Have you read Barnaby Lenon’s highly controversial blog article yet? Whilst many students and experts have branded his comments regarding Easter Revision as “traditionalist nonsense” and “unrealistic”, others such as Natasha, now in her final year at Queen Mary University of London, said that she relied on at least seven hours of study a day in the Easter holidays during her GCSEs and A-levels.
“Looking back, there is no way I would have been able to properly cover all the content you need to revise in fewer than seven hours a day. I can’t see how you can get top grades and study fewer hours,” she said.
Mr Lenon, Chairman of the Independent Schools Council and former headteacher at Harrow, published the recommendations on his blog. He said: “The best GCSE and A-level results don’t go to the cleverest students – they go to those who revised in the Easter holidays.”
With so much controversy, how are parents meant to know what’s best for their child? Here are our top tips for parents and GCSE/A level students on revising over the Easter Holidays.
Everyone is different
The reality is that there is no miracle number for how many hours you should study for an exam as everyone has different capabilities and learning styles. However, a good starting point is to look at what students themselves are saying. According to The Student Room, between 15 – 20 hours is the average revision time for a massive community of students. Think that’s too much or too little? Why not try it for a week and adjust your revision time if necessary? The key thing to remember is that you need to understand and recall the key topics of each subject.
Start with a self assessment
The first step in preparing for any exam is to work out exactly what you know and what you don’t know! Look at your course specification or outline and annotate topics red/amber/green to reflect how confident/able you feel. This way you can prioritise your workload, which can help you decide what subjects may need more hours of revision.
Create a realistic revision plan
A good revision plan can make a real difference, making revision more manageable and helping students stay motivated by keeping track of progress and revision hours. Read our guide on creating a revision plan that works here. For students who find planning really difficult or daunting, start by doing a week long timetable which just includes the topics you’d like to cover for the next week.
Make revision productive
In general, it’s not about how many hours you spend but about how much you get done in those hours. Once you’ve understood a topic, it’s time to memorise by reviewing and testing yourself on the key points regularly over the coming weeks. If you are really struggling with a topic and have run over your allocated time, ask for help from a teacher or friend. For students who struggle to revise independently or feel they have knowledge or skill gaps, Revision Courses are a really effective use of revision time. Read our article on “Is an Revision Course Right for You”.
If you are happy studying independently, try this approach to structuring your revision:
- Make sure notes are complete & that you understand the topic (allocate hours depending on difficulty/confidence)
- Review the topic & refine/summarise key points (on a different day for 30-60min)
- Do a second review and try testing yourself (on another day for 30-60 minutes)
- Short refreshers until you’ve committed the topic to memory (15 minutes).
No matter how many hours you spend on revision, if you don’t test yourself then you won’t be fully prepared for the exam. Doing practice questions and past papers will show you if you have any gaps in your knowledge, so you know what to dedicate more hours to in your revision plan. It will also help students improve their exam technique skills.