The transition between secondary school to university isn't easy, and especially with a greater standard in exams. I've always been one to receive lower grades in examinations in school, however for the first time they were completely the opposite at university; and I somehow achieved better results in my exams than coursework in all my modules, and in some cases I received firsts (+70%). I've received some requests to detail my revision method, so I'll elaborate them here — hopefully it helps you as much as it does me!
DISCLAIMER: I study a science/humanities subject (BSc Geography), so this is what I found worked for me. By all means, if you study another subject (perhaps STEM or others), there may be other revision techniques which work better for your curriculum, or your degree/university exam-specific standards and expectations.
GENERAL TIPS: Ultimately, revision goes beyond #aesthetics so its imperative to work as quickly as you can, in the most efficient fashion. In my case, I made most notes and revision materials on Microsoft Word (apart from step 3) with a narrow margin, Arial font size 9, no spacing, and double columned document. This means I can make efficient use of document space should I print out my notes (which I did for step 4). Additionally, this is the music I listened to while revising, if you're interested.
1. In-Lecture Notes.
This is one of the two key foundation sources of information which you will need to build a solid base for your revision. What I've done without fail for all my lectures, is to prepare the notes ahead of the lecture in typing out the presentation slides in Microsoft Word (as they are provided ahead of schedule to students). During the lectures, I will annotate the document and notes in another colour with the professor's comments. It is best to supplement this document with relevant diagrams or formulae.
When: When set // Duration: 30mins preparation.
2. Literature Readings.
The other key foundation source of information which you will need, arguably moreso than the first source. This is what I need in my lectures to supplement my answers, so this is is the most important (and the more the better). Learning to skim read quickly is key, and building a master document of readings (Microsoft Word) for a module is the best way to go about this. Generally, reading the abstract, introduction, and conclusion will suffice; however, if you have time, it's best to skim read the entire piece and bullet point the relevant points. For scientific literature, the discussion will contain useful analysis and statistics of the study. Don't forget to note the citation for each piece of literature read!
When: During term, or term holiday before exam (e.g. Easter Break) // Duration: 1 week per module, 3-5 days if you have the concentration.
3. Condensing lectures & readings.
The next thing to do once all literature is synthesized. I tend to condense each lecture onto 1 side of A4 (example), and include the relevant readings where possible to back up statements made by professors or lecture content. This should be an easy process as you will have already gathered the information together from step 1 and 2, however it is best to do this step as many times as possible to truly familiarise yourself with the content with fewer words every time.
When: As soon as possible, or 3-4 weeks before exam // Duration & Frequency: As much as possible.
4. Condensing concepts/theories/terms.
This is different to step 3, as you remove the content from its lecture-by-lecture structure to fit and relate the content together. Using the revision material made in step 3, categorise the information into prompts (short phrases or terms, e.g. "Brundtland Report, 1987") and assign them each with a citation and a short definition (example). By now, these short definitions should already correspond to a larger chunk of important information or statistics/analysis that you know in more detail. The documents made here is the ultimate synthesis of your revision, and I would highly recommend to print this and use in the days coming up to the exam.
When: 2-3 weeks before exam // Duration & Frequency: As much as possible.
5. Memorisation of key sources.
This works in part with step 4; where you'll need to use your prompts to align your knowledge with the memorisation of the citation to match it. This may be done on paper flashcards, however I personally did it on Quizlet in creating a study set with the (1) prompt, and (2) citation, on either side of the flashcard. Test yourself on both the prompts and citations, and I've found that writing down the corresponding match on paper is the best way to regurgitate this information. This should be done until all are memorised, and use the prompt/citation to write out the corresponding short definition.
When: 1-2 days before exam // Duration: 1hr+ (depending on the number of prompts).
6. Essay practise.
This can be done in part with step 4 and 5, where you can use your newly memorised prompts and citations to write out the related content and details. Try to link all the prompts and citations together in paragraphs or sentences, and be able to integrate citations with your analysis and answer seamlessly and with relevance. Test out your knowledge in answer to what you may imagine the exam questions to be on, or on specific subjects. It is best to do this in the format of your exam e.g. if its a written exam, do this step in paper & pencil (pencil writes quicker on a page, and you won't waste pen ink).
When: 1-2 days before exam // Duration & Frequency: As much as possible.