The Student Room Group

How to prepare for A-Levels

I’m really nervous because I have to start my college and I am wondering how can I prepare for my A-Levels because I want to be on top of my game. I will be doing maths, chemistry and biology.
Reply 1
Hi! I took Biology, Chemistry and Physics at A-Level, all AQA, and now I'm heading to do Biomedical Science at Lancaster University.

Before I say anything, I think one of the most important things you can do is make friends. Your experience will be so much better when you have good people you can rely on, to help you out when you need them. Take time to have fun, because good mental health and not burning yourself out too early on really do make a difference.
Biology

Biology is very content heavy and it's all about the links you make between topics and context.


Here are some tips:

-if you have the ability to do so, try making flashcards instead of notes during lessons (I recommend Quizlet because of the interface and the fact that you can use it on multiple platforms) OR make flashcards when you get home. Keeping on top of making these will come in handy as there is a LOT of content to cover, and when you get to year 13 you don't want to be making revision resources. You also won't need to worry about forgetting any obscure facts while trying to make them as fast as possible in year 13. I personally made my flashcards during lessons, but this is not a good option for everyone- I just knew that I never looked at my notes again after I made them. You can even refresh your memory every few weeks on topics you haven't studied in a while, although I started too late for that.
-use online resources, especially past paper questions, to make sure you understand the topic you covered. It's very good revision to do past paper questions for end-of-topic prep as well. This will get you familiar with the way questions are written as exam boards often use words like define, describe and explain to give you an idea of how they want you to answer the question. This saves a lot of time in exams AND you have a lower chance of dropping marks because you misunderstood the question.
-do past papers towards the end of year 12, or before mocks BUT don't do all of them before year 13 as you will need some resources for revising for your A-Levels as well!
- Get a good hang of 'why' some things are important. For example, ATP is used in many important processes such as the Krebs Cycle, Muscle contraction and so on. Biology values making links between the topics, and if you do AQA, this will be very important for the 25-mark essay.

Here are some resources for biology:

- Physics and Maths Tutor ... this can be used for most subjects and exam boards, really. They have past papers, some question walkthroughs for chemistry and LOTS of past paper questions sorted by specification points! https://pmt.physicsandmathstutor.com/
- A Level Biology Help ... they have some very, very good revision videos and go through exam questions at the end of most videos! https://www.youtube.com/c/AlevelBiologyHelp
- Miss Estruch ... some more useful videos. https://www.youtube.com/c/MissEstruch

Chemistry
It tends to be very reliant on maths, however, you need to understand the content well to be able to carry out the calculations as it's usually based on reactions.

Here are some tips:

- Past paper questions again! Making sure you know the content is very important but being able to do the exam questions is another thing entirely! Sometimes, to me, it felt like the question barely had anything to do with what we learned and were more similar to physics questions. The papers contain lots of maths, for AQA anyway.
- Learn the important reactions! You may think they don't come up often, but believe me, they do. Some of the longest maths questions I have done relied on titrations or some random equation from year 12. However, often when you learn the basic set of steps for the calculations, they will apply to most questions.
- Make sure you understand acids and bases as well as titrations and can do all the maths if your exam board covers it! Please.
- If your exam board covers it, make sure you know how to draw different compounds, name them, and methods to identify them! I thought it comes up a LOT!



Here are some resources for chemistry:

- Physics and Maths Tutor ... this can be used for most subjects and exam boards, really. They have past papers, some question walkthroughs for chemistry and LOTS of past paper questions sorted by specification points! https://pmt.physicsandmathstutor.com/
- Allery Chemistry ... very good revision videos! https://www.youtube.com/c/AlleryChemistry
- Eliot Rintoul ... also has some good videos, some are outdated tho so be careful and make sure they fit your specification. https://www.youtube.com/user/MrERintoul[

Some General Revision Tips
This is just from my personal experience, some people may disagree with these tips, but this is what I found helped me get through years 12 and 13 the most! Obviously, they may not work for you depending on how you learn.

- make your own flashcards, you can learn and memorise things just through the process of making them.
- if you struggle, have a few people you can go to in your class for help. I sat next to two of my friends and we'd always help each other out with tough exam questions. It helps you find new ways of solving problems and view though from a different perspective. It can also be a good way to solidify information when you explain a topic you are confident about to someone else who is not.
- On tough days, where you have an end-of-topic test coming up but you feel down or just can't get into the groove, I suggest doing a 'low-effort' revision to get you through the day, if you even can revise. You don't want to push yourself when you're not feeling your best to avoid being burned out. I'd suggest watching videos on those days.
- It's also a good idea to have a little study group for your exams. During study leave, I and my two friends would usually come to school to target our weak points alone, but there was always someone in the room to ask for help. We also took some time to make mind maps together on a big whiteboard of all the specification points for one topic just to get the ball rolling and make sure we don't miss anything. It's also a good way to start off your revision, before moving on to past paper questions. I did this just before my exams, but it could work for end-of-topic tests too. I found that not being alone and being alone motivated me and made me 'enjoy' revision more.
- don't worry about music being distracting. Teachers always went on about music being distracting, and sometimes it can be depending on what you're listening to. But if you're like me, and you really enjoy the music it can actually make revision more 'enjoyable', help you get through the day, and can even help down out distracting noises if you're not in the ideal revising environment. It always helped me calm down. If I was in a silent room I could hear every little noise and it would drive me mad.
- When you learn the date of an end-of-topic test, mark it on your calendar. Then make a list of all the content you need to cover, and reasonably divide it by the days you have- make a timetable that isn't "just revise". This helped me make sure I covered all I needed to know. If you have your end-of-topic tests and mocks your all, you will have less work to do later. Another good tip is to focus on your weakest points first, then move on to points you are more confident in.

I'm not an A* student, but I think I did good and I'm happy with my results. It's important to remember that your grades don't define you, no matter what. Just give A-levels your all while still going out, having fun, and making time for friends. Life is not all about school. Good Luck!


(edited 1 year ago)
For Biology my youngest is about to start year 13 and its OCR biology.
For year 12 we make revision posters on each subjects. Things like acronyms, pictures, mini mind maps etc. And when it comes to the tests she read from those. She also watched you tube videos like the amoeba sisters. ''Crash course'' is good for the immune system on you tube.
Reply 3
Original post by Ghostlady
For Biology my youngest is about to start year 13 and its OCR biology.
For year 12 we make revision posters on each subjects. Things like acronyms, pictures, mini mind maps etc. And when it comes to the tests she read from those. She also watched you tube videos like the amoeba sisters. ''Crash course'' is good for the immune system on you tube.

Thank you for replying and for the suggestion. For me personally mind maps don’t really work, but I want to look into the rest of what you said seeing if it will help. Again thanks.
Reply 4
Original post by Maci.
Hi! I took Biology, Chemistry and Physics at A-Level, all AQA, and now I'm heading to do Biomedical Science at Lancaster University.

Before I say anything, I think one of the most important things you can do is make friends. Your experience will be so much better when you have good people you can rely on, to help you out when you need them. Take time to have fun, because good mental health and not burning yourself out too early on really do make a difference.
Biology

Biology is very content heavy and it's all about the links you make between topics and context.


Here are some tips:

-if you have the ability to do so, try making flashcards instead of notes during lessons (I recommend Quizlet because of the interface and the fact that you can use it on multiple platforms) OR make flashcards when you get home. Keeping on top of making these will come in handy as there is a LOT of content to cover, and when you get to year 13 you don't want to be making revision resources. You also won't need to worry about forgetting any obscure facts while trying to make them as fast as possible in year 13. I personally made my flashcards during lessons, but this is not a good option for everyone- I just knew that I never looked at my notes again after I made them. You can even refresh your memory every few weeks on topics you haven't studied in a while, although I started too late for that.
-use online resources, especially past paper questions, to make sure you understand the topic you covered. It's very good revision to do past paper questions for end-of-topic prep as well. This will get you familiar with the way questions are written as exam boards often use words like define, describe and explain to give you an idea of how they want you to answer the question. This saves a lot of time in exams AND you have a lower chance of dropping marks because you misunderstood the question.
-do past papers towards the end of year 12, or before mocks BUT don't do all of them before year 13 as you will need some resources for revising for your A-Levels as well!
- Get a good hang of 'why' some things are important. For example, ATP is used in many important processes such as the Krebs Cycle, Muscle contraction and so on. Biology values making links between the topics, and if you do AQA, this will be very important for the 25-mark essay.

Here are some resources for biology:

- Physics and Maths Tutor ... this can be used for most subjects and exam boards, really. They have past papers, some question walkthroughs for chemistry and LOTS of past paper questions sorted by specification points! https://pmt.physicsandmathstutor.com/
- A Level Biology Help ... they have some very, very good revision videos and go through exam questions at the end of most videos! https://www.youtube.com/c/AlevelBiologyHelp
- Miss Estruch ... some more useful videos. https://www.youtube.com/c/MissEstruch

Chemistry
It tends to be very reliant on maths, however, you need to understand the content well to be able to carry out the calculations as it's usually based on reactions.

Here are some tips:

- Past paper questions again! Making sure you know the content is very important but being able to do the exam questions is another thing entirely! Sometimes, to me, it felt like the question barely had anything to do with what we learned and were more similar to physics questions. The papers contain lots of maths, for AQA anyway.
- Learn the important reactions! You may think they don't come up often, but believe me, they do. Some of the longest maths questions I have done relied on titrations or some random equation from year 12. However, often when you learn the basic set of steps for the calculations, they will apply to most questions.
- Make sure you understand acids and bases as well as titrations and can do all the maths if your exam board covers it! Please.
- If your exam board covers it, make sure you know how to draw different compounds, name them, and methods to identify them! I thought it comes up a LOT!



Here are some resources for chemistry:

- Physics and Maths Tutor ... this can be used for most subjects and exam boards, really. They have past papers, some question walkthroughs for chemistry and LOTS of past paper questions sorted by specification points! https://pmt.physicsandmathstutor.com/
- Allery Chemistry ... very good revision videos! https://www.youtube.com/c/AlleryChemistry
- Eliot Rintoul ... also has some good videos, some are outdated tho so be careful and make sure they fit your specification. https://www.youtube.com/user/MrERintoul[

Some General Revision Tips
This is just from my personal experience, some people may disagree with these tips, but this is what I found helped me get through years 12 and 13 the most! Obviously, they may not work for you depending on how you learn.

- make your own flashcards, you can learn and memorise things just through the process of making them.
- if you struggle, have a few people you can go to in your class for help. I sat next to two of my friends and we'd always help each other out with tough exam questions. It helps you find new ways of solving problems and view though from a different perspective. It can also be a good way to solidify information when you explain a topic you are confident about to someone else who is not.
- On tough days, where you have an end-of-topic test coming up but you feel down or just can't get into the groove, I suggest doing a 'low-effort' revision to get you through the day, if you even can revise. You don't want to push yourself when you're not feeling your best to avoid being burned out. I'd suggest watching videos on those days.
- It's also a good idea to have a little study group for your exams. During study leave, I and my two friends would usually come to school to target our weak points alone, but there was always someone in the room to ask for help. We also took some time to make mind maps together on a big whiteboard of all the specification points for one topic just to get the ball rolling and make sure we don't miss anything. It's also a good way to start off your revision, before moving on to past paper questions. I did this just before my exams, but it could work for end-of-topic tests too. I found that not being alone and being alone motivated me and made me 'enjoy' revision more.
- don't worry about music being distracting. Teachers always went on about music being distracting, and sometimes it can be depending on what you're listening to. But if you're like me, and you really enjoy the music it can actually make revision more 'enjoyable', help you get through the day, and can even help down out distracting noises if you're not in the ideal revising environment. It always helped me calm down. If I was in a silent room I could hear every little noise and it would drive me mad.
- When you learn the date of an end-of-topic test, mark it on your calendar. Then make a list of all the content you need to cover, and reasonably divide it by the days you have- make a timetable that isn't "just revise". This helped me make sure I covered all I needed to know. If you have your end-of-topic tests and mocks your all, you will have less work to do later. Another good tip is to focus on your weakest points first, then move on to points you are more confident in.

I'm not an A* student, but I think I did good and I'm happy with my results. It's important to remember that your grades don't define you, no matter what. Just give A-levels your all while still going out, having fun, and making time for friends. Life is not all about school. Good Luck!





This was very informative and helpful. I just wanted to say thank you for this very detailed response and I’m definitely feeling a bit more confident. Reading this will definitely help me to revise, but also I had now fully realised that it’s best to also make friends, so that you could have fun and relax. I want to thank you again for spending your time writing this up, this is extremely beneficial for me and I’m really happy you sent some links for me to use for my revision.
Reply 5
Original post by HARDEXAMS
This was very informative and helpful. I just wanted to say thank you for this very detailed response and I’m definitely feeling a bit more confident. Reading this will definitely help me to revise, but also I had now fully realised that it’s best to also make friends, so that you could have fun and relax. I want to thank you again for spending your time writing this up, this is extremely beneficial for me and I’m really happy you sent some links for me to use for my revision.


No prob. Just wanted to give someone something I wish I had in year 12 honestly.

Quick Reply

Latest