When should you start revising for GCSEs and A Levels?
For a generation of students used to updating their Instagram status every few minutes, the summer exams may seem like a long time away. But add up everything that needs to be done between now and then – from rereading (or just reading) Great Expectations to perfecting French verb conjugations – and suddenly leaving revision until the Easter holidays doesn’t feel so wise.
So the big questions are: How and when to begin revising? How to get the most out of revision time? And, most importantly, how to end up with the best grades you can?
Fortunately, decades of research carried out by psychologists about learning and memory has produced some clear advice: Start early, learn in short bursts, test yourself regularly and space out your revision.
Start revising early
There’s no simple answer to this – it all depends on your age, maturity, motivation and concentration skills. However, you should aim to start revising as early as possible, and make sure you have time set aside to keep going. The real key is to make sure that revision sessions are goal rather than time-oriented. Setting a goal – like learning imperfect verb conjugations for French – makes the learning process much more efficient, as you’ll find yourself focusing on only the most relevant material.
Learn in short bursts
As mentioned in an earlier version of our revision tips, it’s important to be organised to make the best use of your time. For example, you’ll want to create a realistic timetable which includes time for past papers, relaxation and plenty of breaks. Our advice is to start with shorter sessions – of around 15 to 20 minutes – as it’s much better to have shorter periods of effective revision than hours of daydreaming.
Test yourself regularly
Using the exam specification, it’s worth doing a quick self assessment of how confident you are on each topic; we’ve found a simple ‘traffic light’ system works well. You can also use this as the basis for preparing your revision timetable and working out how much time you need to spend on each topic.
Space out your revision
While it’s generally accepted that more work leads to better grades, it’s also important to acknowledge that the brain needs rest and that your memory works best when revision is spread out. Instead of cramming or pulling all-nighters, our advice would be to start sooner rather than later and to use a timetable to make revision more manageable and maintain motivation.
For many students, however, spreading out revision, rather than cramming, is easier said than done. Commonly students find it difficult to think ahead, being focused on the immediate demands of school work, extra-curricular activities and/or their social lives. However, no matter the reason, if you are organised enough, you can spend less time revising and remember more.
At Justin Craig, we have scheduled our courses with that knowledge in mind, running subject specific revision courses during all of the school holidays. Our courses are a great opportunity to give students a revision boost; either as a pick up after recent disappointing mock results or to help prepare for mocks and school assessments.
In addition to addressing knowledge gaps and/or exam technique concerns, students really value the opportunity to share information and revision strategies with other students. Access to expert tutors also provides students with invaluable insights and tips, as well as helping them sharpen up their approach to revising and tackling exam papers.
With over 40 years of experience, we also know that student learning styles, concerns and motivations vary significantly. Not knowing how to approach revision is frequently a deterrent to students starting at all. With this in mind, we offer revision courses to help students understand what will work best for them, together with strategies and techniques to manage exam stress, maximise exam performance and help with revision planning throughout the year.