How to effectively step up from Year 12 to 13

Our expert tutor, Mike, offers advice on how to effectively transition from Year 12 to Year 13 Chemistry. However, many of the points that will be discussed can be applied to most, if not all, of your studies at this level.

As you will have been made aware, the transition from GCSE to A-level is a sharp learning curve, especially in subjects where the models (the ideas you are taught) grow in their complexity. This is especially difficult within Chemistry – the ideas change from day 1 and this is usually a big shock to the system.

Does it get any harder when moving from Year 12 into Year 13?

In short, the answer is yes. The models do grow in complexity and require you to have a firm grasp on the ideas from the previous year. How can you prepare yourself in advance, bearing in mind that you also have your UCAS applications and UKCAT exams for people hoping to get into medical school?

Here are some ideas to help you make that transition as smooth as possible:

  • Complete a set of timed AS papers all from the same year and mark them so you can baseline your own ability. This will highlight any areas that are strong and weak.
    • Note what soft skills are needing to be improved.
    • Are you showing all of your working on calculations, using the correct number of significant figures and are your units of measurement correct?
    • Most importantly of all, do you fully understand the topics being assessed?
  • With this information, RAG rate (Red, Amber, Green) the Year 12 specification. This will focus your attention more on the areas that need to be developed.
  • When you have this information, writing out revision notes and reading around the subject can and will deepen your understanding.

How to make practical notes:

  • Take a sheet of A3 paper and put a topic in the centre, and in a black pen write all you can remember (without using a revision guide) about the topic making links in a spider diagram.
  • Using this you can then use the information to practice answering past paper questions.
  • Then mark the questions and add any extra information that you have missed off in a different colour pen.
  • Repeat this process until all of the information required is on your diagram.

This does a number of things. It gives you a revision document to use, but also highlights the areas that need learning so you can spend more effective time revising i.e. the information you have added in different colours.

Using Diagrams for Revision

When utilising the diagrams for revision purposes the key here is little and often. Psychologists will tell you that effective revision comes from repeated rehearsal, i.e. revising in small chunks.
I refer to this as ‘guerilla revision’. For example, carry around in a plastic wallet containing one of your revision diagrams, read it through and try to recall parts of it.

Think about this – when listening to music to a song you like, how long does it take you to learn the words? Do you go out of your way to learn them or do you learn by repetition?

This may only be a 10-15 minute exercise, but if completed 7 times a week, this can result in nearly 2 hours of revision. Think of all those times where you waste 15 minutes scrolling through social media, looking at cat photos, getting yourself ready for college in front of the mirror. Why not put your revision diagram up on your mirror and multi task?

Exploit the examiners reports

Every year, the Chief Examiner for specific papers will write a report about common mistakes that students make on each question. Incorporate these onto your revision diagrams as well any specialist language that you need to successfully answer the questions.

Attempting the calculations

In Year 13, the calculations often come as multi-stage longer affairs, often requiring you to calculate one thing to be used in a further more advanced idea.

These carry larger tariffs of marks on the paper, and are a lot easier than they look. You just need to be clear and logical in your approach to them.

Remember that the examiners are trying to give you marks (their brief), so make it easy for them to see where you have worked out the answer. This allows them to mark your answers more efficiently and with greater accuracy.

Above all, practice them. Be familiar with the buttons on your calculator and use the same type of calculator – you get used to how they work.

Year 13

In conclusion, Year 13 is often a very stressful year with all of the things that are going on and this is also enhanced by the pressure that you will put on yourself.
If you begin your revision process early (I advise October half term), then you will be better prepared for your exams the following year. And don’t forget that Justin Craig offers a wide range of revision classes and courses to further boost your confidence.

Good luck and work hard – its ultimately worth the extra effort!