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.

  • 1
    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
    Commented Dec 1, 2013 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.
    Commented Dec 1, 2013 at 12:32

4 Answers 4


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.

  • 7
    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.
    Commented Dec 1, 2013 at 12:23
  • 1
    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. Commented Dec 1, 2013 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
    Commented Dec 1, 2013 at 16:28
  • I'm American and I've always thought "I should be reviewing for my test" is natural, if you are indeed looking over something again. I've also always been annoyed by the British-English "revise," when it crops up in unexpected places and throws me off. Looking at the answers below as well, there are a lot of Americans that think "review for" is perfectly fine. If you search this database you can find this exact construction (search "review" and then search the page for "[AmE] [EDU] to revise STRUCTURE PP_X for"): dante.skxmlbox.idm.fr/dante/search/Search.html Commented Dec 4, 2019 at 9:21

All of these are good synonyms (American-English speaker here), but, having read a lot of British lit/fiction, too, there's not really a direct comparison between the act or state of "revision" and an American English equivalent.

I mean, we do study/review/cram/go over/run through, but "revision" as a specific and separate activity, a distinct part of the test-taking process, has nuances that are separate from the above synonyms, and as such, doesn't really happen.


I am American and came across the word revise as in 'I am revising for my exams' in a picece of fiction. Americans use the word 'revise' strictly for correcting something, and would typically say 'study for my test' or 'review for my exams'. We would say revise an essay or article that we wrote ourself, but typically not to understand it better, just to fix the grammar. Hope that helps someone

  • When I started to learn English in middle school, I learned British English. Since I came to the US, my English has also transitioned a lot to the American English but I can still notice the influence from BrE. The other day I told my American friend I was going to revise my knowledge of a subject and he corrected me saying it should be "review". Being a non-native speaker I always surrender to native speakers. I thought I didn't learn it well enough and should have worked harder, until I came across this question just now.
    – yaobin
    Commented Oct 19, 2021 at 18:33

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.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.