The Ultimate Guide to Getting Top Grades: Clinical Revision

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NamesAreEffort
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Hi! I'm NamesAreEffort. I achieved 13 A*s at GCSE, and achieved A*A*A*A at A-Level in History, Economics, Government & Politics, and Maths respectively. I've never at all considered myself to be a genius by any means, but at least at GCSE/A-Level, I've always been fairly confident that I'm pretty good at exams.

A lot of people ask me about revision in different contexts, and my advice is nearly always the same, so I figured I'd put together a guide at what I personally think is the best way to approach revision/studying. When it comes to revision, quality is far, far, far, more important than just quality, because exams (at A-Level especially) are more than just knowledge tests, contrary to what many people claim.

So if exams are not just a test of knowledge, what are they? If you found yourself asking this question, then that's already in my opinion the first common misconception. Combining "exams" into one basket is a huge flaw in my opinion, and this idea is at the centre of my revision strategy - what I'll call clinical revision. Littered through this will be a lot of examples, just to make my points clearer.

What is clinical revision?

So the way I like to explain it to people, is imagine you were only doing a single GCSE or an A-Level. Especially at GCSE, this would be so much easier. It'd be so much simpler not just because you'd have way more time and way less content to learn, but your entire revision strategy could be tailored to that subject and that subject alone.

The point is, what makes GCSEs and A-Levels so much harder is the juggling. The fact you're having to deal with 8+ GCSEs and 3+ A-Levels at a time. Not just because it makes you time pressured, but for the sake of efficiency you have to streamline. You have to combine revision strategies, note formats, and approaches.

But this is a huge mistake. In my entirely anecdotal experience, people who spend a lot of hours revising yet still don't do that well, are spending a lot of time trying to learn as much content for all their subjects as possible. Or a lot of time mass answering past paper questions. They're adopting blunt force hoping they'll cover ground, and it appears to end up worse than expected.

The idea behind clinical revision, is you're not doing "a set of A-Levels" or "a set of GCSEs". You're doing 4 entirely separate qualifications, each with their own criteria, each with an entirely different set of requirements, and each with entirely separate needs. I don't "revise for my A-Levels", I revise for A-Level History, A-Level Maths, A-Level Politics, and A-Level Economics.

It's an extremely simple idea, which really everyone knows, but having this at the forefront of your mind is extremely important because it makes one aspect of revision obviously more significant - knowledge of subject.

How do you "clinically" revise?

In order to even think about knowing content, it's extremely important to know your subject. There are multiple aspects to this.

1. Know the absolute basics of the subject - This is just necessary for helping you know even where to start. What each paper is, the types of questions, the mark breakdown, the actual course name for helping you find resources, etc. I spoke to people who didn't know what exam board they were doing, which I found shocking.

2. Know the basic criteria - This one is obvious. Every specification will have overall assessment objectives that are being tested, and it's a lot more than just knowledge, analysis, and evaluation.

For example, Edexcel Government and Politics (the old specification) at A2 introduces 'synopticity', an understanding of the existing contrasting views around a debate. Just knowing this means you'll not just revise content, but specific demographics and what they think. It also means when answering a question, not only will you remember to even choose it, but you'll focus the very points you bring up on arguments people make about that topic. Already, far more efficient.

3. Know the criteria for each type of question - This one is slightly less obvious, but more so in essay subjects dominated by a few large-ish essays. It's important to know why the essays are structured like they are, so that you are as efficient in revision and writing essays.

For example, Edexcel Economics A was so ridiculously explicit that it was by far my easiest A-Level. There were 4 marks, knowledge, application, analysis, evaluation, and every essay was a combination of this. 8 markers were 2 2 2 2 respectively, 15 markers were 3 3 3 6, 25 markers were 4 4 8 9. Knowing this from memory meant I knew exactly how many points to make, how many facts, how long to analyse for, how much evaluation to do, and it's very hard to drop many marks if you're tailoring every essay to this.

4. Know how examiners mark for each type of question - This one is even more vague depending on the subject. Really it is knowing how the mark scheme works.

So for example, the Economics A example I gave was useful, but actually the mark schemes place these into bands, and don't only just allocate marks based for each of these. Therefore perfect structure but a weak point can let you down. Simply knowing that one detail highlights the need to pick important, obvious, points. Small detail, but means when revising you prioritise the fundamentals.

Even more explicitly, at GCSE, I hated Physics. But the Physics mark scheme for me would base half the marks within a question for knowing detail related to the topic at hand. Knowing that tiny detail meant that if I were faced with a question I didn't know, I could bag nearly most of the marks still. If it was a question on heat transfer within a specific object, I knew by describing the type of heat transfer generally, I'd be picking up the key word marks without even realising.

5. Understand what type of question aims to achieve - This is honestly even more vague, and not as necessary. Essentially there is a reason examiners chose to write the specification as they did, and especially in essay subjects, knowing this can hugely help you with focus.

So, for example, why synopticity in Government & Politics? It's because the issues they picked are real world debates with huge contrasting opinions and they want students to be engaged in this. Or for example, the extended questions in Edexcel Economics A often are "discuss" and the structure as above gives no marks to opinions carried through or even a consistent argument. Why? Because the aim is not for students to come to conclusions about economics, but being able to know, balance, and analyse complex issues.


Knowing this immediately gives you info on revision and exams once again. You don't need to revise "arguments" as much for economics, but knowing the content well enough to analyse them is far more important. Essentially if you train your ability to devise arguments, you can eliminate having to revise a single argument or opinion, as I did. I solely revised content. Politics however, you need to know the arguments and factions, and so part of your revision is just that. In an exam for economics, I don't waste times on conclusions or even introductions longer than two sentences. In politics, I framed the entire debate within my introduction. Knowing to do this stemmed from my knowledge of the subject.

These are the big things, and if I can think of more specifics I'll write them. But the idea is to know what your subject as a whole, and its questions require.

How do you gain "knowledge of subject"?

This is the easiest question to answer. Start with the specification for assessment objectives and basic outlines so you know what they are looking for. Use mark schemes to then understand mark scheme structure, the way questions are marked, and the aims of questions.

Examiner's reports are also extremely useful for filling in holes. Avoiding specific traps, knowing the sort of content they like, knowing what a model answer looks like. Reading through a lot of all of these will increase your understanding of the subject.

How do I apply this to revision?

Here's where a bit of introspectiveness comes into play. But it's very obvious. If you know what a subject requires, you'll know how to tailor your revision to it, and can therefore factor in your strengths and weaknesses. For me I don't really have a method for it because it's intuitive, so I'll run through loads of examples to explain how.

Economics A-Level: For all essay subjects, knowing the things that are consistently looked for is important, and this should for extended essays lead you to create model structure plans. The 25 Marker is 4 4 8 9 for knowledge, application, analysis and evaluation. Therefore for each essay I would write 3 points for, 3 eval points, and a graph. I'd get 4 marks for the points. 4 explicit facts for eval. For each point, I'd have 3 explicit 3-layer chains of reasoning.

Now I love economics and found the content intuitive, and as above, the subject is not heavy on having to learn consistent arguments. Therefore I focused all my revision energy on graphs and specific pieces of knowledge I didn't know. As long as I learned the structures for 5, 8, 12, 10, 15 and 25 markers, I'd be set. Therefore, no need for extended notes. Written flashcards for small bits I'd missed and A4 graph sheets is what I adopted.

Government and Politics A-Level: This was an absolutely ridiculously content heavy A-Level for the US unit specifically, which you know from the specification. More so, I'd read every single past paper question and seen that every year they aim to ask questions you've never seen before, and that trying to learn all the content is literally impossible. After enough research, I realised the point of this whole paper was to leave you with gaps and force you to be flexible, or fail.

Attempting to adopt a standard revision technique and is why this unit does so poorly. So the goal is streamlining. Once again, I devised an essay structure based off the mark scheme, which I memorised. 3 points for, 3 against, but in each I mentioned a faction/ideology/idea supporting it. I found a specific teacher's guide on what synopticity was, which explicitly laid out in each topic what it referred to.

I streamlined by teaching myself what the biggest factions - conservatives, liberals, etc thought as a whole so I didn't need to learn specific examples, I could make it up from their viewpoint. But finally, my biggest trick, from around January I stopped taking notes in class. With a subject so content heavy, I needed to find a way to learn content I knew would come up, and ensure I had as little gaps as possible. Instead, I answered every, single past paper question and what facts I would use. But by definition, these were the ones most likely to be able to come up, as many did repeat explicitly but knowing flexibility was the game, all of these could be used again. I created a booklet online, and this became my sole revision guide.

French GCSE: This was my hardest GCSE. I did not find languages intuitive at all, and still don't. But I gamed it through knowledge of subject. I knew the oral presentation specifically only credited responses, so my oral presentation I chose a topic so narrow, "problems relating to the environment currently", that the questions I was going to be asked were so obvious, e.g. what can be done about the environment, that I prepared paragraphs for these and prioritised learning these. The general conversation I was not going to ace so I prioritised maximising marks here.

Writing was not intuitive for me, but the mark scheme breakdown meant if you have complex phrases like "one could agree that", "it appears that", or similar, you hit multiple marks for a learnt phrase which you didn't even conjugate. So for my writing I literally googled "cool French phrases" and learnt a list of 10. Because I knew the mark scheme placed you into bands for tenses used, this list of 10 phrases covered every tense. In my paper, the first thing I did was down these 10 phrases and I used every single one. Without thinking, I hit every single tense.

Sciences GCSE: I nearly almost fell to the trap of approaching the sciences similar, simply hoping flashcards would suffice, but thankfully towards the end of Year 11 I applied this to a fault. However in the specification we did, roughly 50-60% of the marks for Physics were formulae alone (there was a specific figure stated in the specification I can't remember). Because of the above way physics was marked as mentioned, I focused more on content in general terms, and formulae more, knowing maths was a weakness of mine. Thus, formulae sheets and more actual practice over revision.

Biology was far more content heavy and also had the most awkward mark schemes through reading mark schemes. So it was important as I revised I paid attention to key words. As I made flashcards as, highlighting key terms were more important for Biology.



In the end, the broad theme is understanding you are revising for a specific specification, and not a general paper. Knowing what each requires therefore makes it obvious what you need to do, and if this is in line in your strengths, you've hugely cut down on revision. I revised not much at all for economics, because the key focus - the analysis - was my strength. If it's your weakness, then your priority becomes even clearer. Knowing physics heavily weights formulae a bit more was enough for me to focus on my weakness maths.

Applying it to revision can also involve selectively not revising certain topics (as I absolutely did), because it's unlikely to ever be the focus of an essay. I didn't need to learn a list of facts for econ because it's at most, 4 marks in a 25 marker. Model structures for essay subjects I could not go without, because it means as I'm writing I know exactly how I'm going to write what I'm going to write next, and making these structures comes from knowing mark schemes.

For maths, obviously there's a lot less you can realistically do (explains my only A at A-Level). But even then, I'm okay at maths, and my weakness is making stupid errors. Knowing this, I took down barely any notes at all in maths, and focused on doing as many past papers as possible, spotting my common mistakes, and going into exam knowing where I usually go wrong. If you're someone who is precise however, there's more of an advantage in making sure you know everything with notes. But then again, to be even more clinical, statistics wasn't intuitive, so I revised S1 with notes.

The more clinical you are, the better the results. Much of what I've said I did on a module by module basis. Global economics (unit 4) in economics was far more knowledge heavy in having to know the role of the WTO, IMF, etc, unit 3 was graph heavy. I wrote my unit 3 notes on A4 cards so I could analyse graphs, and wrote flashcards for unit 4.

Doing this makes prioritisation far more obvious, as you can divide your time better if you know exactly what you're going to do for each topic/module. This sounds like a lot, but in truth I did far less revision than people of comparable ability. I went through a crisis because I was worried I was not revising enough. I didn't write a single extra essay in Year 13, and for above reasons ignored class work a lot for Government and Politics. But this was because I knew doing these would be a waste of time. Just by knowing all of this, you'll surprise yourself at how much less you need to learn for many subjects, especially essay subjects.

I add a caveat this isn't entirely tried and tested for the sciences at A-Level. It's much harder to skip out content, which was an important part of efficiency for me. But all the principles otherwise still remain.

So how do I start?

So I've written far more than I anticipated, so if you've actually read all of this, thanks! If you've skimmed it, thanks!

I recognise it seems like a lot to do, but I'd recommend taking a single day of revision to plan your revision and strategy. Come up with model essay plans, get up the specifications, get up mark schemes, and try to get a better understanding. Really though it should be a continuous process. Every mark scheme, examiner report, past paper you do should not just be a test of your knowledge and ability, but understanding of the subject itself.

Nothing I've written is actually groundbreaking. Literally just "know the subject", and for all I know it's purely anecdotal. It may not be the golden ticket I'm presenting it as. But for a fact as far as my revision, this helped me more than any method of revision and appears to be helping all those I've personally told.

I hope this helps at least one person. I'm fairly tired of writing this out over and over again! If anyone has more specific questions, or ideas about how to approach a topic, feel free to ask.
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username3467548
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Thank you
Your perspective helped a lot
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CinnamonSmol
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Adding this to my list of use useful threads in my GYG Thanks for taking the time to write this out! What topics did you for history and what methods helped the most?
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NamesAreEffort
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(Original post by CinnamonSmol)
Adding this to my list of use useful threads in my GYG Thanks for taking the time to write this out! What topics did you for history and what methods helped the most?
Really pleased to see this is helping!

So I tried everything, but the best thing I did - model plans - is a perfect execution of this idea so I'll explain in detail.

So for History I did Stuarts, Russia, and Germany. But the Edexcel spec was thematic, so for example the Stuarts theme was "conflict, revolution, and settlement" . I was lucky enough to have a teacher that covered this towards the end of the year, but I already started doing this thinking. The idea is that pre 1625 was little change in government in the form of kingly power, post 1688 was little change in government in the form of parliamentary power, yet in this period was 5 types of government. So this gives two big questions. Firstly, why the weakening of government power, and why was there so much instability?

For me this gave me a brilliant understanding of the qs we could be asked. If the period was the Civil War, I knew the big questions were why settlement failed (instability), or why it happened. I didn't need to revise the events in detail, or think of arguments as to why one side won. This was confirmed by all past papers, model questions, etc.

So I wrote two plans with really general headings like "cause of civil war" , which allowed me to plan paragraphs which would defo come up in any essay on this. Like a paragraph on the failure of the King. I would make sure to plan extra long essays, so I could get all the important paragraphs in.

I did this for every single topic, every single period, which required a lot of reading past papers and the spec lol. But I successfully predicted, and had already written (albeit much vaguer) answers for 5/8 questions I did as a result, two of the ones I didn't predict being sources anyway, and the only facts I needed to cram were those in the sheet and a bit extra. Way less facts for an A*.

TL;DR, model plans which cover everything you could realistically be asked. The hard part was figuring out what those questions were.
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4. is essential to doing well.:yep: This is a really good guide, Evil Homer you may be interested in this.
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This is a fab guide, thanks
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CinnamonSmol
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(Original post by NamesAreEffort)
Really pleased to see this is helping!

So I tried everything, but the best thing I did - model plans - is a perfect execution of this idea so I'll explain in detail.

So for History I did Stuarts, Russia, and Germany. But the Edexcel spec was thematic, so for example the Stuarts theme was "conflict, revolution, and settlement" . I was lucky enough to have a teacher that covered this towards the end of the year, but I already started doing this thinking. The idea is that pre 1625 was little change in government in the form of kingly power, post 1688 was little change in government in the form of parliamentary power, yet in this period was 5 types of government. So this gives two big questions. Firstly, why the weakening of government power, and why was there so much instability?

For me this gave me a brilliant understanding of the qs we could be asked. If the period was the Civil War, I knew the big questions were why settlement failed (instability), or why it happened. I didn't need to revise the events in detail, or think of arguments as to why one side won. This was confirmed by all past papers, model questions, etc.

So I wrote two plans with really general headings like "cause of civil war" , which allowed me to plan paragraphs which would defo come up in any essay on this. Like a paragraph on the failure of the King. I would make sure to plan extra long essays, so I could get all the important paragraphs in.

I did this for every single topic, every single period, which required a lot of reading past papers and the spec lol. But I successfully predicted, and had already written (albeit much vaguer) answers for 5/8 questions I did as a result, two of the ones I didn't predict being sources anyway, and the only facts I needed to cram were those in the sheet and a bit extra. Way less facts for an A*.

TL;DR, model plans which cover everything you could realistically be asked. The hard part was figuring out what those questions were.
No way! you're the first person I've met who's done Stuarts AND Nazi Germany! Only I do AQA.....what about for Nazi Germany? for my mocks I received a B in Stuarts and a D in Nazi Germany which I didn't understand as I did the same method for both, or do you think that your clinical revision applies to sub-topics in a subject too?

what do you do now out of interest?
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NamesAreEffort
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(Original post by CinnamonSmol)
No way! you're the first person I've met who's done Stuarts AND Nazi Germany! Only I do AQA.....what about for Nazi Germany? for my mocks I received a B in Stuarts and a D in Nazi Germany which I didn't understand as I did the same method for both, or do you think that your clinical revision applies to sub-topics in a subject too?

what do you do now out of interest?
Hey! This approach is honestly really a mentality, which definitely applies at sub-topic levels. For a Germany, it was the "breadth with themes in depth" part of the spec, so the idea was from 1871-1990, exploring how each of the 5 styles of government was built more than anything.

Because the Nazis topic in the spec was 1933-35 only too, it was super easy to predict questions. Thinking about how what you learn can be placed into a broader question, based around the theme in the spec, is a really good way of doing this.

Everything we learnt was either how Hitler consolidated power (Gleichshcaltung, violence, pseudo-legalism), or how he transformed society (volksgemeinschaft, anti-semitism), both of which are about the creation of this new style of government (i.e. the spec), and any question we'd likely get would at least use these paragraphs on this idea. So although I used the same method, and planned two model essays, the idea is that they were focused around the spec.

This sort of thinking therefore will end up being different topic by topic. Stuarts was the breadth study, and so the whole period was dominated by big questions, so themes like finance, parliament, and religion kept repeating. So my plans for Stuarts ended up having these same topics, so fewer paragraphs, but with way more detail on each one because there was a smaller spread of key themes, so this is what I needed. This will obvs depend on your spec.

The idea is that methods everyone knows, like model plans, flashcards, etc can be hugely improved if tailored to the spec. When creating model plans, you'll create better plans for that spec if you do break it down topic by topic.

Its worth mentioning, this is not, the only thing that matters tho. It's just everything else is said enough. If you're trying this but getting different results, other stuff like structure, knowledge, etc are equally as important. But yeah in my case I ended up timetabling different topics for my history revision because I was doing slightly different things subtopic by subtopic.

And I'll be starting PPE at Oxford this October!
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(Original post by NamesAreEffort)
Background

Hi! I'm NamesAreEffort. I achieved 13 A*s at GCSE, and achieved A*A*A*A at A-Level in History, Economics, Government & Politics, and Maths respectively. I've never at all considered myself to be a genius by any means, but at least at GCSE/A-Level, I've always been fairly confident that I'm pretty good at exams.

A lot of people ask me about revision in different contexts, and my advice is nearly always the same, so I figured I'd put together a guide at what I personally think is the best way to approach revision/studying. When it comes to revision, quality is far, far, far, more important than just quality, because exams (at A-Level especially) are more than just knowledge tests, contrary to what many people claim.

So if exams are not just a test of knowledge, what are they? If you found yourself asking this question, then that's already in my opinion the first common misconception. Combining "exams" into one basket is a huge flaw in my opinion, and this idea is at the centre of my revision strategy - what I'll call clinical revision. Littered through this will be a lot of examples, just to make my points clearer.

What is clinical revision?

So the way I like to explain it to people, is imagine you were only doing a single GCSE or an A-Level. Especially at GCSE, this would be so much easier. It'd be so much simpler not just because you'd have way more time and way less content to learn, but your entire revision strategy could be tailored to that subject and that subject alone.

The point is, what makes GCSEs and A-Levels so much harder is the juggling. The fact you're having to deal with 8+ GCSEs and 3+ A-Levels at a time. Not just because it makes you time pressured, but for the sake of efficiency you have to streamline. You have to combine revision strategies, note formats, and approaches.

But this is a huge mistake. In my entirely anecdotal experience, people who spend a lot of hours revising yet still don't do that well, are spending a lot of time trying to learn as much content for all their subjects as possible. Or a lot of time mass answering past paper questions. They're adopting blunt force hoping they'll cover ground, and it appears to end up worse than expected.

The idea behind clinical revision, is you're not doing "a set of A-Levels" or "a set of GCSEs". You're doing 4 entirely separate qualifications, each with their own criteria, each with an entirely different set of requirements, and each with entirely separate needs. I don't "revise for my A-Levels", I revise for A-Level History, A-Level Maths, A-Level Politics, and A-Level Economics.

It's an extremely simple idea, which really everyone knows, but having this at the forefront of your mind is extremely important because it makes one aspect of revision obviously more significant - knowledge of subject.

How do you "clinically" revise?

In order to even think about knowing content, it's extremely important to know your subject. There are multiple aspects to this.

1. Know the absolute basics of the subject - This is just necessary for helping you know even where to start. What each paper is, the types of questions, the mark breakdown, the actual course name for helping you find resources, etc. I spoke to people who didn't know what exam board they were doing, which I found shocking.

2. Know the basic criteria - This one is obvious. Every specification will have overall assessment objectives that are being tested, and it's a lot more than just knowledge, analysis, and evaluation.

For example, Edexcel Government and Politics (the old specification) at A2 introduces 'synopticity', an understanding of the existing contrasting views around a debate. Just knowing this means you'll not just revise content, but specific demographics and what they think. It also means when answering a question, not only will you remember to even choose it, but you'll focus the very points you bring up on arguments people make about that topic. Already, far more efficient.

3. Know the criteria for each type of question - This one is slightly less obvious, but more so in essay subjects dominated by a few large-ish essays. It's important to know why the essays are structured like they are, so that you are as efficient in revision and writing essays.

For example, Edexcel Economics A was so ridiculously explicit that it was by far my easiest A-Level. There were 4 marks, knowledge, application, analysis, evaluation, and every essay was a combination of this. 8 markers were 2 2 2 2 respectively, 15 markers were 3 3 3 6, 25 markers were 4 4 8 9. Knowing this from memory meant I knew exactly how many points to make, how many facts, how long to analyse for, how much evaluation to do, and it's very hard to drop many marks if you're tailoring every essay to this.

4. Know how examiners mark for each type of question - This one is even more vague depending on the subject. Really it is knowing how the mark scheme works.

So for example, the Economics A example I gave was useful, but actually the mark schemes place these into bands, and don't only just allocate marks based for each of these. Therefore perfect structure but a weak point can let you down. Simply knowing that one detail highlights the need to pick important, obvious, points. Small detail, but means when revising you prioritise the fundamentals.

Even more explicitly, at GCSE, I hated Physics. But the Physics mark scheme for me would base half the marks within a question for knowing detail related to the topic at hand. Knowing that tiny detail meant that if I were faced with a question I didn't know, I could bag nearly most of the marks still. If it was a question on heat transfer within a specific object, I knew by describing the type of heat transfer generally, I'd be picking up the key word marks without even realising.

5. Understand what type of question aims to achieve - This is honestly even more vague, and not as necessary. Essentially there is a reason examiners chose to write the specification as they did, and especially in essay subjects, knowing this can hugely help you with focus.

So, for example, why synopticity in Government & Politics? It's because the issues they picked are real world debates with huge contrasting opinions and they want students to be engaged in this. Or for example, the extended questions in Edexcel Economics A often are "discuss" and the structure as above gives no marks to opinions carried through or even a consistent argument. Why? Because the aim is not for students to come to conclusions about economics, but being able to know, balance, and analyse complex issues.


Knowing this immediately gives you info on revision and exams once again. You don't need to revise "arguments" as much for economics, but knowing the content well enough to analyse them is far more important. Essentially if you train your ability to devise arguments, you can eliminate having to revise a single argument or opinion, as I did. I solely revised content. Politics however, you need to know the arguments and factions, and so part of your revision is just that. In an exam for economics, I don't waste times on conclusions or even introductions longer than two sentences. In politics, I framed the entire debate within my introduction. Knowing to do this stemmed from my knowledge of the subject.

These are the big things, and if I can think of more specifics I'll write them. But the idea is to know what your subject as a whole, and its questions require.

How do you gain "knowledge of subject"?

This is the easiest question to answer. Start with the specification for assessment objectives and basic outlines so you know what they are looking for. Use mark schemes to then understand mark scheme structure, the way questions are marked, and the aims of questions.

Examiner's reports are also extremely useful for filling in holes. Avoiding specific traps, knowing the sort of content they like, knowing what a model answer looks like. Reading through a lot of all of these will increase your understanding of the subject.

How do I apply this to revision?

Here's where a bit of introspectiveness comes into play. But it's very obvious. If you know what a subject requires, you'll know how to tailor your revision to it, and can therefore factor in your strengths and weaknesses. For me I don't really have a method for it because it's intuitive, so I'll run through loads of examples to explain how.

Economics A-Level: For all essay subjects, knowing the things that are consistently looked for is important, and this should for extended essays lead you to create model structure plans. The 25 Marker is 4 4 8 9 for knowledge, application, analysis and evaluation. Therefore for each essay I would write 3 points for, 3 eval points, and a graph. I'd get 4 marks for the points. 4 explicit facts for eval. For each point, I'd have 3 explicit 3-layer chains of reasoning.

Now I love economics and found the content intuitive, and as above, the subject is not heavy on having to learn consistent arguments. Therefore I focused all my revision energy on graphs and specific pieces of knowledge I didn't know. As long as I learned the structures for 5, 8, 12, 10, 15 and 25 markers, I'd be set. Therefore, no need for extended notes. Written flashcards for small bits I'd missed and A4 graph sheets is what I adopted.

Government and Politics A-Level: This was an absolutely ridiculously content heavy A-Level for the US unit specifically, which you know from the specification. More so, I'd read every single past paper question and seen that every year they aim to ask questions you've never seen before, and that trying to learn all the content is literally impossible. After enough research, I realised the point of this whole paper was to leave you with gaps and force you to be flexible, or fail.

Attempting to adopt a standard revision technique and is why this unit does so poorly. So the goal is streamlining. Once again, I devised an essay structure based off the mark scheme, which I memorised. 3 points for, 3 against, but in each I mentioned a faction/ideology/idea supporting it. I found a specific teacher's guide on what synopticity was, which explicitly laid out in each topic what it referred to.

I streamlined by teaching myself what the biggest factions - conservatives, liberals, etc thought as a whole so I didn't need to learn specific examples, I could make it up from their viewpoint. But finally, my biggest trick, from around January I stopped taking notes in class. With a subject so content heavy, I needed to find a way to learn content I knew would come up, and ensure I had as little gaps as possible. Instead, I answered every, single past paper question and what facts I would use. But by definition, these were the ones most likely to be able to come up, as many did repeat explicitly but knowing flexibility was the game, all of these could be used again. I created a booklet online, and this became my sole revision guide.

French GCSE: This was my hardest GCSE. I did not find languages intuitive at all, and still don't. But I gamed it through knowledge of subject. I knew the oral presentation specifically only credited responses, so my oral presentation I chose a topic so narrow, "problems relating to the environment currently", that the questions I was going to be asked were so obvious, e.g. what can be done about the environment, that I prepared paragraphs for these and prioritised learning these. The general conversation I was not going to ace so I prioritised maximising marks here.

Writing was not intuitive for me, but the mark scheme breakdown meant if you have complex phrases like "one could agree that", "it appears that", or similar, you hit multiple marks for a learnt phrase which you didn't even conjugate. So for my writing I literally googled "cool French phrases" and learnt a list of 10. Because I knew the mark scheme placed you into bands for tenses used, this list of 10 phrases covered every tense. In my paper, the first thing I did was down these 10 phrases and I used every single one. Without thinking, I hit every single tense.

Sciences GCSE: I nearly almost fell to the trap of approaching the sciences similar, simply hoping flashcards would suffice, but thankfully towards the end of Year 11 I applied this to a fault. However in the specification we did, roughly 50-60% of the marks for Physics were formulae alone (there was a specific figure stated in the specification I can't remember). Because of the above way physics was marked as mentioned, I focused more on content in general terms, and formulae more, knowing maths was a weakness of mine. Thus, formulae sheets and more actual practice over revision.

Biology was far more content heavy and also had the most awkward mark schemes through reading mark schemes. So it was important as I revised I paid attention to key words. As I made flashcards as, highlighting key terms were more important for Biology.



In the end, the broad theme is understanding you are revising for a specific specification, and not a general paper. Knowing what each requires therefore makes it obvious what you need to do, and if this is in line in your strengths, you've hugely cut down on revision. I revised not much at all for economics, because the key focus - the analysis - was my strength. If it's your weakness, then your priority becomes even clearer. Knowing physics heavily weights formulae a bit more was enough for me to focus on my weakness maths.

Applying it to revision can also involve selectively not revising certain topics (as I absolutely did), because it's unlikely to ever be the focus of an essay. I didn't need to learn a list of facts for econ because it's at most, 4 marks in a 25 marker. Model structures for essay subjects I could not go without, because it means as I'm writing I know exactly how I'm going to write what I'm going to write next, and making these structures comes from knowing mark schemes.

For maths, obviously there's a lot less you can realistically do (explains my only A at A-Level). But even then, I'm okay at maths, and my weakness is making stupid errors. Knowing this, I took down barely any notes at all in maths, and focused on doing as many past papers as possible, spotting my common mistakes, and going into exam knowing where I usually go wrong. If you're someone who is precise however, there's more of an advantage in making sure you know everything with notes. But then again, to be even more clinical, statistics wasn't intuitive, so I revised S1 with notes.

The more clinical you are, the better the results. Much of what I've said I did on a module by module basis. Global economics (unit 4) in economics was far more knowledge heavy in having to know the role of the WTO, IMF, etc, unit 3 was graph heavy. I wrote my unit 3 notes on A4 cards so I could analyse graphs, and wrote flashcards for unit 4.

Doing this makes prioritisation far more obvious, as you can divide your time better if you know exactly what you're going to do for each topic/module. This sounds like a lot, but in truth I did far less revision than people of comparable ability. I went through a crisis because I was worried I was not revising enough. I didn't write a single extra essay in Year 13, and for above reasons ignored class work a lot for Government and Politics. But this was because I knew doing these would be a waste of time. Just by knowing all of this, you'll surprise yourself at how much less you need to learn for many subjects, especially essay subjects.

I add a caveat this isn't entirely tried and tested for the sciences at A-Level. It's much harder to skip out content, which was an important part of efficiency for me. But all the principles otherwise still remain.

So how do I start?

So I've written far more than I anticipated, so if you've actually read all of this, thanks! If you've skimmed it, thanks!

I recognise it seems like a lot to do, but I'd recommend taking a single day of revision to plan your revision and strategy. Come up with model essay plans, get up the specifications, get up mark schemes, and try to get a better understanding. Really though it should be a continuous process. Every mark scheme, examiner report, past paper you do should not just be a test of your knowledge and ability, but understanding of the subject itself.

Nothing I've written is actually groundbreaking. Literally just "know the subject", and for all I know it's purely anecdotal. It may not be the golden ticket I'm presenting it as. But for a fact as far as my revision, this helped me more than any method of revision and appears to be helping all those I've personally told.

I hope this helps at least one person. I'm fairly tired of writing this out over and over again! If anyone has more specific questions, or ideas about how to approach a topic, feel free to ask.
Hello, could I use the same methods with Geography and Computer Science??
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NamesAreEffort
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(Original post by Rolls_Reus_0wner)
Hello, could I use the same methods with Geography and Computer Science??
Yeah of course, apply all the same questions and ideas to tailor your revision for each subject. I don't know enough about your specs to make any useful recommendations (that's kinda the idea).

Though while we're on the topic, I might as well offer some advice. In general, I don't like "read around your subject" as advice, because it's extremely subject specific. I'd more than love to go into detail on this whole idea if requested, however take it from me compsci (and for anyone else reading, econ too especially) really benefit from both a targeted, clinical approach to the spec, but also general interest, extra reading, and extra engagement.

Because, in short, the content in these subjects form a logical part of a greater picture ,if you code regularly and in your spare time, have a genuine interest, spend a small bit of time reading around, and so on, aspects of the course will come to you so much easier. You'll not only remember stuff so much easier because, but certain concepts you won't have to revise because it's basically common sense. People who code on a regular basis don't have to revise the difference between a float or an integer. More importantly, the stuff that is tested in most specs is the very stuff which becomes easier if you have a general interest in the course, unlike physics where just knowing the content won't help you with any of the maths.

Realise you're going into year 13 so this might not apply as much, but you've still got time and hopefully this is useful to anyone else who comes across this post. Coding regularly, taking an interest in the subject as a whole and reading around is really useful specifically for certain subjects, and compsci is one of them. Hope that's something.
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(Original post by NamesAreEffort)
Yeah of course, apply all the same questions and ideas to tailor your revision for each subject. I don't know enough about your specs to make any useful recommendations (that's kinda the idea).

Though while we're on the topic, I might as well offer some advice. In general, I don't like "read around your subject" as advice, because it's extremely subject specific. I'd more than love to go into detail on this whole idea if requested, however take it from me compsci (and for anyone else reading, econ too especially) really benefit from both a targeted, clinical approach to the spec, but also general interest, extra reading, and extra engagement.

Because, in short, the content in these subjects form a logical part of a greater picture ,if you code regularly and in your spare time, have a genuine interest, spend a small bit of time reading around, and so on, aspects of the course will come to you so much easier. You'll not only remember stuff so much easier because, but certain concepts you won't have to revise because it's basically common sense. People who code on a regular basis don't have to revise the difference between a float or an integer. More importantly, the stuff that is tested in most specs is the very stuff which becomes easier if you have a general interest in the course, unlike physics where just knowing the content won't help you with any of the maths.

Realise you're going into year 13 so this might not apply as much, but you've still got time and hopefully this is useful to anyone else who comes across this post. Coding regularly, taking an interest in the subject as a whole and reading around is really useful specifically for certain subjects, and compsci is one of them. Hope that's something.
Thank you for your advice, I got ACE in Geo,Math and comp sci respectively and I want to turn it around and go for at least a ABB. Its just I used to like Comp sci but not anymore since it was the only subject I kinda liked since doing Physics A-Level was not an option. I don't know if I will do that well in it but I will try.
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