Mitch Campbell, Oxford Study Courses

Active recall is an incredibly effective revision technique, whereby we repeatedly test ourselves throughout the learning process. Students may feel familiar with more passive revision methods such as note-taking, highlighting and rereading. But, by providing structured activities that facilitate the active recall process, we can help them to strengthen the connections between topics and subtopics, enabling them to better prepare for exams.

At OSC Study, this is what we are all about. We help students to not only achieve exam success, but also fulfil their full potential as global learners. Our resources are designed with students in mind, to help them learn in the way that suits them best. You can access them all as part of our new Passport solution, which combines five DP services in one!


Fun with Flashcards

Flashcards can provide excellent recall opportunities for students. The principle is simple – one side of the flashcard contains a prompt or question, the other side reveals the answer. With repeated use, students can reinforce their knowledge and grow in confidence. They are most relevant for bite-sizing the content into smaller pieces.

To mix it up, you might consider:

  • Pair and Group Work

    Working in a team allows your students to learn from each other, while shyer students may appreciate the opportunity to pose questions one-on-one. If your class is a little competitive, you could hold a tournament where the winning groups face each other in the final round.

  • Reverse Study

    Challenge your students by asking them to formulate a question by looking at the answer on the flashcard first. This gives you a chance to understand if your students fully understand each concept.

  • Flashcards on Screen

    Project flashcards onto your classroom screen to reinforce your talking points or round off a lesson with an interactive activity. OSC Study flashcards are fully linked to the DP syllabus, so you can easily bring up a set of questions that are relevant to your topic.

Revision Guide Reminders

Syllabus-aligned revision guides, like the ones we create for OSC Study, can be used all year round – not just in the periods immediately preceding exams.

Set your class a homework task to read and take notes on a topic which you covered in previous weeks, particularly if that topic presented any areas of difficulty. By briefly revisiting these topics throughout the year, we help students to continuously consolidate their understanding and highlight any outstanding issues. Then, when the time comes to study for final exams, these areas of difficulty don’t seem as intimidating or cause as much stress.

You can also try asking your students to review a particular topic in the revision guide, and present the key ideas in a different format, such as a poster or short presentation, with their own examples. This can be an effective way to evaluate how much they understand the concepts involved – allowing you to provide further guidance and support wherever needed.

Shake It Up With Videos

For students who are used to a particular educator’s style of teaching, an explanatory video can provide a fresh and different perspective or way of working – and it might just be the reason something “clicks” for the first time!

There are plenty of explanatory videos available online which you could watch with your class (including hundreds catalogued in OSC Study). After watching one together, try asking them to answer a question relating to the video, and see if they can apply the material themselves.

You can also task students with creating their own videos – if they can effectively explain a concept or process to others, the chances are they understand it well themselves. After checking the videos for accuracy, you could upload them to a private, shared space, so your students can benefit from each others’ work!

Practice, Practice Practice

As educators, it is our responsibility to ensure we not only teach our students subject knowledge but also exam techniques which can help them to fulfil their potential. Did you know that completing a practice test at the end of every study session can increase students’ performance by 10-15%? That’s a huge difference! It can also help to anchor key concepts as well.

  • Past Paper Principles

    Authentic past exam papers are excellent revision tools to help students prepare for the real thing and should be used inside and outside the classroom as much as possible during the revision period. You can work through exams in full, or group different question types together from across multiple papers – we facilitate both approaches in OSC Study, as they each have their benefits.

  • Break it Down

    There are many ways to work through past papers as opposed to going through the questions one by one. For example, you could ask students to go through a paper and circle the command words and areas of difficulty – this will particularly help with multiple part questions.Another suggestion, which caters for individual work, is to ask your students to assess the questions – marking the ones that they feel most confident about, and those which they feel are areas of weakness.This “traffic light” style of self-evaluation exercise can also be facilitated through OSC Study, where we allow students to rate their confidence in relation to exam questions and flashcards. Doing this can not only help students to identify key topics for their own revision, but can also help you to spot knowledge gaps, which you can then address in class.

  • Make Use of Mark Schemes

    To get the most out of each past paper, be sure to make full use of the mark schemes available. Ask your students to work in pairs or small groups to create model answers, with reference to the mark scheme. This allows students to discuss the reasoning behind their answer – how many marks would they give to the answer they see? If you have time, you could also ask students to swap their model answers with another group for peer assessment. End the class by leading a discussion on what the mark scheme demands and how they should go about meeting those demands in the real exam. Stress the importance of showing their work, and how if they get one part of a question wrong, but they use their wrong answer later and show their working, they can often get full marks on the subsequent questions!

Training the Body and Mind

Just like an athlete needs to train their body, students need to train their brains.

  • Learning to Relax

    Stress can have physical effects on the body, so learning to relax can make a huge difference. Meditation is one method that can help students to relax. Here’s a simple one to go through with students during class: sit with your feet touching the ground, in a comfortable chair, with your back straight, head up slightly, and shoulders back. Close your eyes. Slowly and deeply inhale, then slowly exhale. Count your breaths (each exhalation is 1 count). Count up to 10, then count back down to 1. Concentrating on the breathing will take your mind away from your stress, and will help you feel calm. During a stressful moment in a test, a student could try a shorter version: just close your eyes, breathe in slowly and deeply, breathe out slowly and deeply. Take a drink of water. This can be done in the middle of an exam, if needed.

  • The Importance of Sleep

    Studies show that students who get plenty of sleep (more than 7 hours) each night do much better on exams. In fact, it is better for a student to go to sleep early before an exam in order to be well rested than it is to stay up all night cramming.

  • Feeding the Mind

    Our brains need nutrients, so we should encourage our students to eat healthily while they are studying. Students should eat proteins, lots of fruit and vegetables, and carbohydrates. They should avoid too much sugar and processed foods and most importantly, stay well hydrated – lots of water!

Getting Ready for Exams?

As this year’s May Session DP Exams approach, we wish you and your students the best of luck!

If you would like to try out OSC Study’s interactive, multimedia revision tools for yourself, your class or your DP cohort, check out our brand new Passport solution!

Launched to coincide with our 15-year anniversary, Passport combines five innovative Faria services within one integrated package – offering unbeatable value for your school.


About The Author

Mitch Campbell
VP Study
Oxford Study Courses

Mitch is Canadian, and has worked as an IB Physics and Mathematics Teacher since 2001, in addition to making hundreds of videos and offering revision courses all over the world. Mitch has a B.Education as well as a B.Sc. in Physics from the University of Ottawa, and an M.Sc. in Astrophysics from the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen. He joined Oxford Study Courses (OSC) in January 2021, and works to support teachers and students in the IB, alongside OSC’s talented group of educators.