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The Law of Revision

"The secret to performing well in exams is repetition and revision."
Dr Kannan Gireesh

You ask anyone about what is the secret of getting good marks in exams and the answers will have one
thing in common - Revision. But while the answer seems so obvious the application isn't. However well
you understand and learn a new concept, if you miss to revise it, you will not be able to recall it in the
examination and the initial learning will go in vain.
What is revision? Revision is the act of rereading a topic so as to memorize it. We have been

memorizing and revising answers all through our student life and the importance is well known to us.
The practice of revision has always been important but you need to harness the power of revision now
than ever before. CA Final is the last frontier that you need to cross and revision can be your greatest
weapon in this battle. Let's understand little bit about memory before going further with the
importance of revision. Hermann Ebbinghaus, a German psychologist was among the first few people
who made a scientific study about human memory in the later part of the eighteenth century. He
suggested that we basically have two different types of memory. One is short term memory and the
other is long term memory.
Short term memory It is the part of the memory that retains information for a very short time. It is

very temporary storehouse where the brain keeps information for a very short period. A practical
example of short term memory in action is when in a party you are introduced to an unknown person
and you remember his name only for few moments. This is no different than getting introduced to a
new concept or topic during studies. Short term memory serves you for only few seconds and minutes.
Whatever we first learn gets stored in our short term memory. But as the name suggests, it gets stored
only for a short duration of time. in the absence of rehearsal or revision the information stored in the
short term memory fades away quickly. A couple of revision and rehearsals help in the information
storage for a longer period and that information eventually goes into our long term memory.
Long term memory Long term memory stores data and information that can be retrieved even after

months and years. Information in the long term memory is stored permanently. It is sometimes called as
the 'memory store' wherein all the learning throughout childhood is being stored by the brain. All the
languages, facts, personal experiences, skills, behaviors and understanding of things are stored in the
long term memory. Whatever you have not learned recently and still being able to recall is primarily the
information that is stored in your long term memory.
For the purposes of our discussion we will concentrate more on the long term memory because this is
where we want to store the information in the form concepts, answers and other data for easy retrieval
during the exams.


Why you can't remember?

Now understand that when you study a new chapter of a subject it primarily gets stored in your short
term memory. When you finish reading, you try and recall the concepts you learned a little while ago
and find yourself able to recall the information at ease. You become confident and assume that you
have learned the concept permanently only to realize at a later point in time that that was not the case
to be. When after a few days you try and recall what you had learned, your ability to recall disappoints
you. You cannot recall everything and become frustrated. Actually there is nothing to be disappointed at
this. You never ensured that the topic gets store in your long term memory.
How to store information in long term memory? Revision is the only way by which we demonstrate to
our mind that particular information that has been revised is important and needs to be stored in the
long term memory for easy recollection later on. Continuing from the above example, you read the
concept once and demonstrated to your mind that it should only be stored in the short term memory.
You never revised it systematically! And thus your brain did exactly what you instructed it to do.
Remember that our actions determine our outcomes. A student should always try to store new concepts
and answers in his long term memory so that he can recall it whenever and wherever required. The only
way to do this is Revision.

Why Revision?
Consider your memory to be a dense forest. When your first learn something, it's like clearing some part
of the forest to make a way. If you don't clear it again soon, the bushes will again grow and you won't
find the path that you initially cleared and created. However if you clear the path again before the
bushes grow the path becomes clearer. Repeated working over the passage ensures that the path
becomes permanent and smooth. Our memory works in the similar manner, when you first learn
something it creates memory impressions in your short term memory, in the absence of repetition the
traces disappear but when you revise it the impressions strengthens and repeated exposure places them
permanently in your long term memory. Once the information gets stored in your long term memory, it
doesn't require regular reviewing and can be recalled at will. This is how important revision is. Let me
correct myself This is how important 'systematic revision' is! Thus the revision should be 'systematic'
to be effective.
Some students take up a subject and complete it within 7 days and that happens 3 months before exam.
They ignore revision and pay the price in the form of putting in duplicate effort. They must understand
that the purpose is not to finish the subject and retain it for 7 days but the purpose is to learn and retain
till the day of the exam. For this systematic revision is the key.


The forgetting curve

"Revise all topics which you have read last day before starting the next day's study, it will
not take much time to revise but by doing this you will not forget that topic for a longer
Gi r i r a j A j m er a (A l l I n di a Ra nk 1 C A Fina l)

I sometimes used to think 'what exactly these toppers do different that helps them not only clear CA
Final but secure a rank as well..!!' and I got the answer in an interview with Giriraj Ajmera (All India Rank
1 CA Final June 2009). He truly revealed the secret behind the success of toppers. When I got to know
about it, it appeared so damn simple and logical and still most of us fail to apply it in our study plan.
Now you must be scratching your head thinking 'what is the secret?' well without much ado I shall
disclose what he revealed to me. The secret is 'Revise all topics which you have read last day before
starting the next day's study'. Wow! It's that damn simple!

An ages old study

You know, the moment I got to know the secret from him I began my research on it. I began to study if
there is evidence that could support Giriraj's observation and I was ecstatic at my discovery. Allow me to
introduce you to Mr. Hermann Ebbinghaus, an intelligent man from Germany who had discovered the
concept of the 'Forgetting curve' in 1885.
Forgetting curve is the graphical representation of the information lost over time in the absence of
revision. The Forgetting curve will help us understand the importance of revision and what happens in
the absence of it. On one side it shows how human mind forget things with the passage of time and on
the other it also helps us understand how we can ensure we retain new learning with the systematic
review of the material learned. One of the most powerful observation of the human mind in history, if
understood and applied in its original sense it can ensure that you smoothly cruise your way to success
in CA Final exam.

How it helped someone realize his dream.

Many of my friends and students have benefited from the study that am about to share with you but the
most interesting and outstanding have been the story of a close friend of mine, Pulkit Sharma. I met
Pulkit a couple of years ago during my days in Genpact. At that time he already had two degrees to his
credit CS and MBA and was striving to become a CA. He told me how difficult it was for him to clear CA
Final especially with a full time job. His previous two attempt of CA Final were unsuccessful and his
unhappiness was evident. He asked me for a word of advice and I shared with him the concept of the


forgetting curve and you would be glad to know that in the very next attempt he not only cleared CA
Final but also touch the glory of being a CA convincingly along with a full time job!
Without any further examples, let's observe the forgetting curve.

Forgetting curve


No. of Days

You forget 80% of what you first learn within 24 hours!

The above graph depicts how we retain new information that is fed in the mind. On x-axis we have
'Number of days' and on y-axis we have 'percentage of knowledge remembered'. When you learn
something new, you are able to recall almost everything for the next few minutes and hours but the
percentage of knowledge remembered falls drastically with the passage of time and after 24 hours you
only remember 20 percent of it. What that means is, you forget 80 percent of what you learn within the
next 24 hours! With further passage of time, the percentage of knowledge remembered further falls and
after 2-3 days you only remember about 5-10 percent.

Forgetting curve and you

Let's understand this on the basis of a new chapter you learn. The very first time when you learn the
chapter, it gets stored in your short term memory and you are able to recall almost 90 percent of what
you learned immediately.


As learned earlier, your short term memory stores information only for a few seconds or minutes and
discard it after that. Since the information is not being revisited / revised it considers it not worthy of
being kept for long. Let me ask you, for how long are you able to retain the information that you read in
the newspapers daily?
With every passing minute your memory about the new chapter deteriorates and since there is no
repetition, the information is discarded by the memory at the end of the first day. Your ability to recall
the contents of the chapter falls down drastically to around 20 percent. Think about it for a moment,
when you don't revise a new chapter within the next 24 hours, you forget 80 percent of it! In other
words if you had devoted 10 hours to study something new and do not revise it within the next 24 hours
then out of 10, 8 hours study becomes useless. Phew! That's huge!
When the chapter is still not revised till the end of the 2" day, almost all the information is lost from the
memory. You retain only about less than 10 percent. What that means is, in the absence of revision just
after the 2" day, 90 percent of your time and effort is gone.
And by the end of a few weeks you remember only about less than 5 percent. That's just next to
nothing. That is exactly what happens with you when you see one of those questions that you once read
but never revised. The question looks familiar but however hard you scratch your head you can't recall.

How to get over the forgetting curve

The good news is you can get over the forgetting curve! Repetition is what can come to your rescue.
Revise systematically and you can defy the forgetting curve. When you don't revise something your
brain thinks that the information is not something to be retained for long and voluntarily removes the
information from the memory. However when you revise something your brain understands your
willingness to keep the information and responds accordingly. Revising something gives your brain the
instruction that the particular information is relevant and to be retained in the memory.
Repeated revision tells your mind to store the information in your long term memory and once that
happens you don't forget. So the only way to ensure that you don't forget anything is by Revision. Have
you ever noticed what happens when you try to study something which is already stored in your
memory? For example, if I give you the table of 2 written on a piece of paper and ask you to memorize
it, what will happen? You will take the piece of paper, have a glance at it and return it to me by saying 'I
already know that!' Even if I'll insist, you will not actually spend time over it memorizing. Why? This is
because the moment you try to memorize something which is already stored in the memory, your brain
responds by saying, 'Hey, I already have this information stored in the memory!' therefore you don't
have to spend time memorizing it or revising it. It's all about how well it is stored in your memory.
This fact can be applied to your studies as well. When you come across a new concept, you need to
memorize it and it takes time. When your revise it, your brain understands that the information is
important and it retains it. Upon second revision, it further strengthens it in the memory. After a couple


of more revisions the concept gets stored in the long term memory and then the brain refuses to
memorize it further. Then moment you try to have another look, you feel bored and unwilling to revise
any further. That's because your brain tell you, 'hey c'mon I already have this concept perfectly stored in
the long term memory'.
So my friend, the secret to remembering something is revising it again and again yet again until you feel
yourself unwilling to revise any further!

The power of Systematic revision

Do not learn what you cannot revise.
One of the biggest misunderstandings about revision is that one must complete the entire subject and
then revise the entire subject. I once read an interview of a CA Final topper and he revealed that he
revised the entire syllabus 3 times! Fascinated by this I decided to follow the advice. I completed the
book on costing in around 20 days; by the time I came back to the first chapter to revise.., all was blank!
I couldn't understand! It took me almost the same amount of time to revise everything that it took in
the first place! When even after completing the revision I saw that I was not confident I got worried. I
found myself unable to recall concepts and answers just after a few days! I actually lost my sleep when I
experienced that! The worry got multiplied over time because that was not just happening with costing,
I had 7 more subject. I was so stressed those days.
I wish I had known Abhishek Gupta's (All India Rank 1 CA Final May 2012) observation. He says, "Due to

the vastness of the syllabus of CA Final, revision becomes an integral component. It generally takes 2-3
months to cover the entire syllabus for the first time and as a result, a student is unable to retain what
he/she may have studied in the initial phases."
That's what happens in the absence of proper understanding of our brain and memory functionality. A
student is bound to forget 80% of what he learns first time within the next 24 hours. So why complain..!!
This is a natural phenomenon all over the globe! It is a scientific fact that we forget 80% of all that we
learn within the next 24 hours! Then the question is how to retain that stuff? And the answer is only and
only by systematic revision.

Break it down!
Since you forget almost 80% of what you learn within the next 24 hours. The practice of waiting to
complete an entire book before actually beginning with revision will only harm your retaining abilities.
That's just waste of time of effort. The solution is Break it down! It's not about completing an entire
subject, or a chapter, it's about time.


You must revise whatever you first learn within the next 24 hours. Revise it again after 3 days. Yet again
after 7 days. One more time after 20 days and you are done. Now you can be assured that you won't
forget it. However if you revise it 1 more time after about a month you could find yourself competing
with the budding rank holders!
Have a look at the below example, suppose you study something on 1st Jan then the revision schedule
should look like the below.

First Revision
Next day
21d Jan

Second Revision
After 3 days
6 th Jan

Third Revision
After 7 days
14th Jan

Fourth Revision
After 20 days
4th Feb

How about time?

Now you must be thinking 'Does this guy have any idea of the amount of time that these many revisions
would take?' well my answer is 'Yes'. The beauty of systematic revision is that as you go about with your
revisions the time consumption drastically decreases. So if it took you 5 hours to complete learning a
chapter initially, the first revision would take only about 30 45 minutes. Further revisions will take only
about 15 minutes because you won't be learning it any further; you would just be recalling the already
existing information. Follow this advice and see the miracles happening!
This process will help you strengthen your memory and your ability to recall stuff because these many
revisions are necessary for any new information to be stored in your long term memory and this is
where you should be striving to store the information for success in your exams.
The reason why many students do not succeed in CA Final is not because they don't study but because
they study but do not revise.
So embrace the mantra to success Do not learn what you cannot revise.


Key Takeaways


When you first learn something, it goes to your short term memory.


Information gets stored in the long term memory only through revision.


Your forget 80% of what you learn within the next 24 hours.


Do not learn what you cannot revise.


Systematic revision is the key to acquire mastery over a subject.


Students fail not because they don't study but because they don't revise.



This book was written by CA NITIN SONI.. CREDIT goes to original author only and this file is
available in his personal website in IMAGE format
Please buy the book for all 7 laws