Go Around Again!

This post should really have a subtitle: Go Around Again—the Art of Revision. The reason I didn’t use the subtitle is because most Americans don’t understand what is meant (in the context of education) by the word “revision.” We tend to define revision as something we do when crafting an essay, such as making edits, modifications, or changes.

However, in many parts of the English-speaking world (including England, Australia, and New Zealand), “revision” means to prepare for an exam. In my experience, Americans are more apt to say that we’re going to hit the books, review, study, pull an all-nighter, or (cover your ears) cram for the test.

Even though I live in Texas, I’ve begun to use the word revision when referring to the specific part of the study process that one endures performs in the run-up to an exam. Which leads me to the subject of this post: it’s a great idea to approach your learning program in a two-step fashion: first you study, then you revise. Or, better yet, study-study-revise-study-study-revise (repeat, repeat, repeat). Finally, when you have made it through all the material you need to cover, you take a step back…take a deep breath, and revise-revise-revise.

Here’s a simplified set of definitions and some quick advice on the topic:

First, you study: Studying means you are learning something new or widening your knowledge of a subject. This is where you read your textbook, attend your lectures, watch your videos, take notes, and complete the exercises in your workbook. Ideally—if you are taking a class—by the time the class concludes, you have made it through the required materials and been able to keep up with the reading and other activities as indicated on class syllabus. (Or, if you are studying on your own, you’ve made it through the first round of your study plan.)

  • Theme: Concentrate on learning new information and understanding the big picture. Strive to grasp the context of this new material. Does it fit nicely in with what you already know? Do you need to build some background knowledge in order to truly understand this new information? Or—perhaps—is there something you need to un-learn? This is all–too–common in the world of wine and spirits, where some ill-informed myths are oft-repeated, such as old wine is always better, vodka tastes like water, or all rosé is plonk.
  • Techniques: Read and take notes on the text (study guide), attend webinars/lectures, watch videos, ask an expert, do extra reading/internet research, have discussions.  For wine and spirits study, taste the wines or spirits; make and record your tasting notes.

Next, you revise. Revision means you are consolidating and re-learning what you studied. Revision focuses on the details, repetition, and memorization.  You can’t run and you can’t hide at this point—please don’t stare at the textbook or binge-watch videos and call it revision. It’s time to make a commitment to your long-term memory and conquer the details. This step will require some quality time spent on your own or in a small group.

  • Theme: Drill down to the details, revisit the material; re-learn and consolidate what you already learned, strive for comprehension and understanding, be able to use (not just recite) the information, improve your speed of recall.
  • Techniques: Be active! Create teaching materials and teach others (even if you have to fake it). Make your own charts, diagrams, or cheat sheets—chunk information to help consolidate and contextualize your new knowledge. Make/use flashcards, make/use practice quizzes, recite your notes from memory (out loud).  Flex your memory–every time you pull something out of your brain, you improve your ability to do so. Use as much active recall and spaced repetition as you can.

One caveat: Just because revision is the second stage of our two-step process, this does not mean you should leave it all for the week before the exam—that’s just a drawn-out version of cramming for the test. Rather, strive to fit some revision time into your schedule throughout the process—such as taking one day a week or fifteen minutes a day to revise your latest batch of new study material.

Here’s an example from the world of wine: In your CSW studies (especially if you are taking my class), when you reach the section on Tuscany you might heed the following:

  • Study phase—big picture and context:
    • Tuscany’s vinous history, location within Italy, general terroir, main grape varieties, leading wines produced in the region.
    • Testable appellations of Tuscany.
    • Terminology/vocabulary specific to Tuscany that might help you understand the area, the wines, or (especially) the label terms used in the region (Governo, Super Tuscan, Vin Santo, Brunello, Morellino, Prugnolo Gentile, Gran Selezione).
  • Revision—details and memorization:
    • Details of the various testable appellations of Tuscany—regulations, grape varieties,leading style(s) of wine(s) allowed for production.
    • Which is a DOC, a DOCG, or, (since we are talking about Tuscany), an IGT.
    • Each appellation’s specific location.
    • Noteworthy/unique details (as applicable)—this will be specific to each appellation and might include soils, winemaking techniques, location, elevation, or other factors. For instance, Carmignano is unique in the required use of Cabernet Sauvignon and/or Cabernet Franc, Vernaccia di San Gimignano is unique as the only DOCG exclusive to white wines in Tuscany, the Maremma is unique as a coastal/cooler climate region.
    • Over-learn your Tuscany-specific vocabulary terms.

This post was inspired by the most delightful of students, who just couldn’t understand why she didn’t pass the CSW on her first try. When I asked her how she studied in the time period leading up to the exam, she said, “I listened to each one of your webinars a hundred times!”

My advice to her? Go around again!

Click here to check out the rest of our posts on “How to Study Wine and Spirits”

The Bubbly Professor is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas… missjane@prodigy.net

About bubblyprof
Wine Writer and Educator...a 20-year journey from Bristol Hotels to Le Cordon Bleu Schools and the Society of Wine Educators

One Response to Go Around Again!

  1. Pingback: Keep Calm and Make a Plan (for wine and spirits studies) | The Bubbly Professor

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