Revising?  Get a schedule!

Revising? Get a schedule!

The GCSE and A Level exams are now approaching at a gallop.  It really is time to knuckle down and get a revision schedule sorted out so that you make sure you spend enough time on each subject and have a chance to look at all aspects of the curriculum.

Here are a few helpful tips to help you stay on the right path:

#1  Don’t revise for an exam within half a day of taking it.  Exam in the morning? Stop revising for it at lunchtime the day before.  Exam in the afternoon? Don’t revise for it that day. 

Revising at the last minute just leads to a lack of confidence as you convince yourself that you don’t know anything and will never get a good grade.  If you don’t know your stuff that close to the exam then spending the remaining hours cramming really won’t help!

#2  Little and often is key.  It can be really tempting to leave the final exams until much nearer the date.  However, after 4-5 weeks of exams you will be suffering from revision fatigue and you really won’t want to spend hours each day revising for the last one or two.  Besides, we can’t focus well for hours on end so that kind of revision is less effective anyway.  Schedule in a few revision sessions for those last exams earlier in the month so that you can keep things ticking over nicely.

#3  Take a break every 45 minutes or so.  There is a good reason why school lessons last 35-45 minutes – we cannot focus intensively for much longer than that.  Work hard and focus well for 45-50 minutes, then take a short break.  Not three hours of social media, but 5-10 minutes to walk around the house or garden, get a drink or something to eat, and stretch.  Then sit down for another session. 

#4  Vary your revision techniques. Reading and re-reading the same page again and again only works for a very small minority of people.  Try drawing mind-maps, thinking of acronyms to help you remember key info, summarising and re-summarising to get to the key points.  Get busy with the highlighter pens, add stickers to mark the important bits, see what works best for you. 

#5  Why not test yourself?  At the beginning of a topic, write yourself a quiz covering 5-10 key pieces of information.  When you think you have finished with that topic, try the quiz and see if you can remember the answers without looking in your notes.

#6  Tackle one or two past papers to check your timings.  Time management is an important exam technique as it is vital to leave enough time to tackle all of the questions on the paper.  Your teacher may give you some past papers, or you can usually find some on the website for the relevant exam board. 

#7  Successful multi-tasking is a bit of a myth.  If you are watching TV, listening to music, checking social media AND revising, then you aren’t concentrating properly on any of them.  Book time in your schedule to check email or messaging apps, tell your friends you are going off-line for a while, and allow yourself to really focus.

#8  Remember to leave some downtime in your revision schedule.  Not days or a whole weekend, but careful slots to allow you to exercise, meet friends, go to that party.

#9  Eat well.  Lots of fruit and veg, of course, but also proper good quality protein and carbs.  Yes to home-cooked stir fry, stew, bolognaise etc. Proceed with caution when it comes to doughnuts, chocolate and fast food.

#10  Sleep properly.  Although it can be tempting to revise late into the night you have to balance the likelihood of retaining something important read at midnight, with the probability of impaired thinking if you have been up that late!

Independent Study – What is it and how do I do it?

Independent Study – What is it and how do I do it?

The jump from a good grade at GCSE to the higher expectations of A Level can be a large one.  Some students feel unprepared for the expectations of independent study and don’t know where to start, let alone how to structure their time efficiently.  If your school tells you to do 10 hours per week independent study on top of what they already set, where do you start?  This is especially true with a foreign language where it can be hard to know what to look at or which techniques to use to maximise the return on your time investment.

A good place to start is by going over your notes from the classes or lectures you have had that week.  Don’t leave it too long, or you will forget what was said and may struggle to make sense of your notes.  Re-write your notes if you need to add more details and get busy with highlighter pens and underlining so that you can easily see the key points.  If you have time, write yourself a quiz now, using the information in your notes to form the basis of the questions.  Put the quiz in a separate place for later use, so that you have a ready-made resource when it comes to revision time.

If you find that there was something you didn’t understand, ask NOW.  Ask a friend, look it up in a book or online (make sure your resources are good quality ones!) or even go back to the teacher/lecturer and ask for clarification.  Far better to do that within the fortnight, rather than waiting until exam time.

With specific regard to languages, it is important to get as much listening practice as possible.  Use online resources such as news websites to find articles that you can listen to as well as read. Euronews (, Deutsche Welle ( and 1jour1actu ( are all good examples.

Language Learners can help with the question of independent study and note-taking skills through our Study Skills tutoring sessions. These classes are ideal for those making the jump between GCSE and A Level or for those who are facing exams this year and aren’t sure how to manage their time in order to fit in revision as well as essays and other commitments.   We can help students to establish a regular schedule of personal study on top of their academic and social commitments, as well as giving a range of tips on independent research, essay planning and exam technique.