Hey, I think it depends on the individual as to what works well for you when it comes to written subjects. I can share with you what I did in Edexcel Psychology to get full marks at AS and an A* at A2 in one year (after changing to it in my A2 year from History, which I absolutely hated it lol).
There are a few great points on here: https://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/con...-star-students
Point 2 from the above link regarding examiners reports
is the best advice I can give - these reports are such a key resource. They break down each question and tell you what they expect in your answers, as well as providing model answers to questions, what mark they were awarded and most importantly why! It explains what students did right in each question as well as what students did wrong
and also shows answers which scored lower marks and why they didn't gain the marks. Cannot stress this enough - go through all of these reports
- despite some syllabus changes, many questions from the old specification are still relevant.
Additionally, refer to the mark schemes
- key points
can be taken from these to make your revision notes
. Things like the aim, procedure, results and conclusions and some evaluations of many studies have already been asked previously, as well as the descriptions and evaluations of theories, research methods etc., so you can take key points from these for your own notes. However, when writing answers for longer questions
you cannot simply copy these points and list them off. You should make your notes in a way that provides a balance
(ie for 'evaluate'questions first give a strength, then a contrasting weaknesses, then another strength etc) and a reasoned conclusion
based on the evaluation you give for evaluate/assess/to what extent questions.
Note on evaluations
- depending on your exam board (this is for Edexcel
) - in longer questions which ask you to evaluate or assess etc, they often expect to see a blend of description(A01) and evaluation(A03). For example, if asked to evaluate a study for 8 marks, you would get 4 marks for A01 and 4 marks for A03. However, examiners are not expecting to see the APRC then an evaluation. This is where making sure your evaluations are specific to each study/theory and are not generic comes into play. For the A03 mark, you would be expected to identify a weakness
of the study and then explain why
it is a weakness using A01 descriptive detail
from the specific study
. I'm tutoring AS at the moment, so an example which comes to mind is:
Godden and Baddeley's study lacked validity(A03) as the divers were recalling a list of words underwater(A01), which is not an everyday task for the divers. Therefore, the experiment was artificial and lacked mundane realism(A03).
So the A01 comes from providing details of the study to support a strength or weaknesses
which you identify. You would then go on to give an opposing strength in order to give a balanced argument:
However, the study did have high ecological validity regarding the situation(A03) as the participants were real divers(A01). Therefore, being at the diving club and completing the experiment underwater(A01) is a natural environment for them (A03) and they would be accustomed to carrying out tasks while underwater(A03).
I think students get confused here as under the new specification they're told they get 4 marks for A01 and 4 marks for A03 when asked to evaluate so think they have to describe the whole study. However, you simply need to elaborate
on your evaluation
points with an explicit link to the study
you are evaluating to get these A01 marks, which can be done by referring to specific descriptive details
from the study.
This is to prevent students from giving generic evaluations.
Point 6 from the above link is another thing which I did - breaking down each exam into the relevant topics
and creating a revision sheet
(or flashcards, whatever works for you) for each topic. However, when making these I would select a theory/study/research method/debate/key question/practical, look through all the past papers
and find any relevant questions to it (and corresponding mark schemes and examiners reports
) and then from these would form model answer notes
, supplementing from the textbook to ensure that I didn't miss any key points which may not have been in a paper. For any topics which had not come up, I then found it easier to write them in the exam style from the textbook having done this for the other topics and reading examiners advice.
For example, for each study I would assign an A4 sheet and write out the aims, procedures, results and conclusions as I would answer them in the exam (in a decorative way), taking what I could from the mark schemes and examiners reports and taking additional points from the textbook if needed. I would then do the same for evaluation in model answer style, ensuring I linked contrasting evaluation points where necessary and how they linked to their corresponding theories. Also, place emphasis on key words/definitions
(be able to describe
and be able to give an illustrative example
Once I had made these notes, for every study/theory/research method/debate/key question/practical (utilising examiners reports and mark schemes
as much as possible!) I would memorise the topic one at a time
by rehearsal. I would say each point on the page out loud until I could say it without looking at the sheet, then repeated the whole sheet out loud. I would then attempt to write out an exam answer from memory
, and kept doing this until I could write out each section of the sheet from memory and then moved on to the next topic. I suggest making these notes as early as you can as it will give you more time to memorise them! As it came to a few days before each exam, I would just sit and rehearse my written notes out loud, as they were effectively model answers.
By taking your notes from the exam papers, in addition to the textbook for any topics not yet examined, you will have effectively been through all the past exam papers
, and their corresponding mark schemes/examiners reports, and will have model answers for each topic
written in the way that the examiners recommend.
Another thing to consider is ensuring you understand the taxonomy
of certain questions so that you know whether you are required to respond to a particular question with A01 (description), A02 (application), A03 (evaluation)
or a combination
of these. Different exam boards have different requirements so ensure to check which of these are expected when you're asked to evaluate, assess, to what extent
etc. There is a lot more emphasis on A02 marks
recently, which are questions given with a contextual background - don't lose marks for not referring to the context of the question!
You have to apply your knowledge of theories specifically to the given stimulus/scenario; generic answers will gain very low marks! These can sometimes be a bit tricky, so I would recommend practising these to ensure you can apply your knowledge of a theory to a real life example, and ask your teacher to mark them and give you advice.
If you struggle with timing, then do continue to practise completing past papers within the time limit
(especially the longer essay questions). The type of questions that I would focus on writing out are the essay style questions/debates, which often combine various approaches, and the A02 application questions. Also, if your syllabus has statistical test questions I would definitely practice quite a few of these.
Much longer post than I expected lol but I hope it helps!
All the best,