another thing to bust out the 8-pack of highlighters and get to annotating. Every piece of content was highlighted with a different colour as follows:
In addition to highlighting, I also made annotations for the quotes to help me remember them better. I would write on the margins a little label for each one that would trigger my memory of the whole quote. I wouldn’t recommend annotating the other sections because I feel like it would get too crowded.
Step 4: Revise
Rinse and repeat for each Area of Study, and you’ve got 20-odd cheat sheets with all the content you’ll need for the final exam. During Term 4 and SWOTVAC, I had a binder with all the sheets in nice plastic pockets that I brought with me everywhere. These were my primary form of revision – I’d open up onto a page, cover the content and prompt myself only with the names of events or the labels for each quote. I revised on the bus, I revised at home, I revised at school, all with my trusty content binder.