It's the time of year where students are poring over their books, trying to ensure they are prepared for their exams. You can argue the way people work. However, you cannot dispute their results. Too many roads lead to Rome; follow the one that seems easier and more comfortable for you.
Mr Flanagan, our Head of Sixth Form, has given some helpful hints and strategies for the upcoming exams.
Helpful A-Level Revision Strategies
- Mind maps
Mind mapping is a fantastic visual technique for organising a lot of information around a single topic in one place. The act of putting a mind map together is an excellent way of checking your retention, and the finished map can be reviewed and revisited time and again to help reinforce key points. Again there are several sources of free mind mapping software that you can use either online or download to your computer. Some are only free for a limited trial period. www.mindmaple.com/Downloads/Windows
- York Notes
Essential reading for all A Level English students. The website includes study guides, interactive online essay tools and revision aids.
- Revision Timetables
Get organised first. It helps to know how much time you have left before each exam, and to block out your time so you can be sure to give each subject the attention it deserves. A well-structured timetable will keep you on track and keep you focused on your priorities. The Exam Countdown app is free for iOS and Android. It does exactly what it says on the tin – plug in the exams you are taking and get a daily countdown to each paper.
Get Revising A fantastic free online resource offering a build your own timetable planner plus study tips and past papers for a wide range of subjects.
Flashcard Templates You can easily make flashcards using coloured card and pens, but if you prefer to make your own flashcards on your computer, there are several free templates you can use including:
If you are an auditory learner then you will want to make use of the free podcasts that are available via iTunes. Some examples include:
- A Level and IB History Revision Guides By Mr Allsop History (iTunes)
- A Level Chemistry Revision By Chris Harris (iTunes)
- AS Geography Podcast By Tim Manson
There are loads more, simply do a search for the subject, topic and level you need. Other podcasts can be found on school or teacher websites – Google will help you track these down.
- Study Guides
Study Guides aren’t new but they’re still useful. At A Level there is still a wide range of choice, matched to your exam board and curriculum. Study Guides are an ideal way of revisiting each topic and reminding yourself of the key facts. The practice questions help consolidate your learning as you go along. You might want to try: CGP: www.cgpbooks.co.uk/Student/books Letts Revision Success: www.collins.co.uk/ search?ssv=Letts+A+level+success My Revision Notes: www.hoddereducation. co.uk/mrn
From revision tips to science experiments YouTube is a wealth of free material you can plunder for information. The quality varies but with a bit of digging around you can find some real gems from teacher-led instructional videos to vloggers and students posting real life tips.
- Gojimo Revision
The UK’s leading revision app offering thousands of free revision quizzes all matched to your subject and exam board. You can track your progress through your subject, identify topics that need further work, and watch your scores improve over time. Gojimo covers every major A Level and Scottish Higher (also covers GCSE, IB and iGCSE). Available for free on iOS and Android via the app store.
- Gojimo Tutor
Get personalised help with your A Level revision and homework via instant messaging 24/7, 365 days a year. Select a subject, type your question and you will be connected to a subject specialist who can walk you through your problem. You can even attach screenshots or diagrams. Available for maths and science with more subjects to follow soon. Available for iOS and Android. Free trial available for every student.
A personal favourite of Mr Flanagan, quizlet allows you to create your own but also use other student’s revision resources. You can create online flashcards, key word glossaries, take multiple choice tests and play games to help you remember those all important concepts for the exam.
Find the resources that work for you. The choice is going to be a personal one, and guided by the type of learning style that suits you. You may benefit from using a variety of different tools in order to keep the subject fresh in your mind and help you stay focused during those long revision sessions. So next time you feel your concentration flagging don’t just give up, try swapping to a different tool or technique instead.
How to tackle your A-Level exams
Hopefully your teachers will have given you lots of tips and plenty of opportunities to work through practice papers at school. Each subject is different but there are some general exam techniques that can help regardless of the type of exam you are taking. A Level exams can be long and intense so it is vital to get your technique up to speed.
- Read the question – then read it again and make sure you have really understood what it’s asking for. One of the biggest mistakes students make is to charge in and answer the question they think is being asked, and not the question that is actually being asked.
- Identify the questions that are worth the most marks, and spend the most time on them. Spend less time on those questions worth fewer marks.
- Check and see if you can answer the questions out of order. If you can, then write the answer to the questions you are most comfortable with first, leaving your weakest answer until last.
- Plan your answers in advance. Write very brief notes to help you focus and ensure you don’t forget anything vital.
- Keep calm and carry on! It’s normal to feel nervous and it’s easy to panic, especially when you first turn over the paper. If you feel yourself getting worked up then take a few deep breaths, look back at your notes and carry on. Picking out the questions you feel most comfortable with will help you gain confidence at the start of the exam, and will help you stay calm throughout.
- If you are running out of time and have more than one question left to do, then just answer the first part of each of them. You will pick up more marks if you half answer two different questions than fully answering one. Use bullet points to get across as many points as you can and don’t feel restricted to writing a complete answer - the objective is to demonstrate your knowledge.
- Read your answers at the end. Make sure what you have written is clear and you have included all the points you made in your planning notes.
- Never leave an exam early. There is always something you can check again.
- Drink plenty of water – stay hydrated. The act of sipping the water will also help keep you calm. Just don’t overdo it – you don’t want to spend the whole time fighting the urge to go to the loo.