Most Btecs involve a combination of coursework, set tasks and exams – so you’re probably not going to be able to avoid doing a bit of revision.
Do a bit of pre-revision organisation and create a study planner
Before you start revising, it’s a good idea to decide how you want to manage your time.
Hazelly, who’s doing a Btec in Health and Social Care, recommends using a planner “to keep yourself up to date with assignment dates”.
Lshort17, who’s taking a Level 3 Btec in Construction and the Built Environment, comments “I set myself a target of how many hours I want to achieve each week. I note this on my calendar to ensure I don’t forget”.
Doing this in plenty of time ahead of your exams will save you from stressing out later on.
“Don’t leave it till several weeks before the exam or assessment as the information is hard to absorb in two weeks,” Lshort17 says.
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Put the revision hours in – but how many?
Everyone knows that good revision is the key to doing well in exams – but just how much time should you spend doing it?
Here’s how long a few members of The Student Room have spent studying for their Btec exams – although, of course, everybody is different, so you’ll need to figure out what works for you.
“I set aside one or two hours a day to work on assignments after college where I will not get distracted and will have a clear mind to research new ideas,” says Gillzy, who’s doing the UAL: Btec national extended diploma in creative media.
TSR member Ausicks, who’s taking a Level 3 Extended Diploma Btec in Business, shares that “I would do four hours after school but do it in 30 minute bursts with 5-10 minute breaks in between.”
Hazelly says “I prefer to revise in the mornings, usually from 5am to 7am on a weekday. I did this when I had my January exams and needed to revise continually. Although now I’m focused on assignments my management of time is slightly different.
“On the weekends I plan to do coursework from 10am to 4pm (which include breaks!) and during the week I will use my free periods at college to do more studies – this calculates to around 5-6 hours a week. Once home, I structure my evenings to do three hours a night of coursework.”
More like this: your guide to handling revision and exam stress
Figure out how you want to take notes
Making notes is the first stage of revision for many students. These notes will be the raw material that you use to revise from. They should help you check what you know and where you might have gaps in your knowledge.
“Google Docs became my bread and butter,” says Ausicks. “I would read the book and insert shortened notes next to the topic subtitles.
Gillzy thinks that “bullet-pointing key ideas and facts on a Word sheet is great as it helps me remember only the crucial points.”
“I personally find note-taking in a jotter pad is the best method for me,” says Hazelly.
“I usually do this by reading a few pages of the textbook and then condensing the notes down. After doing this I will then transfer the knowledge that I have condensed onto a writing pad whilst using highlighters and various coloured pens. The brighter the notes the better!”
“I just try to ensure I take as much important information down as possible but make sure it is short and concise allowing it to stay in my mind longer,” comments Lshort17.
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Take notes that work for you
The type of notes you make might depend on the subject or unit you’re taking.
“Business is a varied subject, so for finance I would make notes on advantages and disadvantages of payment methods etc… Marketing is about research so I’ll do plenty of research and make notes on different promotional and marketing techniques,” comments Ausicks.
And don’t worry if you try something out and it doesn’t work for you – there are plenty of other techniques out there for you to choose from.
Hazelly shares that “I wish I hadn’t made flashcards at the beginning of my exam units; they became lost quickly and whilst I was making them, I lost the interest to make the notes and it had no real purpose.
“Another thing was that when there were graphs, I used to just print the graph out or a chunk of knowledge – it saves time by doing this, but I found I hadn’t actually learnt the content!”
Rather, as Hazelly says, “the most important thing I found is to choose a technique that works for you, whether that’s making audiotapes or having mind maps.”
And you might not have any set techniques at all – ohhello92x says: “I didn’t really have any techniques when making notes – as long as they made sense to me when looking back at them then it would be okay.”
More like this: how to study effectively for your exams
Do lots of reading around the subject
The more research that you do around a subject, the greater an understanding you’ll have of it – and the more likely you’ll be to do well in your exams.
TSR member Ausicks says they would “avoid relying on the book for all the answers.”
“It’s all about independence for Btec, so try to do external research and make shortened yet key notes.”
Gillzy advises to “always make sure to read up on things even if you think you know it all already.”
And ohhello92x agrees that you should “always research properly on the subject you’re studying.”
Take a look at past papers
Past papers can be a really useful revision resource. They can help you understand the type of questions your exam will ask you, and the areas where you could gain or lose marks.
Lshort17 says they find past papers: “100% useful as it gives me a feel for what to expect. Going through it as a class or group helps to bounce ideas and gets my thought processes ready so I can answer any questions as appropriately as possible.
“I also think looking at the mark scheme helps give an idea of what the examiner is looking for when it comes to longer essay-style questions.”
More like this: how to get the most out of past papers
Ask for help if you need it
Teachers are there to support you, so you shouldn’t suffer in silence if there’s anything related to your Btec that you’re feeling unsure about.
“You can always ask for support/help from tutors if you’re unsure or struggling,” says ohhello92x.
Talking to other students can also be really helpful.
“Don’t panic, talk to others in your group as they are experiencing the same as you. Maybe revise as a small group,” advises Lshort17.
Keep your eyes on the prize
Those long hours spent revising will feel all the more worthwhile if you keep focused on what you hope to get out of your Btec.
For Hazelly, “at the end of year 13 I have a goal to achieve three Distinction *s.”
Maybe, like Ausicks, you’re set on getting into a particular university:
“I applied for some top universities, and so I was motivated to study four hours every day since the start of my second year in sixth form.
“I knew that in order to get D*D*D* I will need to get Distinctions across the board.”
Lshort17 shares that “I just keep thinking about my future goals and where I want to be in six months’ time.
“This helps me reach my goal as it becomes a personal achievement and if I don’t revise, I won’t be where I want to be in the future.”
Time flies when you’re having fun (or sitting an exam)
And when exam day rolls around, make sure you keep an eye on the clock and don’t let the time get away from you.
“Time management is very important as it can decide whether you get a merit in an exam or a pass,” says Ausicks.
“The three hour time for an exam might sound like a lot but it flies by, so stay on top of your time management.”
For Lshort17, their Btec in Construction and the Built Environment involved a couple of set tasks that ended with very long exams of around 10-12 hours.
“When it comes to these types of exams, don’t rush as you have time,” Lshort17says.
“I suggest also to prepare yourself for long exams, do a practice paper at home in these conditions to ensure you are ready for such a long period of time. It can also help to eliminate the stress before as you know what to expect.”
For computer-based exams
You might have to take a computer-based exam as part of your Btec. If so, you’ll want to make sure your typing skills are up to scratch – you won’t have to type at lightning speeds, but don’t risk losing points just because you don’t know your way around the keyboard.
“Typing skills are so essential because you’ll fail Unit 2, 6 and 7 (of the Business Level 3 Extended Diploma) if you type very slowly as it’s a computer-based three hour long exam… Please make sure you practice typing,” says Ausicks.
If you don’t get the grades you hoped for
Hazelly urges you not to feel down if you don’t quite get the grade you were aiming for: "if you do not achieve the grade in a particular coursework assignment, it’s fine!"
"It is not the end of the world and if you get a resubmission definitely use it. If not, remember it’s only one assignment and the other grades you achieve will help in getting your target grade."
More like this: how to prepare for a Btec set task
And finally, some more general Btec advice
There’s much more to Btecs than exams – when it comes to other tips about taking a Btec, Ausicks emphasises the importance of balancing all the different elements:
“I would recommend you take your Btecs seriously if you want to go to a good university. It may sound easy but coursework is a nightmare as I’m experiencing currently.
“Try to stay on top of coursework and revision for exams – it’s all about a healthy balance.”
Hazelly agrees, commenting that “it’s imperative to keep up with the work as it can catch up on you quickly making it overwhelming to prepare for.”
And Gillzy thinks that doing work experience alongside your Btec can give you really valuable insight into your subject:
“Make sure to get as much work experience on top of your course as possible.
“It really helped me to get work experience at production companies and workshops so that I could improve my understanding of the subjects.”