Revision can be daunting and establishing a starting point is often a challenge at this time of year. The following article aims to provide ideas about where to start and how to approach revision with suggestions that can be immediately put into practice and will hopefully ease any revision concerns during the exam season.
The specifications for national exams (GCSEs/A Levels/IB) can be found on the exam board’s website and are a great place to start – use a traffic light system to identify the green (understand it), amber (needs a little work) and red (needs a lot of work) areas. A revision timetable should be drafted ensuring that all topics from all subjects are covered in the time available. Make sure that more time is allocated to the areas identified as red, there is always a tendency to avoid the tricky areas! Schools will often provide templates but a quick google of ‘revision timetable template’ will provide many options that can be adapted.
During key revision periods teachers or tutors will probably have provided resources or revision activities. Make sure these are utilised as they will be targeted to specific topics that need work. There are many other sources of revision material – textbooks, revision guides, revision websites (BBC bitesize, Khan Academy), podcasts of books, poems etc. When revising it is a good idea to use a variety of resources as one may explain something in a way that another doesn’t or have a diagram or animation that really helps you. Sit at your desk with textbooks and revision guides open on the same topic and use a laptop or tablet to access online resources on that topic too, then you can use them all to complete the activities suggested below.
Students will often say ‘I just read my textbook – I don’t know what else to do’. Reading is a passive activity and for the information to be retained it needs to be actively applied using an alternative method. The suggestions below are by no means exhaustive but may provide a starting point or a new idea to try out during the current revision season.
- Writing concise notes with clear sub-headings
- Revision cards
- Placemats (A4 piece of paper divided into 4 with the sub-headings; key definitions, key points, questions to test yourself and useful diagrams/images)
- Lists of quotes divided into categories
- Key points on post-it notes to be stuck in regularly visited places in the house
- Mindmaps or concept maps are a great way to summarise at the end
- Teaching someone else (sibling/parent) about the topic
- Getting someone to test you using the resources you have created
Past exam papers
Past exam papers, if available, are the definitive revision tool – ultimately they are what you will be faced with in your exam so it is essential you are familiar with the layout and types of questions you will be asked. To begin with, exam papers can be completed using your revision resources as this will aid your understanding of the topics you may still be unsure of. After every paper it is crucial that you use the mark scheme to correct the paper. You will learn a great deal from this and will quickly avoid silly mistakes that may lose you marks. Nearer the exam you will need to complete the past papers in timed exam conditions to ensure you are completing all the questions to a high standard in the time allocated. Again, it will be essential to use the mark scheme after each one – you will begin to see patterns in questions and the mark schemes which you will start to remember. Then when faced with a similar question you will know what to write!
Finally, teachers and tutors often hear ‘oh that doesn’t work for me’ when in reality the idea may not have been tried or a topic/activity seen as challenging may have been avoided. A variety of revision methods should be utilised – of course you will find successful ones that really do work for you but these will never be discovered if you stick to reading your revision guide!