Revision and exam skills
Many students incorrectly see revision as something done immediately before examinations. Although pre-examination revision is important, revision is something that you should incorporate into your studies regularly throughout the course and indeed is an integral part of the learning process. At the end of studying each element of a topic, revise the material to develop a deeper understanding and to check that you have covered everything and that you fully understand it. The best way to achieve this is to engage with the material, for example by reading through notes/worksheets etc. and highlighting the main points. Make use of available textbooks to further elaborate your knowledge; better candidates will be making use of more than just one source of information. After this, attempt an exam-type question to assess your level of knowledge and understanding and also to familiarise yourself with the kind of questions you may be asked in the exam. Such questions can be accessed on the AQA website, where you will find sample questions. These also include (in the mark schemes) advice on what types of things to include in your answer. Over time, make sure that you include all types of possible questions in your revision, not just those concerning outlining and describing, but also those requiring explanations and evaluations.
HOW TO REVISE EXAM QUESTIONS
When first practising exam questions you will need all learning materials to hand, such as notes and handouts. Ensure you fully understand the requirements of the question from the command words and know how much to write by referring to the number of marks on offer. Make a plan in numbered or bullet point form, and then have a go at writing your answer, giving yourself the same amount of time as in the real exam (about 1 minute and 15 seconds per mark). You will probably have to refer to learning materials when writing your answer, but as you become familiar with this method, you will increasingly be able to write answers without them. A good way to achieve this is to read through relevant materials first, then put them away before writing your answer.
All topics need to be revised, including ones you find difficult, as they have an equal chance of being on the exam paper. Ensure you have listed all the topics on the specification and have all materials necessary for revising each topic. Find somewhere comfortable to revise away from distractions. Make sure that everything you need for revising, like tidying up your desk, is done before revision starts. It is easy to spend all the designated revision time on distraction activities, like sorting out books and sharpening pencils. About 90 minutes a session will be best, using the revision method you have practised all year — namely, reading through necessary materials, highlighting important points, using previous exam questions to construct answers. Give yourself a planned reward for completing revision sessions, be it chocolate or a favourite TV programme. Revising in a constant, organised way like this is the best route to maximising exam performance.
Making a revision timetable
Before starting pre-exam revision you will need a revision timetable. This is best achieved by having morning, afternoon and evening sessions for each day (though there is no reason why you can’t divide your days up differently, for example just morning and afternoon sessions, or even hour by hour). You can then use this as a template for each separate week of revision.
For each of your subjects, make a list of the topics you need to revise. Then, using a pencil at first, slot in the topics, making sure that you first block out any sessions that are not available due to other commitments. It is probably best initially to revise subjects and topics that will be examined first. A revision programme has to be achievable, so ensure that there are a few spare slots each week to use if any planned revision sessions do not occur. When you have finally got all the topics entered, colour them in using a different colour for each subject.
Put your revision timetable up on a wall and tick off sessions as you go. You might even give a copy to a parent so they can police you and make sure sessions get done. Having a revision timetable like this increases confidence that revision can be completed, which in turn increases motivation to revise.
Fig 18.1 Revision timetable