A-level Revision Tips

A-level exam season is a stressful time for everyone, so take the pressure off yourself by starting revision early.

If you’re wondering what you can do to make the whole process easier, here are some tried-and-tested tips to help you feel more in control.

1. Write a revision timetable

Simple but effective, a revision plan takes away the decision of ‘what should I revise today?’, and will save you time by not having to flick through textbooks to decide what to revise next.

You don’t have to plan too far ahead, just a couple of days will do, as it’s meant to be flexible, not set in stone.

Using lots of colour to organise your timetable will also help.

2. Use revision cards

The simple act of writing revision cards helps your brain to digest information, even if you aren’t aware that it’s happening. These small cards can be carried with you.

They’re easy to read in a queue, on a car journey, or if you have five minutes to spare between lessons.

3. Teach someone

Well known as a good way to test your own knowledge and understanding, if you can teach someone a concept you’re already on the way to a successful result.

Test this out on your Mum or Dad – they might learn something new, and realise just what clever offspring they have.

4. Take regular short breaks

A great way to motivate yourself and avoid procrastination is to set a timer for 30 or 45 minutes, and then take a 15 minute break. Setting a stop-time helps you avoid procrastination.

Another way is to say to yourself that you’ll just take a quick look at your notes for 10 minutes. You’ll probably find that you carry on revising after this time – you just needed to pick up your books and start.

5. Prioritise exercise

People often feel lethargic at revision/exam time, but you need to make exercise a priority.

Go for a walk or run in the park, swim with friends – anything to release endorphins and boost the serotonin levels that make you feel happy.

6. Understand your learning style

Each side of the brain is said to control different types of thinking. The left side controls analytical and logical thought, with the right side being in charge of intuition and creativity.

Although this theory is dismissed by some, it’s worth considering which type of thinker you might be as it could affect how you learn.

If the theory is true, a ‘left-brained’ person might learn better using the written word, whereas someone creative may prefer to use visual and auditory revision techniques.

7. Read examiners’ reports, marking schemes and example answers

Getting a feel for what the examiners are looking for allows you to approach each question in the right way.

Example answers from past papers are full of clues as to what is required, unless the syllabus has changed completely.

Every year, the exam boards make public a document that is written by the people who are going to mark your papers. And in it, they tell you what they like to read. They also give you examples of what not to do, so make sure you read as many of these as you can!

Print them off, highlight the important points and stick them up somewhere you can see them clearly.

If you can, look at model answers to previous questions and learn what makes them so great - you never know, the same sort of question might come up again this year!

8. Past papers

By completing lots of past papers you’ll probably start to see a pattern in the questions and types of answers required.

Unless you’ve moved to a new Examining Board or the course has altered significantly, past papers provide a wealth of information about how to tackle each exam.

Learning how to master various answering techniques is vital to succeeding in your exams, so find out as much as you can about how best to answer each type of question.

9. Use revision guides

Widely available in high street bookstores and online, revision guides cut through to the most important topic areas and facts you’ll need to know.

It’s well worth buying one for each subject, or sharing the cost with a friend. There are so many on the market, however, advice from your teacher on which one to buy would be helpful.

It’s important to look after yourself when revising, so get plenty of sleep, eat well and make sure you take enough exercise so you feel energised and ready to tackle the exams. 

10. Start early

Don't cram in all your revision at the last minute, as this will just lead to panic and stress.

If you start weeks in advance you'll be able to pace yourself and it means you can go to teachers for help on topics you don't fully understand.

Start putting together your revision notes around late March/early April in time for exams in June.

11. Make time for yourself

Remember that revising for exams doesn't mean being chained to your desk for 8 hours a day - as well as taking regaular breaks throughout the day, make sure you arrange to do more fun things, such as going to the cinema, taking a shopping trip into town, or playing your favourite sport.

12. Stay focused

Even though you have a revision timetable, it doesn't mean you have to stick to it all the time.

If you find your mind drifting and getting bored of a particular topic, you can always move on to something else, and make a note to come back to it later.

13. Keep sustenance close

Revising for exams can be a very busy time, so it's important not to forget to eat and drink properly during that time.

Always keep supplies of healthy brain food close by such as bananas, blueberries, nuts and dark chocolate.

Also remember to stay hydrated and drink plenty of water, especially if the weather is warm.

14. Check the syllabus

If you're uncertain about what might come up in the exam, it's a good idea to print off a copy of the syllabus so you can cover everything, and tick it off as you do so.

This way, you'll know that you have all bases covered and won't be surprised by any of the questions.

15. Make mind maps

This is another great way of learning lots of related information.

Use colours if it helps, and put them up on the walls of your room where you can easily see them.

16. Find a quiet place to study

This doesn't necassarily have to be your room - it could be the garden, a library or a friend's house. As long as it's somewhere peaceful without any distractions, then this is fine.

It's also best to switch off your music while studying,so you don't end up listening to it instead of actually revising! (with the possible exception of classical music, which is often soothing and may help you focus).

Put your mobile phone, iPad and any other possible distraction out of sight and/or reach while studying, so you're not tempted to read the news, play games, message your mates, etc.

17. Get a good night's sleep

Is this is vital if you are going to revise effectively each day.

Try not to go to bed too late, and get at least 8 hours of sleep if possible, so you are refreshed and ready the following morning. Of course, this doesn't mean you can't plan an evening out at the weekend with your mates!

18. Don't panic! (and relax)

Whatever happens, try not to panic about your upcoming exams - everyone is in the same boat here, and you're not the only one worrying how things will go on the day.

Just remember that all you can do is revise to prepare yourself as much as possible, and do your best when you sit the exam. Don't assume your future will be ruined if you don't get that A in Biology!

Further information

For more tips and advice on revising for exams, please see: