GCSE and A Level Mocks are an important step in students’ preparation for the summer exams. As well as providing students with valuable perspective on their readiness to sit the actual exams, mocks provide a great opportunity to try out different revision strategies, identify and address gaps in knowledge and build confidence.
It’s common for students to be unfamiliar with the most effective strategies so here are our top five tips for independent revision to improve long-term memory and help your child succeed in exams.
- Spacing: Doing something little and often is far more effective than cramming. Rather than revising one subject for seven hours in one day, it’s better to do one hour of revision for seven days. This is because the time in between allows you to forget and re-learn the information, which cements it in your long-term memory. Whilst there is no ideal amount of time to leave between study sessions, research suggests that how long you want to retain the information is key. As a rough guide, for an exam in a month’s time, then the aim should be to revisit the material around once a week. If the test is in a week, students should try to create time once a day.
- Interleaving: Doing a variety of subjects every day, rather than focusing on a single subject, is proven to be a more effective revision strategy. By helping students make links and distinctions between different subjects, interleaving allows them to understand and practice the different thought processes required for different subjects and problems.
- Testing: Active revision techniques such as tests, quizzes or past papers are some of the most effective ways to improve memory, with students who regularly test themselves remembering significantly more than more those using more passive techniques such as note writing or underlining. Regular testing also make students more immune to the detrimental effects of stress on memory, helping them to perform better in the actual exam.
- A good study partner: Whilst this won’t work for children who are easily distracted, it can be very beneficial in some circumstances. For example, some students become more motivated and focused if their buddy is working hard. Researchers also found that teenagers working through a problem-solving task together became engaged in more exploratory behaviour and learned faster, compared with those working on their own.
- Keep it varied and active: Writing notes and highlighting are two of the most common techniques used by students. However, they are relatively passive and students frequently “switch off”, impacting information recall and understanding. Here are some ideas for more active techniques that students can try:
- Flash cards to help with consolidation and testing of knowledge
- Topic focused posters encapsulating the key points/diagrams
- Spider diagrams to help form connections between points
- Post it notes to make practicing essay planning more interesting/fun
- Online apps such as Quizlet and Gojimo for knowledge consolidation and testing
As for parental help, encouragement and interest can make a spectacular difference to your child’s motivation and ability to cope with the exams, so plenty of non-judgemental support is important. Students also often need some help with planning their revision and striking the right balance between work, play and rest. Doing a revision timetable can be really helpful – for advice, please read our article on “How to Create a Revision Timetable That Works”.
For extra revision or tuition, our Christmas courses are an excellent alternative to independent study. If you are unsure if a course is right for your child, our quick guide to the main tuition options may help.
For more advice, please call our Course Advisors on 01727 744340.