Exam revision

Some ideas on how to revise for exams

Exam revision can be done in many ways and you have to develop one that suits you, however there are some general principles that apply. There are some suggestions on the video and these are supported on the notes below also with links to examination websites.

  • Before you start, organise. Collect together the resources you may need, notepaper, file cards, text books, syllabus, lesson notes, pens and a diary or calendar.
  • Use a printed copy of the syllabus to check that your notes are complete and in a sensible order. The syllabus is a useful check-list, tick things off as you cover them. All the examination boards have a syllabus copy on their website (see links here) and most have example questions.
  •     Time management is important. Make more of the day by getting up a bit earlier so that you have time to do some of the things you enjoy. Write a timetable of the work you have to do and connect it with your exam timetable. Break down each subject into sections and allow time for each section. Set out the time you will spend being realistic about the time available. Work in short intensive spells punctuated by relaxing breaks. Very few people can really concentrate for more than 30 minutes and it is best to start revision in short intensive spells of 10 or 15 minutes with relaxation time in between. However most research shows that it is best not to mix work and relaxation. Listening to music makes the experience of revising less unpleasant but less efficient. So don't mix revision and relaxation. When you are revising work intensively, when you are relaxing, then relax.
  • Make your exam revision active. Reading notes is rarely productive except for a few minutes, you need to write condensed supplementary notes, draw diagrams and do questions.
  • Use a variety of sources; books, video and on-line notes. Different sources will fill in key detail and a different technique may give you that special insight to understand a difficult topic. Use your previous notes, text book, internet references and the video and notes from here.
  • Remember that all science and mathematical subject depend upon understanding even more than remembering, although both are essential. Start by getting a good handle on your memory of the topic but then move on to test and practice that understanding. Apply your knowledge to new situations; that usually means trying to work out the answers to unfamiliar questions. Use past papers for most of your practice. This has two functions. First it gets you used to thinking and applying what you know and secondly you are likely to find some very similar questions (even some exactly the same) in your own exam. Use the mark schemes for the papers as if you were marking the paper of an enemy - don't be generous with yourself, stick strictly to the scheme. All British exam boards publish past papers and mark schemes as do most around the world.
  •     If there is a topic that you really don't understand (rather than simply cannot remember), get help. Failing that use a variety of resources - again video lessons can help a lot.
  •     Try to take a bit of regular exercise. This does not have to be flat out in the gym but everyone thinks better if they are in good physical shape. Aim to eat well and sleep well.
  •     Do not try to do loads of revision the night before or the morning before a public exam. Do a little work and then rest and relax and try and get a good nights sleep. Last minute exam revision can work for short tests but for an extended exam you will not be able to learn enough and you will be tired when you go into the exam room.
  •     On exam day try to take a little gentle exercise before the exam. If it is sensible walk to school/college. Don't talk to your friends about work before the exam, it is more likely to confuse you than it is to help.
  •     In the exam room read each question carefully and spend the time that is due. From the total time of the exam and the number of marks available you can quickly work out how many minutes you have for each mark. Spend that time on the questions but no more.
  •     Plan essay questions, around 10% to 20% of the time for the question is reasonable to spend on planning and a good structure is worth a significant number of marks.
  •     Multiple response questions should always be answered - you may get lucky, but to get luckier aim to eliminate the obviously incorrect answers first.
  •     And don't talk to your friends about the exam afterwards. You cannot do anything about it and it is likely to be poor preparation for the next one you have.
In summary - try
  •     Reading through notes or watching a video on one short topic
  •     Writing supplementary notes from memory, in a format which is different to your original notes. Try bullet point lists or spider diagrams.
  •     Make a lot of use of labelled diagrams - from memory in the first instance. Diagrams don’t have to be very neat or tidy and you should keep them simple; almost everyone remembers pictures better than words.
  •     Then when you have done that correct the notes from your originals or from the text book.
  •     Finally do questions from the text book or from exam board past papers/sample questions. The latter are especially good because most of the exam boards provide full worked answer and mark schemes.  Exam board links here.
  • Video is one of the most efficient ways of revising science. Video will show experiments and animated explanation to back up the commentary and notes. (Well I would say that wouldn't I, but I do think it is true).