As it is quickly approaching exam season (I am sitting my AS exams this year) and I have started
revising, I thought it would be a good idea to share my approach to revision. I am by no means an expert, but these are the techniques that worked for me when I sat my GCSEs last year.
1. Know what you need to Know:
It is really important that you get familiar with the content of your exam so you don't miss anything out or waste time learning things that aren't useful.
So the first thing to do is to find the page of the exams you are sitting (make sure it is the right exam board.) There are a few things you should look at:
- Specification - This is the definitive list of all the things you have to be taught and therefore all of the things that you could possibly be tested on. Some specifications may be more thorough than others, so that's why it is also useful to look at...
- Teacher's resources - This could include lesson plans, which could add more detail to the specification; exam guidance and tips and recommended reading and/or textbooks.
- Examiner's reports - These are reports by the people marking your tests about what they do and don't like in exam answers, so they are well worth reading! They could be in the form of a summary of how students answered a specific paper, or real life answers with commentary about why the student got a certain mark, or lists of the topics that most students found hard or easy.
This step might not apply to all of your exams, but is especially important in essay based exams.
- Types of questions - For exams like English or History it is likely that there will be a couple of different types of essay questions with a lot of weight (eg. a source question and a statement to discuss), it is important to be aware of how the paper will be structured
- Model answers - For question formats that you are sure will come up, it is worth having a model answers to know what you are aiming for, this might mean getting a question marked by the teacher and improving it until you get a near 'perfect' answer.
- Question Structure - Now you have a 'perfect' answer, you can make a scaffolding plan of how you are going to answer those questions, eg. three PEE (point, evidence, explain) paragraphs, with a linking paragraph at the end
3. Make notes on what you need to Know (enter rainbow fine-liners!):
This is where you put to use all of the things you have learnt from the previous steps. Using your textbooks and class notes go through the topics on the specification and make an almost revision guide for yourself. It is also important at this stage to keep in mind the format of the questions, which we looked at it stage 2. Here are a few ways to organise your notes and how they might be useful:
- Bullet point lists - make sure to keep these lists as condensed as possible, it might also be useful to underline or highlight key vocabulary.
- Science - Components of a balanced diet, advantages and disadvantages of renewable energy
- Flowcharts - these can be really helpful to explain processes and show how one thing led to another
- Literature - Plots of a text
- Science - processes such as electricity generation
- History - illustration the orders of events and their consequences
- Mind Maps - this is a really useful explanation of how to mind map effectively
- Literature - Key characters and themes, 1 paragraph per branch, smaller branches can include quotes and examples
- History - Explanations, 1 point per branch, evidence of smaller branches
- Timelines - Events in history
- Worked Questions - it is also useful to add what you are doing, and other things that you might need to remember such as formulas
- Maths - different types of questions
- Science - using formulas
- Diagrams - add names and other information with arrows
- Science - part of a cell
4.Practice and Review:
This is one of the most important stages, but it isn't as useful unless you have done the stages before. Likewise, the previous stages aren't as useful unless you apply all of that knowledge through practice papers.
- Past Paper Questions - depending on how long the exam you are doing has been around for, there should be a large range of past papers that you can access. If not, you could always look for exam-style questions in your textbooks or ask your teacher for some. Start off taking as long as you want to complete the questions to focus on exam techniques, but then start doing the papers to time to get more used to it as you improve.
- Mark them yourself - this is useful for subjects like maths and science where it is clear where you get the marks. Get used to the vocabulary used, what the marks are allocated for and patterns in the types of question they give. Add these to your notes if necessary.
- Get your teacher to mark them - in essay questions, where the marks are a bit more subjective, ask your teacher to mark them. Ideally, ask for the teacher to explain why they would give you that mark and again note any improvements
- Make sure you mark down corrections on your papers, ideally in another colour, so you can see which topics you need to consolidate, which questions you need to practice more and the mistakes that you always make
- Review - make sure you know why you didn't do so well in a practice paper, and then do something about it. These small things could make a lot of difference in the exam