sort of learner am I? | Making
it stick | Know
any good revision web sites? | In
the exams |
advice is based on my experience of helping students through
all kinds of exams.
The ideas work for most people, most of the time - but if
I've learned anything from life, it's that everybody is different,
and that you need to figure out what works for you.
Exams looming? No need to panic,
just get organised!
- Find somewhere quiet to work, somewhere that you
- Take frequent breaks, work in short bursts. Every
30 minutes or so, change topic or subject.
- When you're revising, the trick is to be active.
That means not simply reading your books and hoping that it'll
sink in, but actually doing something with the information.
But what should I actually do? That's what this page is about.
There's so much of it! Where
do I start?
A lot of people will put a job off if
the job seems big and scary, and revision can seem like that.
So where do you start? It doesn't really
matter, just pick something that you like, that seems "do-able"
and make a start on that.
Promise yourself that you'll start today (important!), at
6 o'clock (or whatever), and stick to your promise!
Once you're into the routine of revision you'll feel good that you're
getting on with it, and it won't seem scary.
sort of learner am I?
This section is based on the now-discredited idea of "learning styles" that was pushed at teachers for years and years. The idea was that everyone has a "preferred learning style" and ought to be taught in that way. In reality you're most likely to be a mixture of all of these "styles", so pick out a few of the ideas that you like the sound of. Whatever it takes to make your leanring memorable to you.
There are many ways to revise and learn,
and you need to find out what works best for you.
Take a look at this section, and also ask your teachers for advice.
- Many people remember things visually - in
other words, they remember a picture of what they saw when
they read the page.
If you're one of these people, try writing notes or equations
onto one piece of paper and then colouring them in, adding curly
bits, trees, animals and anything else that makes it stick in
your mind. Then look it over once a day, and notice the shapes
on the paper, maybe colour in a bit more; in the exam you'll find
that you can "see" the paper and remember what was there. If this
is you, you're likely to find "spider diagrams" a really
- Or maybe your mind works more on auditory
recall - you remember sounds.
If this is you, and you like to have music playing when you work,
try noticing what music is playing on the radio when you revise
each bit, and this ought to help you remember the stuff you're
revising. Say things out loud, perhaps record your voice and listen
to it later.
Or you could get adventurous and make up songs or rhymes to help
you remember ("one upon 2 pi root L C, equals the resonant
frequency". An equation to do with how radio tuners work, way
beyond GCSE level but it's still stuck in my head 17 years later.
- Other people remember "kinaesthetically"
- they remember the muscle movements they made when they
So write things out on a sheet of paper, cut it out to make a
jigsaw, then sort it out - there's an example
below. Practice your jigsaw each evening - with practice it'll
only take a minute or so. In the exam, cast your mind back to
that jigsaw, and the stuff should come flooding back. If this
is you, then moving around as you work may help you to
remember, as will any kind of cutting-and-sticking. If you play
a musical instrument, you could combine the muscle movements and
the sound recall ideas, just as you did when you learned to play
- Other people are better at recalling feelings.
If you're somebody who is particularly aware of how people around
you are feeling, or particularly aware of how you're feeling yourself,
then use this to help you recall the stuff you need for exams:
"...oh yes, I remember that - it was in the lesson when
xxxx was upset because of what yyyy said..." - make a
point of noticing at the time, but not at the expense of paying
attention to the work in the lesson! When revising, think about
how Anne Boleyn might have felt about the way Henry VIII
Now you have an idea about what works for you,
here are some tricks to try:-
Remind yourself over and over
If you revise something tonight, by this
time tomorrow you'll have forgotten at least some of it.
So take another quick look at it tomorrow, to "top up"
Take another quick look next week, and keep "topping up"
until the night before the exam.
This doesn't take long to do, and is usually quite comforting
- you feel good because you find that the stuff looks familiar
each time you look at it; because it's quick you can easily fit
it in with all your other revision.
"Look, Cover, Write, Check"
This is probably the way that you learned
spellings in Primary School.
1) read it,
2) hide it away,
3) write it out,
4) check to see if you got it right.
This technique is good for spellings, diagrams, equations, lists
of facts and a whole lot more.
Remembering labelled diagrams
Draw a copy of the diagram - but without
the labels. Then try to fill in the labels from memory.
Go through your books highlighting key
words / key ideas. Not only does this make it easier to revise
later, but the act of scanning through your books looking for
the key stuff helps you to remember it. (Might be an idea to ask
your teachers first, before you do this to your books, but if
you explain why they'll almost certainly be delighted that you're
getting on with your revision)
Make summaries of the information
For example, try to get the whole topic
onto one side of A4 paper. It's the act of making the sheet which
fixes the information in your mind. You might like to use"web
diagrams" (you might call them "spider diagrams") -
they really help to show what's in a topic.
Make your own "Flash Cards"
These can help you to remember facts and
equations. The idea is to carry them with you, and look at them
when you have a spare moment (lunch queues, break times, on the
bus...) You could put headings on one side and details on the
List things on a sheet of paper,
cut the paper up, jumble it, then sort it
Here's an example:
||grinds up the food
||connects the mouth to the stomach
||adds acid to the food to break it down
||connects the stomach to the small intestine
||makes bile to break down fats
||absorbs nutrients into the bloodstream for
transport around the body
||recovers water from the digested food
||waste is stored here, ready to leave the body
||waste leaves the body
This works for Kings Queens and dates,
who did what in a play, and much more.
Note: the important thing about this is not that you have it
- it's the act of making and using it that does the job!
Work out "what could they ask me about
For example, in a question about acids
and alkalis, it's a safe bet that you'll be expected to know about
the numbers on the pH scale, the colours that Universal Indicator
goes, and what "neutralisation" means. In questions about the
planets, expect to be asked about their names, the order that
they're in (counting outwards from the Sun), which ones are hottest/coldest,
which ones go round the Sun fastest.... you've got the idea.
Practice on real exam questions
The more you can try, the better. You wouldn't
expect to do any other performance without a realistic rehearsal,
and this is no different.
Be clear about what you're expected to know
Otherwise how do you know if you've revised
it all? Check with your teachers if you're not sure. Go along
to any revision sessions that you can. These can really boost
your confidence, which is what many people need the most. You'll
probably also be able to ask a different teacher about any bits
that confuse you, and have it explained in a different way.
Identify your strong and weak areas
Then you'll know where to concentrate your
efforts. Go through your books and put green blobs beside stuff
that you're happy about, and red blobs beside the bits you find
more difficult. Then you know what to ask your teachers about
at those revision sessions.
Thinking of buying a CD-ROM to help you revise?
Don't get the first one that you come across
- it may not suit your style of working.
Find out about the different ones on the market: some are more
"dry" and academic, others are better at boosting your confidence.
Ask your teachers about what's best for you.
Work with somebody else
There's an old saying: "the best way
to learn is to teach".
If you can explain stuff to somebody else, then you know that
you've got it straight yourself.
There's also good advice including "Do's" and "Don'ts" at
any good revision web sites?
What about tutors to help me?
Look online to find tutors in your area. Usually this would be via an agency, but the best way to find a tutor is to ask around your classmates and parents for word-of-mouth recommendations.
Or you may prefer to have your tutoring sessions online, in which case mytutorweb.co.uk is a good place to start.
- Make sure that you have everything that you need
(pens, pencil, calculator & spare batteries, ruler, etc.).
- Keep an eye on the time.
- If you get stuck on a question, don't waste time
on it - move on and come back to it later if you can.
- Check to see how many marks each bit is worth.
write huge chunks for one-mark questions - you won't get any extra
marks for it.
- If a question
is worth two marks, you probably need to say two different things.
(Not say the same thing twice!)
- Read the questions! Each year thousands of people
lose marks because they rushed into an answer before they'd understood
what the question was actually asking.