In general:I’m in Year 13 (A2) and I want to study maths and psychology at university. Psychology especially interests me - I did my EPQ on Tourette’s syndrome. Also, I’m very new to TSR.
My exams: I am studying maths, psychology, and chemistry at A level, which means I’ve already done my GCSEs (9A*s and a merit) and AS exams (AAAB, the B in history, which I gladly dropped). So I’m sort of an old hand at revising. But it can still be difficult to know where to start, and how to stay motivated. This blog is going to document my revision process, (hopefully) keep me motivated and maybe even provide others with some study tips. First things first, my target grades are A*A*A (A in chemistry). Crazy. I hope with enough revision and preparation, I can get there.
From past experience:
Timing: Teachers will probably tell you that 30-40 minutes is the best amount of time to work for in one go, but of course, personal preferences differ. Find what works for you early on. My preference is around 40 minutes, although this can vary – if I’m really unable to focus, I’ll cut it short, and if I’m really stuck-in, I’ll keep at it a little longer. Additionally, you don’t want to be working too late or too early, because you won’t be fully focusing, and you’ll probably have to work around things like school, mealtimes and clubs.
Personally I didn’t have a revision timetable, though I’m thinking of making one this year. Everybody will probably recommend you make one – even me – but some people do prefer to have a little more flexibility. Generally I tended to just work in the evenings after school, and on weekend afternoons, making sure I covered every subject and concentrated on the ones I was weakest at. Start revising early in the year, doing little and often, just a small amount a day. As exams approach, you’ll probably want to up-the-ante, so you can cover all the topics in a little more depth. This means more hours and ‘proper’ revision technique – whatever that means to you.
Breaks: Don’t stay sat at your desk and just whip your phone out for a couple of minutes. Get up, walk around, make yourself a tea, sort out some admin. A little bit of movement, even something as simple as walking down and up the stairs, will be a welcome change. It’s also important that you don’t let your breaks overrun – if they become too long, you’re bound to become distracted by something else, or just decide that you don’t want to do any more revision today.
Snacks: Good when you’re revising, but make sure it’s something you can eat as you’re working/writing. Half-staring at a book doesn’t count! Also, don’t eat too much high-energy or high-sugar food. Some people feel like it gives them a boost, but after a while you’ll be bouncing in your seat feeling incredibly pent-up wanting to do something (anything) more energetic or interesting.
Study space: This needs to be somewhere quiet and probably isolated. Of course, lots of people like group revision, but as the exams get nearer you may find that you would like to do some private study too. I spent most of my GCSE revision period on the living room floor, but for AS levels I mostly used the desk in my room or in the workroom.
Phones:Keep it away. It’s difficult to concentrate on a particularly boring topic if my iPod is sat a foot from my face. Experience has taught me to keep it out of sight and out of mind – in a drawer across the room with the notifications switched off. On a really bad day I would leave it in another room, making it a lot of effort to go and fetch. Alternatively, let it run out of battery – again, it’s harder to just pick it up and start scrolling if you have to get up and search for a charger first. Also, don’t listen to music. It really affects how well you learn and can recall the material – which, come exam time, is not ideal. So definitely as exams get closer, start studying with no distractions.
Motivation: Get other people to help motivate you. Ask parents or anybody else around to encourage (force) you to sit down and start working when you said you were going to. If you can’t stop yourself from procrastinating, maybe someone else can. I even had self-made motivational posters stuck on my wall throughout AS levels, though I’m not actually sure how much good they did. Of course, if you’re on the verge of a mental breakdown (don’t worry, we’ve all been there) it’s good to take a break for a while and calm down. I took a very nose-to-the-grindstone approach, especially close to exams, but it’s important to take a step back sometimes.
Method: Perhaps the most important thing in reference to revision – apart from, you know, actually doing it – is method. It’s very hard to advise people on how exactly to revise but I’ll try my best to offer some tips from my own experience and from people I know.
During GCSE the main resource I used was my own books, full of class notes. At AS level I preferred to use the textbooks – but check with your teacher first, as some important information may not be included, and some information included may be irrelevant (or even incorrect). Also – revision guides. I can only speak for my exam board of course, but the CGP science revision guides and apps were fantastic at GCSE. And at AS level, revision guides for maths are great as the textbooks tend to be quite wordy. It’s good to have just all the essential information and formulas, along with examples, condensed.
Record yourself reading from your notes or listing important information. Listen to it in the car, at the gym, before you fall asleep, whatever. Personally this doesn’t work for me, I can’t learn just from hearing things, but if you can then this is a really convenient method. Maybe less relevant to maths and other subjects where you have to apply formulas, but for things like history or the sciences, where learned information such as dates, processes or reactions are important, this may be useful.
Additionally, some people like to walk around while they attempt to memorise information, or try learn things in different locations or in different accents to help it stick. Hey, whatever works.
What I have tended to do in the past is write out flashcards and try to memorise them. This is especially good if you can convince someone else (friend, parent) to help prompt you. I also spent a lot of time writing out brief notes from the textbook or class booklets on basically everything. Note: this is an incredibly time-consuming method. In the past I’ve stubbornly stuck to standard notepad and biro, despite being told repeatedly that making colourful notes is better – bright, different colours help you to remember more. So this year I will be finally taking this advice on board and creating some brightly coloured and very information-stacked ‘posters’. These will then be stuck to my currently empty pin board so I can look at them all the time (joy).
I prefer to learn all the material first, and then practice answering questions on it, but some people prefer to learn and then practice a chapter or topic at a time. Either way, past papers are a great resource. Obviously a lot of exam specifications have changed recently, so there may not be any; in this case use specification papers, or example questions provided by your exam board or in your relevant textbook.
Make sure you know the exam format inside out. How long each one is, the topics it covers, how long to spend on each question, what types of question will be included, which questions to answer or not answer. Practice a paper under exam conditions at least once before the real exam – usually mocks will take care of this.
Grow Your Grades (A levels) Watch
- Thread Starter
- 28-01-2017 14:19
- Thread Starter
- 28-01-2017 15:06
28 January - So Far
Alright. So far, I haven't done much in the way of revision.
What have I done?
Psychology - I did have to revise the topics of psychopathology, memory, social influence and attachment (and some research methods) for a psychology mock exam near the start of January. I started revising for this during the Christmas holidays, but probably did most of that revision in the school week before the actual mock. That was sort of a mixture of bad planning, and being able to work a lot better under pressure. Thankfully, the amount of work I did at this point seemed to pay off and I ended up getting 92/96 marks (yay).
The way I revised was mostly my tried-and-tested method of writing out all the important details from the textbook itself, though I also found the flashcards I made last year very useful, especially closer to the exam. In terms of practice questions, I only did a few and only in note form. Usually I would have done more, but I was used to the format of the questions in this case, as they were the same as the ones we had done last year.
Attached (I think, I’m bad with technology) is a picture of these revision materials.
Maths - I have done a couple of open-book maths papers (Core 3, if you’re interested). I worked through 2 past papers with no time restrictions, looking to my textbook/notes if I got stuck, or the worked solutions/answers if I really couldn’t figure something out. I then annotated those parts I still didn’t understand, or struggled with, and intend to hand these in to my maths teacher for guidance. As exams get closer I will probably start doing these papers in timed conditions and without notes.
Chemistry - At this stage I have mostly been using the weekly homework we are given to revise - looking up topics that I don't fully understand in the textbook, and taking note of feedback or corrections when we go through them in class. However, soon I am going to start making proper revision notes. I think it would be useful to make some reaction flowcharts for organic chemistry, or start to go over the topics we covered last year.
Also attached is a photo of the empty (hopefully not for long) pin board that I mentioned in my original post.