When it comes to revising for exams, nothing beats good ol' fashioned hard work. But there are some things you can do to make the whole process easier and more productive.
We've gathered all the best GCSE and A-level revision tips and techniques that we've shared with school students over the years and we've put them all into this one post to help you get revising.
'All the best GCSE and A-Level revision tips and techniques in one blog post'
Understand your learning style
Although in reality, we all use a variation of different learning styles to process information, as students, we do tend to favour one particular style over others. Knowing where your strengths lie will help you create the most effective study programme to see you through until the day of your exam. In all there are seven different styles that will help you learn how to study effectively:
- Visual (learning by seeing)
- Aural (listening)
- Verbal (talking things through)
- Physical (doing things first-hand)
- Logical (ordered learning)
- Social (group learning)
- Solitary (independent learning)
To help you identify your learning style, take this short quiz on the education planner website, it really is great.
Knowing how you learn can also help you in the workplace. When you start a new job, you'll have a whole heap of new things to learn (not to mention everyone's name). If you're aware of what learning style works best for you, you'll be able to learn on the job more effectively.
Study past exam papers
Looking over past exam papers is a classic GCSE and A-level revision tip. It helps in two ways:
- It gets you used to the layout of the exam
- It familiarises you with the wording of the questions
One of the most common reasons students give for skipping questions in an exam is "I didn't understand the question". In almost all of these situations, the issue isn't that you don't have the knowledge but that you're not used to being asked for information in this way. By taking the time to look over past exam and specimen papers, you'll be able to read between the lines better understand what it being asked.
Use visual aids
Whether you're a visual learner or not, visual aids can act as a great reminder of what you need to know for your exams. Simply pinning up keywords, formulas and facts around your study area can help you remember things subconsciously. On the day of your exam, when you're trying to think of a specific formula and that yellow post-it note from your bedroom wall pops into your head, you'll be glad you did this.
Using visual aids is also a great way of remembering important information at work. If you develop the habit of using visual aids, you'll be able to use the same strategy when it comes to learning new information in your future workplace.
Record yourself reading notes
Yes, really. This one's our number one off-the-wall GCSE and A-level revision tip!
We all hate the sound of our own voices when we hear them back on record but taking a break from reading and switching to listening can be a great way to help you remember coursework. All you need to record yourself reading is your notes and mobile phone. And the best part about this revision technique is that you can do it anywhere with a set of headphones. Some students swear by listening to their own recording last thing at night.
Get some physical exercise
But what does this have to do with revising?
As the saying goes, 'healthy body, healthy mind'. Not only does physical exercise give you a break from the books but it helps you focus better. When you do physical exercise, you brain releases serotonin, known as the "happy chemical", which increases positivity and reduces stress levels. If you're relaxed when you're studying, you're far more likely to process information effectively.
Set yourself small goals and rewards
When it comes to GCSE and A-level revision tips, one of the best out there is to set yourself targets and rewards. There's no better feeling than reaching a milestone in your schedule. Perhaps you've just reached the half way mark in study calendar, or maybe you've just completed a full hour without being distracted? Whatever you see as an achievement when you're revising, make sure you take the time to reward yourself for it.
Take regular study breaks
Although it can be tempting to revise for long hours when you're on a roll, it's important that you take regular breaks, at least every hour. The average adult can concentrate for around 20 minutes before their performance starts to decline and recent research suggests that with the rise in mobile technology, this figure might now be much lower. Bearing this in mind, you shouldn't force yourself to concentrate if you don't feel fully focused.
Take a break. Go for a walk. Phone a friend. Have a glass of water. Do something for at least five minutes that doesn't involve sitting at your desk studying and when you come back to face the books, you'll find yourself refreshed and ready to go again.
When you start your first job, it can be tempting to stay longer than everyone else to show your enthusiasm. Although this might sound like a good idea, you still need to take regular breaks to recharge your batteries. Sometimes staying late at work or taking on extra projects can have the opposite effect on your productivity.
Give yourself variety
It can be easy to fall into the trap of only adopting one revision technique. For example, if you're a visual learner, it can be tempting to only revise using visual aids. Although this might be effective for a short while, eventually your brain will get used to this way of learning and it won't be as effective. Instead, set yourself more of a challenge by studying using a different method. Use these study hacks to mix things up.
Eat healthy foods
Our diets have a huge impact on how we perform in life in general. By eating a healthy, balanced diet and trying to cut out artificial sugars (like those found in energy drinks), you'll experience well-being, which puts you in the right frame of mind for revising. There are actually some so-called 'brain foods' that can help improve your intelligence, such as:
- Pumpkin seeds
Think positive thoughts
This may be easier said than done but positive thinking is one of the best GCSE and A-level revision tips there is. Looking on the bright side and having a "glass half-full attitude" can really help you get through your exams. Although we can't always "magic up" positive thoughts, we can do things that make us feel better (like exercising, giving ourselves rewards and eating healthily), which in turn makes us see things more positively.
For an extra boost of positivity, why not try taking a meditation class or listening to music that makes you feel good? In fact, we've got a whole list of tips for reducing those stress levels.
Practice, Practice, Practice
We've left this one to last because it's actually the most important of all the GCSE and A-level revision tips on this list. No amount of physical exercise or brain food will help you pass your exams without practice.
And this means giving yourself enough time to revise what you need to know.
The earlier you start your study routine, the more time you'll have to fill in gaps in your knowledge, seek help and learn good revision techniques.
Now you've got your techniques down, impose a little discipline with our practical guide to planning your revision.