Skip to content The Open University

Skills Check 0

The Skills Check is a short survey which should take you no more than 3 minutes to complete. Once you have completed the Skills Check we provide you with a personal learning plan targeted to your personal study needs and goals.

Sign in to work on the Skills Check.
  1. Home
  2. Revising and examinations
  3. Revision techniques
  4. Summarising your work

Summarising your work

Creating a cogent précis of your studies does two useful things: it forces you to understand the subject matter you are summarising and it creates condensed versions of the subject matter that you can then review repeatedly before you exam.

Summary tables

Use tabular summaries to gather various pieces of information. Summary tables are an effective revision technique and a great way to compare or evaluate competing theories, grammatical rules or examples of themes in different parts of your study material. You can use a table like the ones shown below. Change the number of columns or rows for your own work, but keep them fairly simple so you can remember them in the exam.

Tabular summaries are extremely valuable because they convert broad themes and the detailed discussions into a more manageable form.

Block 1 Block 2
Theme 1
Theme 2
Strengths Weaknesses Comments
Theory 1
Theory 2
Theory 3

Ged's advice to students who are revising for an exam

Try creating a tabular summary of an overarching topic by following the steps below.

  • Summarise your notes on the topic from the various sources you have collected together.
  • Draw together the main points from these notes, using headings and key points.
  • Try to reduce these notes further to one side of A4 paper, using only the main headings and a few associated key words.

Index cards

Notes on index cards are particularly handy as you can carry them with you and review them in odd moments or for testing yourself - perhaps on a train or bus, or while waiting in a queue in the supermarket.

Summarise your topic in a few words. Using your own words means you process the information, which improves your understanding and your memory. Keep the notes brief to act as prompts.

Organise your notes in new ways on the cards - perhaps providing an overview of a topic on one, and then notes around sub-topics on others. Try using colour as an aid to memory.

Lynn's advice on revision techniques

Use your assignments

Assignments can be a very useful starting point for producing summaries. Look through them and reduce the assignment by making summary sheets or cards for use in your revision. As you do so, compare exam and assignment questions on the same topic. How do the questions differ? What would the differences be (if any) between an assignment and exam answer on the same topic?

You might find that 'Outline view', in Microsoft Word processing software, helps you to quickly scan through Word documents and find useful material