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Memory & Retrieval

Dear Parents/Carers

Memory & Retrieval

A great deal of research has been conducted into how to revise and prepare for assessments effectively.  The research shows that frequent revision that focusses on self-testing and quizzing is most effective in improving learning and boosting performance in exams. When our students are required to revisit prior learning in a systematic and structured way, knowledge eventually is organised in the long-term memory, consequently leaving more space in the working memory for new learning.

At Colonel Frank Seely Academy we do all that we can to support all of our students to be independent in supporting their studies. Coursework has been removed for many GCSE exams putting a greater emphasis on exams. We have spent time with our students teaching them about the effective revision cycle, which is a heavily researched method used to memorise information. We are also supporting our students to prepare for exams effectively by teaching them how to use 5 key revision techniques in lessons and asking them to use these to prepare for in-class assessments, mock exams and external exams. Students may prefer to use a particular method.

The techniques that we are teaching are students are:

  • Flashcards
  • Revision clocks
  • Graphic organisers
  • Text to pictures
  • Mind maps

Spaced Learning

In the past students in schools ‘mass learn’, where they study a topic in one go then move on to the next one, only reviewing the topic when they come to revising it for an exam.

However, at Colonel Frank Seely Academy we follow the principles of spaced learning. This principle states that information is retained easier if it is split into short time frames and repeated on multiple occasions, with time passing between repetitions. We have adopted this principle with all year groups to enable students to remember increased amounts of information over longer periods of time.

We encourage students to revisit their work in their books periodically to ensure the refresh their knowledge and understanding. This is something that can be done at home by using their class books and using one of the revision techniques stated above.

How to help your child develop an effective memory and retrieval strategy:

  • Make sure you create the correct environment. It should be quiet and free from distractions.  You may want music playing quietly in the background but the TV or radio with people talking is distracting.
  • Make sure your revision is active. Use your revision resources to work through the effective revision cycle. Test and review your knowledge. Practice applying your knowledge by attempting exam questions. Simply reading your notes or revision guide is not effective. Ask members of your family or friends to ask you questions.
  • Avoid spending longer than 1 hour revising without taking a short break.
  • Break subjects down into manageable chunks. Rather than revising ‘science’, focus on a particular unit, for example photosynthesis.
  • Sit at a table, not on a sofa or bed.
  • Turn your phone off, unless you are using a revision app.
  • Make a revision timetable and stick to it.
  • Try to revise at a time that suits your circadian rhythm. For example, if you are a person that struggles to get up early and apply yourself, plan to revise in the afternoons at weekends.

Many thanks for your on-going support.

Yours sincerely

Mr J Gale



Colonel Frank Seely Academy