Due to recent changes, students will now have to sit all their exams in each subject at the end of their 2-year A Level course. This marks quite a difference with what happened previously, where additional AS exams were taken halfway through. But what do these changes mean to how you should plan to revise for an A Level?
An hour for an hour
One of the main keys to exam success is to make sure that preparation isn’t left until the last minute. This is where the “hour for an hour” tip comes in; for every hour of lesson time, you should try to spend an hour going through your notes.
The reason for this is that the more you familiarise yourself with the course material, the easier you’ll find it at the end. This is why it’s important to set aside some time each week to focus on each subject and ensure that you stick to this schedule. You may find it easier to revise from your own notes instead of directly from the textbook. Or you may find that revising in a group helps (as long as distractions are removed!)
Homework, tests and mock exams
Very few of us love taking exams, especially those that don’t necessarily count towards your final grade. But if you take them seriously they can help you find out what your strongest areas are, giving you time to work on any weaknesses.
Bare in mind that it is knowing where to improve that is most important rather than getting full marks. Understanding your weaknesses at the end of the first year can really help you accrue those all important UCAS point.
Using the specification
Each subject has its own specification. These can be downloaded and detail exactly what you need to know. They can also be useful for finding out which bits of information you don’t need from out-of-date textbooks if your school or college hasn’t updated to new versions.
What’s the best way to use them? Try printing them out, reading each bullet point and writing “R” (red) for anything you don’t understand, “G” (green) for the parts you’re comfortable with, an “A” (amber) for anything else. Try to revise the “R” and “A” parts first and, at the end of the course, check your progress to against what you’ve previously marked as “R” or “A”.
Past papers, exam reports and revision guides
Past papers can seem boring but they’re a great way to improve confidence, self-esteem and remove exam anxiety. Typically, each subject will have 2 specimen tests that you can use for practice. But you can also access “legacy” exams on the exam board’s website. However, you’ll need to make sure that you use the current specification to identify which topics and questions aren’t applicable to your new A-Level.
Revision guides are also a great resource – particularly if you find organising your work difficult. They are often a lot smaller and more concise than a text book and can give you the “instant answer” you may be looking for. The earlier you start the better – using a revision guide from the very start of the course will help you become familiar with its style.
Know what revision strategies work for you
There are a whole range of revision techniques you can use, from using lists to creating mind maps. But whatever method you choose, make sure it works for you. Try a new technique by talking to your friends and teachers to find out about other tips.
Revision doesn’t have to be solitary either. You might find that working in a small group within an organised revision course is a great way to enable you to share information and revision strategies.
These insights can then be invaluable in terms of giving you the tools you need to create an effective revision timetable several months before the exam season starts.