The Student Room Group

Home ed A levels

I'm home ed, in year 12. I study by using textbooks, and I don't really know how to study. In primary to secondary school, the textbooks are structured with 1 - 3 pages lessons (It has a somewhat short explanation, exercises and a summary.) And an end-of-unit questions. When I get into IGCSE, the textbooks has a similar structure, except, it has longer explanations. Now I'm in A-levels (currently in AS), the structure is the same, but the explanations are really, really long and there's multiple exercises in one lesson. And I never tried to write notes until now. Which also means, I really do not know how to write notes. Rn, I write almost everything that's in my textbook onto my notebook. I even copy any graph, tables, or diagrams that's in my textbook (except for Maths. I don't write notes for Maths).

My question in, how do you do your schoolwork? and how do you write notes (if you write notes)?
Break everything down on flash cards x
Reply 2
Hullo, hope all's good.
Have you got a timetable? That's a good way to get organized beforehand. A levels are an exceedingly large jump from GCSEs, especially if you're doing them completely by yourself and without any home schooling help (e.g. online school). Before I start, it's worth pointing out different people will say different things: hopefully you can pick what you think works the best :smile:. You may already be doing some of this, so apologies: but hopefully some will help you make that step up for A Levels. Sorry for the length in advance.

Also as a quick aside, I myself was homeschooled so these tips come from experience. Feel free to message me if you have any questions!

- Make concise notes. Don't copy every down, try and summarise it in your own words. Before writing your actual notes, try writing it literally from memory, as much as you can. Then check back and see what you missed. This is also a good revision technique I'll speak about later.
- Organize everything. It's useful to have multiple ways of revision, but all of this should be organized, not just into subjects but also topics. This is really useful to focus revision and future lessons.
-Practice. After you've completed a topic in the textbook, do about half an hour of questions to see how you're doing. There are a few resources online for this, such as Maths Genie. Note that while this is Edexcel if you choose the topics that you do in your exam board, the questions should be nigh the same to what you'd expect for your own exam board.
- Keep going back to everything. Whether or not you follow the traditional holiday method of half term, holiday, half term, long holiday, etc., every 6-ish weeks go back to all your past topics and spend a while bringing that back into focus. Doing this about 5 times a year really helps to reinforce that learning.
- Make notes in different ways. Just copying is not very helpful, so there are two things I like to do to get the knowledge down on paper for later revision. The first is Cornell Notes: if you haven't heard of them, they involve dividing an A4 page into 3 parts: a strip down the side, a strip at the bottom, and a large section. In the middle section, you want to summarise a topic in a few key points, that gets everything down. To the left of this, you want several 'pointers' - these could be a word, phrase or drawing. You just want them to relate to whatever point you've just made. That way, in the future you cover up the rest of the sheet, then try to recall everything from these pointers. Finally, try and summarise everything in about 2 sentences in the bottom strip. That way if you can't recall anything with the pointers, you go here and see if it triggers further recall.
My other recommendation is to have some posters or something that have everything you need for a subject. Don't copy the textbook, but try and include everything. These aren't recommended usually, but I found that when I was confident I knew most of it from flashcards, I didn't want to keep going through these flashcards when I wanted to revise. Instead, I could go to my posters (generally done online and printed) and then see them to see how much I remembered. If I forgot, I'd go back to my flashcards.
- Set out revision time. Try and do at least an hour 5 days a week. Divide into two or three subjects, and recall from active recall techniques like flashcards. You can also try blurting, which involves writing everything you know about a topic then comparing to the textbook. Focus your revision on anything you struggle with: e.g. if you find calculus different in maths, revise that every day. If you're alright at statistics, revise that every three days. And if you're brilliant at mechanics, revise that every week. In tiering your revision, you get more done but don't forget anything.
- Give yourself time for breaks, always. Burnout's not good.
- Plan out what you're going to do before you start. E.g. you might work your way through the text book. If you do, before you start your lesson, check the topic and pull up some questions for after, so you're still in the right mindset for them and don't have to bother afterwards. Plan when you're going to revise it: this is important due to the amount of A level content, otherwise you may forget.
- Sometimes the text books might not be good enough, or you might just want some extra help: for some subjects (especially Maths), a nice way of doing schoolwork is to set aside some time for YouTube. Follow along, and then later follow along again but instead attempt the questions: this also gives you some new material to work with.

This was extremely long, sorry haha. For all I know, none of this helped - but hopefully at least some of it was of assistance? Again, please feel free to message with any questions! Best of luck :biggrin:.
(edited 8 months ago)
Reply 3
Original post by {Moss}
Hullo, hope all's good.
Have you got a timetable? That's a good way to get organized beforehand. A levels are an exceedingly large jump from GCSEs, especially if you're doing them completely by yourself and without any home schooling help (e.g. online school). Before I start, it's worth pointing out different people will say different things: hopefully you can pick what you think works the best :smile:. You may already be doing some of this, so apologies: but hopefully some will help you make that step up for A Levels. Sorry for the length in advance.

Also as a quick aside, I myself was homeschooled so these tips come from experience. Feel free to message me if you have any questions!

- Make concise notes. Don't copy every down, try and summarise it in your own words. Before writing your actual notes, try writing it literally from memory, as much as you can. Then check back and see what you missed. This is also a good revision technique I'll speak about later.
- Organize everything. It's useful to have multiple ways of revision, but all of this should be organized, not just into subjects but also topics. This is really useful to focus revision and future lessons.
-Practice. After you've completed a topic in the textbook, do about half an hour of questions to see how you're doing. There are a few resources online for this, such as Maths Genie. Note that while this is Edexcel if you choose the topics that you do in your exam board, the questions should be nigh the same to what you'd expect for your own exam board.
- Keep going back to everything. Whether or not you follow the traditional holiday method of half term, holiday, half term, long holiday, etc., every 6-ish weeks go back to all your past topics and spend a while bringing that back into focus. Doing this about 5 times a year really helps to reinforce that learning.
- Make notes in different ways. Just copying is not very helpful, so there are two things I like to do to get the knowledge down on paper for later revision. The first is Cornell Notes: if you haven't heard of them, they involve dividing an A4 page into 3 parts: a strip down the side, a strip at the bottom, and a large section. In the middle section, you want to summarise a topic in a few key points, that gets everything down. To the left of this, you want several 'pointers' - these could be a word, phrase or drawing. You just want them to relate to whatever point you've just made. That way, in the future you cover up the rest of the sheet, then try to recall everything from these pointers. Finally, try and summarise everything in about 2 sentences in the bottom strip. That way if you can't recall anything with the pointers, you go here and see if it triggers further recall.
My other recommendation is to have some posters or something that have everything you need for a subject. Don't copy the textbook, but try and include everything. These aren't recommended usually, but I found that when I was confident I knew most of it from flashcards, I didn't want to keep going through these flashcards when I wanted to revise. Instead, I could go to my posters (generally done online and printed) and then see them to see how much I remembered. If I forgot, I'd go back to my flashcards.
- Set out revision time. Try and do at least an hour 5 days a week. Divide into two or three subjects, and recall from active recall techniques like flashcards. You can also try blurting, which involves writing everything you know about a topic then comparing to the textbook. Focus your revision on anything you struggle with: e.g. if you find calculus different in maths, revise that every day. If you're alright at statistics, revise that every three days. And if you're brilliant at mechanics, revise that every week. In tiering your revision, you get more done but don't forget anything.
- Give yourself time for breaks, always. Burnout's not good.
- Plan out what you're going to do before you start. E.g. you might work your way through the text book. If you do, before you start your lesson, check the topic and pull up some questions for after, so you're still in the right mindset for them and don't have to bother afterwards. Plan when you're going to revise it: this is important due to the amount of A level content, otherwise you may forget.
- Sometimes the text books might not be good enough, or you might just want some extra help: for some subjects (especially Maths), a nice way of doing schoolwork is to set aside some time for YouTube. Follow along, and then later follow along again but instead attempt the questions: this also gives you some new material to work with.

This was extremely long, sorry haha. For all I know, none of this helped - but hopefully at least some of it was of assistance? Again, please feel free to message with any questions! Best of luck :biggrin:.

First of all, thank you for your reply, I'm going to try the tips you've given, and yes I do have a timetable, but most of the time I don't stick to it. Most days, I just see what subjects am I doing that day, and try to finish my lesson plans. But the problem is, I don't finish my lesson plans (bc I try to copy everything down into my notes), and I get discourage the next day bc I feel like I have to finish yesterday's plans and today's plan. By the end of the week, everything just piles up, and I'm behind by 3 days worth of lessons.

I did try to summarise the textbooks (not just copying it) but I felt like the words I'm not writing down on my notes are going to be important, and I'm going to fail my exams if I don't write it down on my notes (bc I'm just using my notes and flashcards to revise).

Where can I get practice questions after I finished a topic? (my exam board is CIE, and I'm doing Maths (AS only), Psy, CS, and Law)

I also tried to do the Cornell notes, but I still don't really understand what the left strip is for.
(edited 8 months ago)
Reply 4
Original post by BraveEagle
First of all, thank you for your reply, I'm going to try the tips you've given, and yes I do have a timetable, but most of the time I don't stick to it. Most days, I just see what subjects am I doing that day, and try to finish my lesson plans. But the problem is, I don't finish my lesson plans, and I get discourage the next day bc I feel like I have to finish yesterday's plans and today's plan. By the end of the week, everything just piles up, and I'm behind by 3 days worth of lessons.

I did try to summarise the textbooks (not just copying it) but I felt like the words I'm not writing down on my notes are going to be important, and I'm going to fail my exams if I don't write it down on my notes (bc I'm just using my notes and flashcards to revise).

Where can I get practice questions after I finished a topic? (my exam board is CIE, and I'm doing Maths (AS only), Psy, CS, and Law)

I also tried to do the Cornell notes, but I still don't really understand what the left strip is for.

So first off, I'd recommend setting out a day of the week, just to plan out your lessons for the rest of the week. Spend a while to take some time to organize everything for these lessons (e.g. have different windows open on your PC for different subjects). That way it should hopefully be easier to follow your timetable.
If you struggle with summarising (it is hard for A-levels), maybe just do your notes like normal, and then when you take them into flashcards try to only write down the necessities. Then if you feel like you're stuck with your flashcards, you can go back to your large notes to see where you're confused by. It can feel like you're going to fail without every single piece of information: the only thing I can say for that is that with practice, these feelings will go away.
So, AS Level Maths is alright for practice questions, you can find them at Maths Genie or Save My Exams. The exam board doesn't really matter as mentioned.
Your other subjects are harder, being less common. This website has some good notes for computer science, and this website for videos for Psychology. For all of them, I'd recommend picking maybe two past papers, going through them and sorting out the questions in the document into topics. Then you can use them after a lesson, as there aren't that many. Hopefully there'll be some in your textbooks too. Hopefully that helps?
Cornell Notes aren't for everyone - I'd really recommend researching different revision techniques and experimenting. However, in short the left strip is a series of pointers that you use to try and recall everything. For example, let's just assume you've got one for Psychology, for a certain topic. You'd write a series of points in the box to the right, and in that left strip you'd leave just a few words or images. For example, say you'd written about holism and reductionism, in the left box you'd leave just few words that would hopefully trigger your memory, from which you'd try to recall all the main points you'd written about in the other box. Does that make sense?

So, hopefully that makes sense. Best of luck.
Reply 5
Original post by {Moss}
So first off, I'd recommend setting out a day of the week, just to plan out your lessons for the rest of the week. Spend a while to take some time to organize everything for these lessons (e.g. have different windows open on your PC for different subjects). That way it should hopefully be easier to follow your timetable.
If you struggle with summarising (it is hard for A-levels), maybe just do your notes like normal, and then when you take them into flashcards try to only write down the necessities. Then if you feel like you're stuck with your flashcards, you can go back to your large notes to see where you're confused by. It can feel like you're going to fail without every single piece of information: the only thing I can say for that is that with practice, these feelings will go away.
So, AS Level Maths is alright for practice questions, you can find them at Maths Genie or Save My Exams. The exam board doesn't really matter as mentioned.
Your other subjects are harder, being less common. This website has some good notes for computer science, and this website for videos for Psychology. For all of them, I'd recommend picking maybe two past papers, going through them and sorting out the questions in the document into topics. Then you can use them after a lesson, as there aren't that many. Hopefully there'll be some in your textbooks too. Hopefully that helps?
Cornell Notes aren't for everyone - I'd really recommend researching different revision techniques and experimenting. However, in short the left strip is a series of pointers that you use to try and recall everything. For example, let's just assume you've got one for Psychology, for a certain topic. You'd write a series of points in the box to the right, and in that left strip you'd leave just a few words or images. For example, say you'd written about holism and reductionism, in the left box you'd leave just few words that would hopefully trigger your memory, from which you'd try to recall all the main points you'd written about in the other box. Does that make sense?

So, hopefully that makes sense. Best of luck.


I do do that, but I normally do it in the last week of the month, and I make lesson plans for the whole month. But I think doing it weekly might be better.

The problem is that my notetaking takes so long to do (the reason why most of the time I don't finish my lesson plans), that's why I'm trying to find a better way to do it. And I write my flashcards summarised.

I want to do this past paper thing, but I only have one set of past papers for all my subjects
(edited 8 months ago)

Quick Reply