What is the best way to revise for exams?
GCSE revision: what does not work?
So what definitely does NOT work when it comes to revision? Using highlighters and rereading.
Everyone uses highlighters; they feel that it really helps them improve their memory. But research suggests it has a very minimal impact.
When a pupil simply rereads something, it feels productive and fluent, because they have already read it. It creates an illusion of knowing, when in fact they are not actually that engaged with the material – their mind is wandering, they have read it before so it is kind of boring.
GCSE revision: what does work?
- Retrieval Practice – Quiz yourself
- Use knowledge organisers to create flashcards for key words or terms – and quiz yourself daily.
- Make flashcards for key equations or quotes – and quiz yourself daily.
- Create “Must know” quizzes for a topic or unit of work
- Create a graphic organiser (Venn diagram, mind map, flow chart) for a unit or topic from memory.
- Dual coding – put your knowledge in visual form eg. bar method, time line, diagrams
- Use quiz websites to supplement your revision eg. Seneca, Educake, Quizlet, Quizz, GCSE Pod
- Spaced Practice - Successive re-learning
- Carry out retrieval practice for a unit or topic with a space in between. Eg. for History you might revise Pasteurs germ theory; this needs to be re-visited again, ideally no more than 30 days later.
- If you can’t retrieve the information relatively quickly then you probably won’t be able to; continue with the rest of the topic and go back to the sticking point.
- Instead of just trying to retrieve conceptual definitions or long explanations in your head, you should write it out then compare to the correct information and amend.
- Little and often – 20 – 30 minute sessions on a topic then break and start a new topic or subject.
- Once you know your stuff, practice exam questions
- Try a variety of styles eg. multiple choice, essays, compare and contrast, describe, explain, multi-step calculations.
Useful online resources:
www.senecalearning.com – information and tests on all subjects, adjust according to the questions students answer incorrectly.
www.educake.co.uk is used for Science homework.
The Curriculum Resources section of our website has Knowledge Organisers for all of the content that you need for most subjects. Use them to create flashcards, mindmaps, Cornell Notes.
Resources to download and use:
Cornell Notes template – Here
Click here for guidance on how to complete Cornell notes. Here
Here’s an article from the Times Educational Supplement with suggestions from a very successful student on how to approach exams:
I got straight 9s at GCSE - here's how I did it
One student whose GCSE results were among the best in the country shares some advice for those taking exams in 2020
By Robbie Hicks
07 February 2020
Are you aiming for a full set of GCSE grade 9s this summer? It's a tall order, but I was certainly hoping for it.
The long interlude between the GCSE exams and results day meant an invitation for feelings of angst and self-doubt.
I was recounting my analyses of Macbeth quotes, reassuring myself by reworking exam problems and scrutinising every answer I could remember from the exam hall.
The relief when I got 10 grade 9s at GCSE – placing me in the top 426 students of 850,000 nationally – was overwhelming.
Top tips for GCSE success
Here’s my advice to pass on to your students:
- Make resources early
For each topic covered in class, I made sure to have my notes and flashcards prepared, so that once it came to exam season, I could concentrate on memorisation.
Find out which exam board you follow, and then the complete exam information (the specification) can be found online.
- Revise for end-of-topic tests
End-of-topic tests, spot tests and mini-quizzes can seem dull, but they are incredibly important.
Just 15 to 20 minutes of learning a few key points for each of these quizzes can really build up over a year, and make the learning much more manageable.
- Approach mocks properly
Mock exams are the biggest opportunity you’ll get to test the waters before your real exams. Revising for these with a strict timetable (and sticking to it) will mean you’re well-rehearsed by May.
- Experiment with revision techniques
Flashcards with questions on one side and answers on the other are the most effective form of revision for some people, but others prefer mind-mapping, whereby key concepts are linked together around a topic title.
Find out what works for you, and try short revision sessions of 25 minutes with a five-minute break to let more information sink in.
Tes has a handy guide for GCSE and A-Level revision techniques here.
- Plan your time
I spent two to three weeks revising for mock exams and six to seven weeks revising for real exams, and found that to be sufficient, doing about two hours of work each night.
Divide a subject into each of its topics and make sure that you cover each of them before the exam. And be sure to take into account your extracurricular commitments; you may need to start studying earlier if your calendar is busy.
- Explain the information
Talking about a topic to a family member or friend and being tested verbally can help with the recall of information and allow understanding of the links between topics.
- Look at past papers
Around a month before the exams, begin to practice exam papers. Attempt them in exam-like conditions and correct them with a mark scheme. Then concentrate on your weakest areas.
This should be the final stage in the revision process, consolidating the information as you move into the last weeks before the exams.
What else do students need?
My GCSE preparation was a team sport – access to revision resources, having a quiet study space and good peer, school and home support all had a part to play.
I found that determined teachers were able to inspire me towards success, and supportive parents reinforced this work ethic (I recognise that I am privileged to attend an excellent school and receive academic support at home).
The message here is that students can only control some of these aspects, and therefore every improvement should be celebrated.
Whether it be outperforming predicted grades, making revision more effective or finally passing maths or English, these successes are valid and the main goal should be to maximise your true potential.
Robbie Hicks is a student in England
English - Year 11
- Animal Farm by George Orwell - Whole Text
- Recommended Revision Guides
- AQA English Literature Further Insight Textual References Guidance
- BBC Bitesize English Language
- BBC Bitesize English Literature
- Mr Bruff’s Revision Videos
- R1 A Christmas Carol Revision Booklet
- R2 Romeo and Juliet Revision Booklet
- R3 Power and Conflict Revision Booklet
- R4 Animal Farm Revision Guide
- A Christmas Carol Knowledge Organiser
Support for all years9-1 Edxcel specification
Key Stage 4https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1ZgqpxbCIpm-QyJ_FeOdoBpufG-E4rKho?usp=sharing
Year 11 have individual SOL that are currently being written in response to the mock exams.
Key Stage 3Term 1 Year 7 SOL
Term 1 Year 8 SOL
Year 9 higher Scheme of learning
Year 9 foundation Scheme of Learning
Students progress is monitored with mini reviews and open book assessments.
Homework and Support
mathswatch – students know their username and passwords. The majority of homework is set online. Extension material can be accessed on the website on an individual basis. There is also access to self-help videos to support learning.
https://online.justmaths.co.uk/ - students need to ask their teacher for username and password. This site is mainly for Key Stage 4. It contains worksheets and videos on three key areas:
- The crossover between higher and foundation papers
- Working above – which is for higher students
- Working towards – which is for foundation students
- GCSE countdown – which covers key skills month by month
Websites to support learning:
https://www.mathsgenie.co.uk/gcse.html - This contains videos and worksheets on a grade basis. It also contains past papers and practice papers with solutions.
There are revision classes on after school on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for year 11 GCSE classes. Students need to ask their teacher for which class will suite them best.
There is a homework support on Wednesday lunchtime available to all years.
Tutor time intervention on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. This is by invitation only.
We take part in the UK Maths challenge, the sumdog challenge and the Cipher challenge in conjunction with Southampton University.
Science - Year 11
- Past paper - Science Foundation Tier
- Past paper Science - Higher Tier
- Past paper - Biology
- Past paper - Chemistry
- Past paper - Physics
- Space for Reflection - Foundation
- Generating Electricity
- Online French Dictionary
- Online German Dictionary
- Sam Learning
- French Podcasts
- German Podcasts
- Fun with Languages
- French - ZUT Languages
- German - Gut
- Geo Resource
- Ace Geography - Year 11 Revision
- Cool Geography
- WJEC Spec B Revision Guide
Paper 1: Beliefs and Practices
Paper 2: Thematic studies, Revision materials
- Theme E: Religion Crime and Punishment
- Theme D: Religion, Peace & Conflict
- Theme B: Religion & Life
- Theme A: Relationships & Families
Why is revision important?
It is good practice to do little revision, but often, all year round in smaller, more manageable chunks.
It has been recognised that using the ‘5 simple steps’ revision strategy of:
1. Little and often – 3 or 4 x 20-30 minute sessions each evening with 10 minute breaks in between
2. Spaced practice – return to a topic no more than 30 days since the last time you studied it
3. Review ‘read notes, highlight, annotate, look at revision guides’, then Transform ‘create something new: a mindmap, flash cards, a poster, a list’, then Recall ‘test yourself or get someone else to test you’
By revising ‘savvy’ and utilising this model, you will able to master the best possible way of revising, learn how best to set out the information you need to work through, and still have a work life balance rather than attempting to ‘cram it all in’ at the very end.
As you head towards your exams, by following the ‘5 simple steps’ above, you will be better prepared to create or adapt revision resources, ask for personalised support and complete your revision timetable to suit your current needs, ensuring that all of the topics are revisited in each subject.
Top Revision Tips for Parents and Students
MADE Revision Tips
Parents: 5 Tips to help with child focus
Enhancing Focussed Attention
Exam Tips for Parents
Helping your child cope with exam stress
Students: Where to revise?
Seneca Revision - Glossopdale School
Glossopdale School Year 11 Revision Programme
Year 11 Generic Study Support