Tips for Revision

The tips below are contributions received from our expert tutors.  For more insight and guidance, please join us for a future course, for small group on one to one tuition, focusing on subject content, exam practice and exam technique.

Start by being clear with what your exam(s) will involve:

• Check exam paper requirements – date of exam, number of papers, paper length (time, marks) and structure (types of questions – MCQ, short/long answers, data response, evaluative)

• Check you’re clear what command words are asking you to do – e.g. ‘examine’ means evaluate with some exam boards but for others it just means analyse/explain in depth

• Check you’re clear what ‘extra’ equipment you need (calculator, pencil, ruler) and what you can/can’t do (e.g. can you write in pencil when drawing diagrams/graphs)

A good way to make sure you understand the requirements is to explain the requirements to a friend who doesn’t take your subject and see if he/she understands the requirements after you have talked through them

Once you’re clear what the exam papers require you to do:

• Plan how much time you will spend revising each week and when – it is a good idea to plan shorter time periods but to stick to them. Better to plan to revise 9 to 11 (with a short break in the middle) and stick to it, then to plan to study 9 to 1 but not start until 9.15, keep taking breaks and stop at 12.45 because you’ve run out of energy/focus

• Ask your teacher for any ‘top tips’ they may have – this could be key areas to revise or topics that are/are not examined regularly

• Start with your weakest areas – it is tempting to go over material that you are best at/find easiest but you should focus on your problem areas first

• Find which revision methods work best for you and use these – work alone, work with friends, read through notes, make flash cards, practice past papers, make quizzes, do mind maps etc

• Vary your revision methods to avoid getting bored

• Practice lots of past exam questions and check mark schemes/see if your teacher can mark these – try to stick to exam timings when doing this as this is also a key exam skill

James, Teacher and Examiner for Business and Economics

Create brief plans noting sources, key names, dates etc for all the questions on practice papers, even the short mark responses; they will be useful for quick revision.

Build up your ability to analyse and evaluate material and ideas verbally in tutorial or peer-group discussion, as well as in writing homework and test essays.

Justin Reay, FSA FRHistS

1. Organize your notes and practice problems by topic and review them all.

2. Focus on understanding the “why” behind each concept, rather than just memorizing differences.

3. For difficult topics, use multiple sources of information such as different YouTube videos.

4. Create mnemonics (sohcahtoa, roygbiv etc) that are personal to you so you can remember important information easily and quickly.

5. Time yourself while practicing past exam papers, and learn the language of the marking schemes to produce high-quality answers in similar questions in the future. Pay attention to your performance on application questions, such as 1 mark physics questions, as they can indicate your understanding of the concepts. Aim for consistent high marks and quick finishes in papers you have not seen before your final exam.

Tutor in Maths and Physics

Take notes from the text book. Do not just re-read them but produce summary notes from them.

Do the same with any handouts from teachers or notes taken in class.

The very act of producing written summaries will help to ‘imprint’ the material on your mind and help you to remember it: much better than simply re-reading it. Summarising will also help you to identify the most significant points.

History dates: Do not worry about trying to remember specific dates but concentrate on getting events in the right chronological order.

Simon Jones, Tutor in History, Politics and Law

• Figure out how you like to work and then use that knowledge to plan your revision. Do you prefer to work in the morning or the evening? Do you have a slump after lunch? Do you feel most able to concentrate after doing exercise?

• Create a revision timetable based on what you’ve decided about how you like to work. Think about how many subjects you have and how many topics in each. Then look at how much time you have between now and the exam. Think about how long you need to spend on each topic to feel that you know it. Divide the amount of time you have in hours by the number of topics you need to cover. If you feel that you are more confident in some topics than others, you can then borrow minutes or hours from those to spend on topics you are less comfortable with.

• Give yourself some variety. If you like short sessions, do 45 mins x 2 for two different subjects and then have a break. If you like to spend solid chunks of time on subjects, do one chunk, take a break and then do another chunk on a different subject. Plan your timetable with your exam schedule in mind. If your Maths and Chemistry exams are earliest for example, factor that into the your timetable and spend more time on those earlier on.

• Take breaks. Your brain can only take so much information before you become unproductive. 8 hours of revision without a break doesn’t mean 8 hours of productive study. You need to allow your brain and your body to decompress before you can dive in again.

• Try to make it fun. Do you like colours and flashcards? Could you get together in a group and give yourselves a quiz with a prize for the winner? You could even record yourself and then listen to it like a podcast when you go for a walk. This all comes back to figuring out what works for you.

• Don’t pay attention to what other people are doing. If you’ve followed these steps, you know what works for you and the way you like to learn. It doesn’t matter if that’s different to what your friends are doing.

• Revision is tough but remember that if you’ve tried your best and put in the work, that’s all you can do and you can come away from the exam knowing that you gave it your all and what will be will be.

Jennifer Lane, Tutor in History

• On Maths it’s all about practicing questions from past papers.

• Start a progression from easy to hard questions over a two week period.

• Have a booklet with all the key formulae to use when required and have a standard calculator at hand like the FX-830G. Don’t use mobile calculators.

• Have plenty of scrap paper, pencils and pens at hand.

• Keep to your routine with regards to nutrition and exercise. Exercise refreshes and releases feel-good hormones.

• Don’t get stuck on a question for too long. Give yourself 10 minutes maximum and move on to the next one, make a note of the difficult questions to address with a tutor later.

Tutor in Maths and Physics

Some DOs:

• DO use past papers to help you identify the topics that you’ll need to spend some on.

• DO use your revision time to re-learn the topics you have trouble with – this time try to learn them a different way.

• DO ask your teacher/tutor if there is a method you use in a particular topic which you wouldn’t be able to explain to a friend.

Some DON’Ts:

• DON’T try to learn how to do the questions from a particular past paper. Instead, use them to identify topic areas you struggle with.

• DON’T try to condense the syllabus onto cards. Instead, practise simple exercise questions from your textbook, in the areas where you need help.

Stephen Wilkinson, Tutor in Maths

1. Make summaries that include all relevant key terms. This is particularly important for the AO1 part of your answer. The mark scheme rewards you for the use of ‘specialist terminology’. Writing summaries under timed conditions (i.e. about 7-8 minutes for a six mark question) also forces you to be concise.

2. Select between 3 and 5 evaluation points for each topic. You don’t have time to write more, and there is an argument that less is more because it forces you to do more with it, such as fully explaining why something is a strength or a weakness. The top band of the mark scheme calls this ‘thorough and effective’. Practice ending an evaluation point with ‘this shows that’ or ‘therefore’……

Consider including a counter argument with an evaluation point as this again helps to provide elaboration.

3. Aim to include at least one piece of supporting or challenging research in your evaluation. Psychology is a science and evidence is important. Don’t get hung up on trying to remember every researcher’s name. It is better to focus your effort on knowing the study and why it either supports or challenges a theory. You can always start your sentence with ‘research shows that….’

4. Make posters of anything that lends itself to more visual representations. Seeing posters hung up in your room also helps your memory.

5. Do Venn-diagrams for the comparison of Approaches – it’s a great way to tease out all the similarities or differences between approaches. Use Issues and Debates for this.

6. For research methods, nothing beats answering past paper questions. Research methods is such a practical section. It really is best learned by doing.

7. When you have done enough revision, shift your effort to answering past exam questions. Download the mark scheme too so that you can check your answers.

And remember to build in breaks – how often depends on the individual. Some people need a break of 10 minutes after 20 minutes revision. Others can work effectively for longer. When you do have a break, try to have a complete change of activity i.e. don’t stay on your computer, but walk around, get some fresh air etc.

Annemette Frosh, Tutor and Examiner in Psychology