Revision Tips: GCSEs and A-level exams are just around the corner

Date published: 21 April 2019

Top revision tips for students this Easter break from Screen Space’s Dr Lisette Johnston. 

Students’ main concerns at this time of the year are exams, will their revision be productive and, will their grades be good enough? - It’s a really stressful time for them.

“The most ineffective way to revise is to read notes,” says Dr Johnston. “Not much goes in, minds wander and too much time is spent “working” for very little learning.”

Here are Dr Johnston’s top tips:

Revision should be active – doing things, so…

  • Make fact or note cards - there are plenty of flash card apps and programs out there that will help you.
  • Draw mind maps - do this after each chunk of intense study, write down what you can remember then revisit your notes, see what you missed and write those bits down in a different colour.
  • Highlight notes - Highlighting one key point or fact for each topic area can effectively breakdown the volume of information you need to remember. Sometimes colour can help text ‘stick’.
  • Make lists - Find the exam board's specification (this lists what you need to know), break down those topics into smaller topics, order them into priority of what you need to learn and revise from there. Breaking it down into these smaller sections makes the task seem more manageable and less overwhelming.
  • Write essay plans - Look at the question, break it down into chunks and then plan each section to include: point, evidence, explanation and make sure to include a conclusion and be evaluative throughout.
  • Answer past questions - try to self mark and get a someone else to mark your work too - this helps you learn as you go, and also ensures that you are being realistic with your marking - you need to know that you’re not being too harsh or too generous.
  • Don’t work for hours without a break - memory and recall become less and less effective. Plan your revision in sessions of up to one hour and take a short break between sessions.
  • Change topics each session - this can be hard to begin with, but it’s a very effective strategy. It focuses your mind to get a certain amount or specific task done in a set time, and makes the time spent revising really count.

For revision sessions to be useful and worthwhile you need to make some sacrifices.

  • Find a quiet place to work, leave the TV switched off.
  • Tell all your contacts on Snap, Insta, Messaging, etc.. you are exiting the social media world for one hour.
  • Put phones on silent and move them out of sight, switch off any messaging apps etc. (you can do it!).

Your reward at the end of the session could be a quick comms flurry; hopefully telling everyone how brilliantly you have just worked!

Make sure you include lots of essay plans, past questions and past papers; application of knowledge has more marks than recall in some subjects.

Look at mark schemes and examiners’ reports. That is how you will learn how examiners expect you to answer questions, what gains and what doesn’t gain marks. Around half of your revision time should be spent on past questions.

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