For students approaching GCSEs or A Levels, the prospect of preparing for these key exams can be daunting. Although the mocks may just be over and the exams still a few months away, it’s not too early to start preparing, particularly if you want to ace those summer exams.
It may not make the time go any faster, nor make the process any more “fun”, however a good revision timetable can make a difference. Not only can it make revision more manageable and effective, a good timetable will also help make the student’s life a little easier and less stressful. For some students, this may simply be an extension of an existing study routine. However, for many others, focused revision only kicks off at the start of the Easter holidays.
Below are our top tips for creating an effective and realistic revision timetable:
Do your timetable early
It might be stating the obvious, but planning your revision timetable must be done before anything else, to ensure there is enough time for comprehensive coverage of all subjects.
For example, GCSE students who typically study 8-12 subjects may need 2-3 months of revision, assuming a minimum of 1 week revision per subject. With exams starting in mid May, this means that students should aim to have their revision plan ready by the end of March at the latest.
Start with a self assessment
Don’t feel that you need to allocate an equal amount of time to each subject as there may be a variety of reasons why certain subjects may require more revision.
A large part of planning how much time to spend on each subject will be based on how much attention you feel each subject requires. Whilst teacher feedback and mocks are a useful guide, using the detailed exam specification to do a self assessment with a simple red/amber/green system can help identify strengths/weakness more clearly.
Whilst it makes sense to spend the majority of your time on those areas that you find more difficult, it is important that every area of study is covered at least once, and that nothing is glossed over.
Build in time for practice questions, past papers and marking
Allowing plenty of time for practice questions, past papers and marking is vital for a number of reasons. Not only will students become more comfortable navigating the exam paper, doing past papers and practice questions help embed understanding, identify knowledge/skill gaps as well as providing a means of assessing progress.
Rather than leaving practice questions to the end of your revision, it’s best to test your self at the end of each module so that you can identify any particularly weak areas that you need to revisit.
Ensure you allow for some flexibility and time for relaxation
Having a comprehensive yet realistic and achievable revision plan is critical. Falling behind early may tempt students to give up on the plan or mean that a crucial area is missed out. Whilst it’s important to stick to your plan as much as possible, you must be able to exert a degree of flexibility.
One way of building in some flexibility is to include sufficient “blank” time close to the exam to revisit those subjects, modules or topics that you feel require particular last-minute attention.
If one subject, module or topic takes longer than expected, then don’t panic, as hopefully the time can be made up in the planned “blank” space.
It’s also essential to leave time for regular breaks during the day and time for relaxation, sport and friends. While each student will have different needs, the key is to find a healthy balance and recognise that this may change as you get closer to the exams.
Make it easy to read and use
Colour coding is a useful memory aid that can allow you to unify all the elements of your revision. Whether coded per subject, per module or per topic, matching the colours in your plan to your revision notes can provide an important subconscious link that may help your memory recall in the exam.
Having created your plan, we encourage that they are scaled up and then printed off, ideally to A3 or even A2 size. Having a physical version is useful for two reasons. Firstly, the larger your plan, the more room you may have to make any additional notes to comment on each revision session eg topics you need to revisit. Secondly, it can be highly motivating and cathartic to tick off the days as the exams approach.
Creating a revision plan that works may take a bit of time but, in our experience, it’s a really good investment and can make a real difference to student motivation, revision effectiveness, stress management and, ultimately, exam success.
For more advice from Justin Craig Education on how to achieve exam success, read our Exam Survival Guide www.justincraig.ac.uk/level-survival-guide