Failure is something that you have to endure whilst at A-Levels. If you’re getting everything right, then you’re either not working hard enough by trying out the more difficult questions or you’re a robot. I faced failure countless times during my A-Level studies and I can honestly say that it is because of these failures that I succeeded in the end when opening my exam results and realising that I got accepted in the University of Birmingham. To fail is a good thing because it can allow you to understand where you went wrong and if you understand that, then you will be more familiar with the question so if that question came up in the exam, you would be able to do it. If you’re one of those people who likes attempting questions that you know you’re going to get right, then get out of that mentality now. You need to attempt the harder questions in order to succeed at A-Levels. Don’t limit your challenges but rather challenge your limits. See how far you can go. By having this mindset, you will do well in any subject you do at A-Levels.
When you revise and finally learn a topic after trying to understand it for so long, most students have a tendency to go on to the next topic. NO! This is not effective. After you have learnt a topic, then learn the next topic whilst, simultaneously, doing questions on the previous topic just to make sure that you don’t forget it. Just going from topic to topic will not do, especially for A-Levels because the content is structured in a way that you have to approach the questions more than once. After you have perfected this strategy, then you will be getting consistently good grades and you will be on top of the work. You will know when you have done this because you will have that self-belief feeling that you know the topic. This links in with my post about teaching other students because once you know the topic, you can solidify your understanding by teaching that topic to others. Also, once you have finished a specific section then do some summary questions on that section because once you have revised a lot of things, some knowledge is bound to have escaped your mind so just keep a lid on things by always going back to what you have learnt. As it states in the title, if you want to stay consistent then you have to be persistent.
When you do revision, do not revise in large chunks. Break up your revision into time intervals which makes sense of how hard the topics you are learning actually are. Revise more hours for the topics you are struggling with and try not to revise as much the content that you already know. A technique I utilised was that I said that I was going to revise 2 hours for a hard topic and approximately 30-45 minutes for a simple one and I would always have breaks in between lasting about 30 minutes to an hour. Revising long hours is really bad because it will burn your brain out. Allocate days where you just rest and do no work at all because the best way to revise like many things is through rest and recovery. Do a lot of work one day and then rest and chill the next. Like I said before, don’t revise too long but at the same time, don’t slack off too much. You need to find the balance between work and free time to be most efficient at revision and it is when you find this balance that you will get the best out of yourselves.
Teaching other people about things you have recently learnt is one of the most effective ways of retaining information. This shows that you have understood the topic and more importantly, you can impart that knowledge onto others which on your behalf is a good gesture. If you cannot explain key concepts to other students or even back to teachers if they ask you, then there should be light bulbs going off inside your head that you don’t understand the topic completely. If this is the case, go over it again and make notes on the difficult aspects of the topic that are baffling you. Teaching people will also give you confidence in your abilities and confidence should be one of your traits going into an exam because it is this confidence that will propel you into success. Bit of a cliché but it is absolutely true so take time to try and teach others what you have learnt because from my personal experience, teaching others means you’re teaching yourself too.
Resources are a very important part of learning new techniques given to you. They serve many purposes, one of which is the idea that if you don’t understand the concept when the teacher taught it, then maybe the resource you use whether that be a website, YouTube video or something else, will put a new spin on it in a way that you understand. Try to search for renowned websites that have gotten amazing reviews for your subject. Ask the teachers or fellow classmates if they know of any websites which could be incredibly useful for your subject. Websites were a resource that I used often during A-Levels because sometimes the teacher didn’t explain the concept in as much as detail as the exam was asking for, so I looked online and found some websites which were very detailed in their description of concepts. If you are doing Physics at A-Level, I would recommend http://www.antonine-education.co.uk/. YouTube videos are another resource which I personally didn’t use that much but it is definitely worth taking a look at, especially if you are a visual learner. Listening to an expert in your subject can prove to be much more beneficial than listening to your teacher who probably bores you. The experts, like websites, can tackle the question from a different angle and this different angle might be one that you like rather than how you were taught in school. I’ve noticed that for a lot of questions, there are many ways to get to the right answer. So as long as it makes sense, it should be fine to answer a question in a way that is different than the way your teacher might have taught it. But do check first with your teacher because the method shown might not be on the specification and therefore you will not gain any marks in an exam. Get Revising is an amazing resource for basically all subjects. It breaks down each subject into their exam board, topics and you can even choose which kind of resource you want whether that be mind maps, presentations on PowerPoint and many more. This is the resource I used the most and it definitely helped me in A-Levels.
- Find your own personal space where you revise most effectively. Some people like revising in a library, others at the comfort of their own home at their own desk. Find where you like to revise and revise in the same spot because if you revise in the same spot and work efficiently, then your routine will become accustomed to that effective revision in that same spot and your brain will register that place as the place where you do effective revision.
- We all have a favourite part of a course and a part of a course that we just hate. Well, I do anyway. It’s tempting to just revise the topics you like and are good at to then feel that you are good in that particular subject. That is obviously not the case if you are neglecting and pushing the hard topics or the ones that you don’t like to one side. Revise both the hard and easy topics. It sounds obvious but you don’t know how many students fail because all they revised were topics that they liked or they prioritised one subject over all the others. When doing your revision, do the hard topics first and get them out the way. I am saying this because if you begin with your favourite topic, then by the time you get round to the ones you dislike, it is very unlikely that you will do it as enough as you should be.
- If you like chilling with your mates or going on nights out then this next tip is right up your street. Work on your timing when it comes to revision. If you’ve chosen to revise for 5 hours in one day, don’t start at 4pm because then you’re going to be revising until 9pm (Maths coming into play there ;)) and that is very daunting. Start at say 10am and then you will be finished by 3pm and then you have the rest of the day to do whatever you want, hopefully nothing illegal.
- If you want to have an organised revision schedule then make a revision timetable. Personally, I didn’t make one because I’m an organised kinda guy anyway so I didn’t see the point in making a revision timetable but if you’re not organised or are struggling with timing, then I would highly recommend a revision timetable. The benefits of a revision timetable includes the fact that it will stop you from slacking off work because if you say that you’re going to revise at 4pm, that’s not concrete but if you see it written in front of your face, then that will make you get off your backside and work. When you see something in writing, it is more likely it will be done than when you just say it.
- Go through as many questions and as many past papers as you can. By doing this, you will familiarise yourself with the sort of questions that could come up in your exam. Also, try and identify trends in the past papers. Is the same question or same type of question being asked over and over again? Which topics keep coming up? If it is, make a note of it somewhere. Make a list of tricky questions from past papers and then when it gets closer to the exams, just revise from those. This is very effective because it reduces your chances of losing marks. So, for example, if you’re always getting low marks then you will probably have a big list. Write down the list of questions you’re struggling with and go to the mark scheme and try and see if you can make sense out of it. If you can, that’s great because then you can go onto the next question. If you can’t, don’t worry, ask your teacher how to do that specific question showing you step by step how they did it. Keep doing this for all the tricky questions and then by the end of it, the tricky questions shouldn’t seem that tricky anymore. The same goes for you students who are getting average or really good marks. Identify the tricky questions and try and find the solutions to them in a way that makes sense to you.
I don’t know how many of you do this anyway so I am just going to be addressing those students that don’t. You shouldn’t use the same study methods for different subjects. This is definitely not an effective way of learning. Firstly, it will make your revision repetitive and boring meaning that you will be less likely to do it and more likely to fail your exams. Secondly, how can you revise for a Maths exam the same way you would revise for an English Exam? It just doesn’t make sense! If you’re doing Maths, it makes sense to go over some questions and try and answer them. Maths is one of those subjects where if you want to learn Maths, you have to do Maths. For English, I would recommend using flashcards and post-it notes writing down all key terms and techniques with their definitions. For Sciences, definitely learn the key concepts. With the Sciences, you cannot score well in exams just by memorising facts and definitions. You have to understand the applications of the science because in the exam, they could ask you the same question in a million different ways so if you have to know what you’re talking about. With the Sciences, they also like bringing in real-life applications so definitions will not help you with these questions but understanding key concepts most definitely will. Don’t neglect the definitions though because they occasionally ask for definitions in the exam so learn the definitions but don’t make learning the definitions as the foundation of your revision.