A Levels can be a stressful time for anyone sitting them – as well as their parents. In this short blog, I’ll discuss how best to approach A Level revision, covering how much to do, when do to it, and how best to revise, including some best practice. Hopefully, by the end, the task won’t feel quite so daunting!
When to begin A Level revision?
This question is something which many people might start to wonder once they have finished year 12. It is true that you need to have first covered and understood enough of your A Level course before you start to revise. But once you have finished a topic, even if it is just the introduction, it is a good idea to have clear notes written for when you need to come back to it. For example, for my Economics students, the introductory unit is perhaps 1-2 lessons long at school, covering Economics as a social science and reasons for studying it. Whilst this is smaller and comparatively easier than the units which follow, this is a foundational topic, so clear notes written in an accessible format will help your understanding and ensure the information can be re-digested. Remember – you’ll be coming back to them in the lead up to exams so write your notes so they won’t strike you as something you’ve never done before. Clear titles, bullet points, and summaries are always the most simple and accessible ways to write notes as they convey concisely what you need to know. Ensuring that you learn with revision in mind is always a sure-fire way to succeed when you need to come back to it.
Where to begin A Level revision?
Once you’ve begun your A Levels and got through a few units – having written clear and concise notes as you’ve gone through – revise both chronologically and by focussing on topics you know you need to work on. You’re also more likely to be unfamiliar with topics covered in year 13  because they’re harder and  because your brain hasn’t had enough time to go over them like it has for year 12 topics. Cover sub-topics you’re less familiar with in context of its larger unit. Have the specification out in front of you to see which unit it was in, and any related topics surrounding it to help jog your memory and link it to other topics with which you are more familiar. Then, go through your notes in detail, perhaps applying it to an exam question so you can identify gaps in your knowledge which would be needed for the exam. Longer-answer questions are a great way to make you search your memory and see which areas need work! This is also a great way to plan your revision – by topic and specification point. Start by covering the sections you are least confident on, and you should be solid on them by the time you reach the exam. But don’t neglect sub-topics completely even if you think you’re solid on them – just devote less time compared with the topics you know you find more difficult.
Best Techniques for A Level Revision
Personally, I think practising past papers and exam-style questions are best to ensure you obtain your best possible grade. Exam boards like AQA, Edexcel, and OCR have past papers available on their websites from previous years. If you’re not sure on where to start, do a past paper and find the topic questions you’re less certain on. But, if you don’t have the subject knowledge to apply in the first instance, basic content recall can be supported with Quizlet. Tools like Quizlet can help to create flashcards and test yourself with quizzes whenever you’re out and about. This was recommended by my teachers at school and it’s still a great way to ensure you’re 100% on your content before you apply it.
As mentioned above, flashcards can be useful tools to condense a subject topic to a few key bullet points, allowing your brain to go further by recalling the content not listed. This is a crucial step to longer-term revision and supporting your memory more generally. If you can link a new piece of information to something you already know, it will be much easier to recall. Understanding and solving linear equations in Maths is a lot easier once you’ve already mastered the basics of algebra. So, connect the dots and use flashcards to prompt yourself until you know it by heart.
Example A Level Revision Techniques
Break the subject you wish to revise into easily defined topics e.g. Cells
Take an A4 piece of paper and split it up into sections as shown in the diagram.
Key Points: note all of the key points included in the topic. Use your textbooks, notes and revision guides to help you with this process.
Key Words: list all of the key words in this area. Again you can use textbooks, notes and revision guides to help you. These tend to be the words you will get marks for in exams so it’s crucial that you remember them all for each topic.
Diagrams: Draw the key diagrams you have learnt in this topic
Question: In this section note down either the kind of exam question you are likely to be asked on this topic or questions that you need help with from your teacher.
- Select either blank or ruled paper.
- Write the main theme or question in the centre of the page e.g. what do I need to do for my revision? This becomes the hub of your mind map.
- Draw a box or circle around this hub text.
- Draw a line from the hub to your next fact or idea.
- Write down your idea or fact e.g. Make a revision plan.
- Draw a box or circle around the new text. This becomes a node on your mind map.
- Repeat steps 4 - 6 for each fact or idea you wish to note.
- If you have additional information you can link it to any of the nodes e.g. Notes, Course text.
- Summaries or notes on index or cards are particularly handy as you can carry them with you and review them in odd moments or for testing yourself – perhaps on a train or bus, or while waiting in a queue in the supermarket.
- Summarise your topic in a few words. Using your own words means you process the information, which improves your understanding and your memory. Keep the notes brief to act as prompts.
- Organise your notes in new ways on the cards – perhaps providing an overview of a topic on one, and then notes around sub-topics on others. Try using colour as an aid to memory.
How to Help Your Child with A Level Revision
For both parents and students, A levels will be a very stressful time!
In this context, it’s always helpful to support your child by giving them some direction, but always be mindful never to put your stresses onto them.
Ask them how their revision is going, provide them with healthy meals to eat between revision sessions, as the mental health benefits from a balanced diet are plentiful. If they need a break, encourage it! Burnout affects all ages, so if they don’t feel like they can do any more revision, encourage them to think about alternatives which will help them get back to it later on (ie taking the afternoon off). It’s also a great way to develop their independence, as for many A level students, they’ll be going to university in the autumn, where there is no one to make them do their work, let alone revision!
A quiet study space, whether that’s in their room or elsewhere at home, is vital. If you’ve got time (and they want you to!) try to sit with your child and plan a manageable revision timetable – nothing too rigid, because if they fail to stick to it this can often lead to the whole timetable being jettisoned and feeling like they have failed. Something small and manageable to start, then go from there.
There is no set way to succeed during the A level revision period, so if they are starting to stress, it’s probably time for a break!
A Level Easter revision courses
Looking to provide your child with additional support as exam season approaches?
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