Revision is not enough – you must also test your knowledge
Top tips for students sitting exams this summer
It’s not enough to read through your notes when you’re preparing for crucial exams, say Girls’ Schools Association (‘GSA’) teachers. Mind maps and flashcards summarising key points are a great way of digesting revision notes, but students who fail to test their knowledge thoroughly are not preparing rigorously enough and risk letting themselves down.
Matthew Greenfield, head of physics at GSA school, St Catherine’s, Bramley, says:
“You wouldn’t take your driving test if you’d read the Highway Code but never driven a car. Written questions completed under the pressure of timed conditions feature surprisingly rarely in students’ individual revision plans, but they are essential practice. After all, this is how they’re going to be examined.”
GSA president, Alice Phillips, says:
“It is the archetypal mistake to sit with notes and read them through or copy them out verbatim. It feels very diligent and thorough but the reality is that summarising your knowledge and thoroughly testing it is a better preparation. Unfortunately, some students put if off because it’s harder but that’s exactly what they need at this stage while they still have time to address any gaps in their knowledge.”
Top 10 Tips for Exam Preparation
The Girls’ Schools Association’s top 10 tips for last minute exam preparation are:
2. Familiarise yourself with the type of content that is asked year after year, and the answers that were accepted on the mark scheme, which is the criteria according to which examiners award marks. Mark schemes are available from exam board websites, usually at the same place as past papers.
3. Read the examiners’ reports for past exams, particularly your mocks and any others you have practised. They contain useful tips and advice for avoiding the mistakes that the previous year group made. Examiners’ reports are available from exam board websites, usually alongside past papers and mark schemes.
4. Know what you need to know. Make sure you’ve read the syllabus for your paper really carefully and that you’ve thought through all of the possible essay question combinations that might come up.
5. Focus on your weaker subjects in your revision timetable, rather than leaving them until the end. Pick out the hardest and unfamiliar questions in past papers as doing them will unearth your weaknesses, giving you time to correct any gaps in your knowledge.
6. Revision means re-looking at your work. Then take the next step. To move knowledge into long term memory re-look at it at least five times and test yourself on it in different ways
7. Use Post-Its. Try different coloured ones as reminders about vocabulary, formulae, quotes etc. Display them on mirrors, doors or around computer screens.
8. If you’re stuck or bored, use a different method of explaining things to yourself. ie orally or in pictures/diagrams rather than writing more notes. Using different methods uses different parts of the brain.
9. Seek help or clarification from school teachers when you need it. They will want to help you.
10. Break up revision into small chunks. It is better to do 30 minutes of successful revision than to plan five hours, feel overwhelmed and fail to start.
Top 7 Tips for Sitting Exams
When it comes to actually sitting exams, Girls’ Schools Association teachers recommend the following:
1. Read the exam timetable carefully and get there in plenty of time.
2. Always read the question twice before answering it. Try writing synonyms of key words to make sure you’ve explored and understood the question before you begin to answer it.
3. Keep in mind the assessment objectives for your subject as marks are awarded if you meet them. You should already be familiar with these but, if not, ask your teacher or seek them out on the exam board website.
4. In science questions, take particular note of ‘command’ words such as ‘describe’ or ‘explain’ and make sure that you do what they ask. ‘Describe’ usually involves data, so quote figures and don’t forget units. ‘Explain’ means use your subject knowledge- understanding and using key terms / key vocabulary is vital.
5. Be selective – just because you’ve learnt lots of information about a topic is no reason to throw in everything.
6. Address the question set, not the one you want to answer! Don’t just re-hash the last essay you wrote on the same topic. You would be very lucky if it turned out to be the very same question.
7. Be precise, controlled and relevant – this will make it easy for the examiner to reward you.