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Today, I discovered that the meaning of revise to do with studying is used in British, Australian and New Zealand English, rather than American English:

(UK, Australia, New Zealand) To look over again (something previously written or learned), especially in preparation for an examination.

I should be revising for my exam in a few days.

What would be the American English equivalent?

To look for equivalents, I tried looking for synonyms, and I couldn't find any synonyms of this meaning of "revise" in Merriam-Webster.com's thesaurus section, thesaurus.com, wordnet online or the Oxford American Writer's Thesaurus.

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I believe I have seen "review" used in a similar sense in American writing, which confused me until I realised. Certainly I have sen "review my speech" in the sense of "run over the speech I have to give"; I am not certain I have seen it in the context of an exam, but I think so. – Colin Fine Dec 1 '13 at 11:04
When I looked up study in a thesaurus, I stumbled across the idiom hit the books. It's used, and it makes a nice substitution in your sentence: I should be hitting the books for my exam in a few days. It wouldn't necessarily make for the best synonym in all contexts, but it's a nice one to have on the candidate list. – J.R. Dec 1 '13 at 12:32
up vote 7 down vote accepted

You're right, Americans tend not to use the verb revise when preparing for tests or exams. Instead they will say:

  • study

    From WikiHow: How to Study For Exams:

    Exams are a necessary and stressful part of study. Since they are so important, you need to study in ways that get the best results

    from Tips for Effective Study:

    The most common barrier to success encountered by college students is a lack of effective techniques for study and exam preparation

  • run through
    excerpt from Exam Success — How to get great grades with less studying:

    ideally you would have enough time to cover your material at least thrice. Your first run through is to get a good feel for it and to build your understanding of the subject matter. Your second run through allows you to focus on the important points and commit them to memory (etc..)

  • cram

    Have you ever been in a situation where it's the night before a big test and you haven't even cracked open a textbook or skimmed your notes? We've all been there. Recent research shows, however, that the lack of sleep caused by cramming may cause you to perform poorly, defeating the purpose

  • review (which J.R. kindly suggested, and he's a native American English speaker)

    I should be reviewing the material before tomorrow's exam.

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You could add review to this list. We should review the material before tomorrow's exam. That said, I think review requires an object (review the material, review the chapter, review my notes, e.g.), whereas the O.P.'s example doesn't have that. I don't think I'd say "I should be reviewing for my test." So, in that sense, perhaps study (or cram, in more extreme circumstances) are better words. – J.R. Dec 1 '13 at 12:23
Thank you, I will. – Mari-Lou A Dec 1 '13 at 12:29
Are study and run through here not being used in the same way as they would be in British English though? — i.e., including the first time you're looking at the material — which wouldn't apply to revision. – anotherdave Dec 1 '13 at 15:08
@anotherdave In BrEng it is true the verb, revise, is more commonly used when studying before an exam. To revise something is to go through your notes and "learn" the subject. The verbs, study and swot are also used in BrEng to express the idea of refreshing your memory, the second having a similar meaning to "cram". I'm not so sure with run through being BrEng, I confess, but it's easily understood. – Mari-Lou A Dec 1 '13 at 16:28

As an American, I have heard and used the phrase "I'm reviewing for a quiz/test," but I more often hear/use "I'm studying" which can refer to going back over material I've learned OR going through new material.

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