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Planning revision for the 2 year A level syllabus

This article has been written by Dr David Crouch at Justin Craig Education

Following changes from the department for education, students now studying A Levels will have to sit all their exams in each subject at the end of the 2 year course in place of sitting half the course at the first year. In this article we provide top tips on how to plan for success in revising an A level.

An hour for an hour

Whether you are starting in year 12 or year 13 one key to success is not to leave preparation until the last minute. A good rule of thumb is to spend an hour rewriting or going through your notes for every hour of “academic study” in your lessons.

Some students find it easier to revise from notes they have written themselves rather than from a text book. Either way the more you familiarise yourself with the material the easier it will be at the end of the course.

Try to set aside a regular time each week to focus on each subject outside of the lesson and stick to it. Many students find doing this in groups helps motivate them to stick to the schedule and makes it more enjoyable but beware to remove distractions such as TV and phones when you do it!

Topic tests, home works and mocks 

While these don’t necessarily count towards your final grade, take them seriously and you will find they can help you highlight your weaker and stronger areas allowing you time to work on them before you really need them. Correcting your own work in a different colour is a quick way make things stand out that you need to remember.

Although everyone likes to get full marks, it is knowing how to improve the bits you get wrong that will help you gain valuable UCAS points. You may also find that your school will take these into account when giving you a UCAS predicted grade.

Using the specification

Each subject has its own specification, free to download from the exam board eg AQA. These documents detail exactly what you need to know (and what can turn up in the exam)

A quick and easy way to use them is to “RAG” them as you finish each topic at school or college. Simply print the specification are for that topic, read each bullet point and write “R” (red) for things you don’t understand, “G” (good) for the bits you are comfortable with and “A” (amber) for everything else. Try to revise the things you have coded “R” and “A” first. At the end of the course pick up these specifications and check you are still OK with the areas previously coded “R” and “A”.

You may find that your school or college hasn’t updated to the new text books – if you use the specifications well it will be easy for you to realise what you do and don’t need from an out of date text book.

New A level subjects all have specimen tests you can practice. Marking these against the mark schemes is an excellent way of getting you thinking like an examiner.

Typically each subject will have 2 specimen tests but you can still access the “legacy” exams on the exam board website.

Legacy tests are the tests that were used before the change to the new A level and will give you lots of extra practice. Be sure to use your specification to identify which questions/ topics are no longer relevant to your new A level. Some students also read the “examiner” reports for extra tips on exam technique direct from the examiners.

Past papers / exam reports/ revision guide 

Revision guides are also a great resource particularly if you find organising your work difficult. They are often a lot smaller and more concise than a text book and can give you the “instant answer” you may be looking for. If you do use revision guides, be sure to use one that matches your specification. Using it from the very start of the course will help you become more familiar with its style.

Know what revision strategies work for you 

There are many different methods for revising from using lists or tables to assimilate information to creating mind maps where short bubbles of similar information are linked together with colour coded lines. Whatever method you use, make sure you choose what works for you – talking to your class mates, tutors and teachers is a good way to find out what methods exist and don’t be afraid to try something new.

At Justin Craig, students often find that working in small groups over a 3 or 4 day revision course is a great way of sharing information and revision strategies under the watchful eye of an expert tutor many of who are examiners or heads of departments. These insights into what to revise and exam technique can be invaluable in giving you the tools you need to create a good revision time table several months before the public exams and ensure you fulfil your potential.

Justin Craig is the UK's leading provider of GCSE, AS & A2 revision courses with over 30 years experience, and centres nationwide. Pioneering group tutoring and revision since 1981, Justin Craig has helped over 100,000 UK students secure their university place. For further information, call 01727 236135.