Avoid these Time-wasting A level Revision Techniques


If you feel the exam period rapidly approaching then you are probably looking to switch your revision up a gear. As the pressure mounts however even the best students get tired. It is all too easy to start habits and ‘revision techniques’ that are actually damaging to your progress.

The following points don’t apply to everyone but you need to check if they apply to you. Think about each habit and ask if you are really learning effectively.


    1. Highlighting everything Highlighting is supposed to link keywords and phrases in a text heavy document, not whole sections of a page. If you over use colour your mind will lose focus and render all efforts void. Have a legend which allocates meaning to each highlighter so your mind automatically knows what it is looking at before you read the word. Either sort by category or use the colours to signify how hard the content is to remember.
    2. Reading passively As mentioned in our last post, sometimes simply reading the text over and over is the fastest way of getting the information into your brain. What doesn’t work however is mindlessly reading the text and not concentrating. This is a waste of time and only serves to make you feel like you’re doing something constructive. If you don’t have the energy to work properly take a break instead. As you reread the text you can start to speed read and pick up on the pertinent point as required. Check out this guide on speed reading for revision.
    3. Making verbatim notes Making notes from your old work or textbooks is supposed to be a summary of the information. Much like highlighting, copying out whole blocks of text will really slow down the learning process. Reserve this only for complex or the hardest to remember points.
    4. Forgetting the syllabus With so much to remember, it can be easy just to sit down with your notes and textbooks without a plan. Without keeping the A level syllabus to hand and making sure your haven’t missed anything you are risking failure.
    5. Learning what you already know When you are several weeks into revision, you can begin to mentally slow down and tire. Don’t be tempted to prioritise the ‘easy bits’. Yes you do have to consolidate the learning you have already done but don’t let the difficult sections be forgotten. Concentrating on subject areas you already know can give you a false sense of security and make you take your foot off the pedal.
    6. Listening to hearsay “They never test that in the A level exam” are some of the worst words to hear from another student. While exam boards do show preference for some parts of the syllabus, there are also only a limited number of ways to ask the same question. This means that they do rotate through the material year on year, make sure you don’t get caught out with huge gaps in your knowledge.
    7. Learning Facts, not Concepts Yes there are many specific dates, facts and figures to learn in your A levels. Luckily however, they are all grouped into their relevant subjects. It is amazing how many students miss this point, but this is why cramming is so much harder than gradual learning. Reading around the subject and fully understanding it as a whole provides a framework for all those facts and figures to sit in. If you are familiar with the general thinking of the subject at hand you are much more likely to notice when something is out of place and much more likely to be able to make an educated guess at something you don’t know.
    8. Not making a real timetable Biology on Tuesday and Maths on a Wednesday is not a good plan. Even if you add set times to this list you still are not preparing well for your exams. In order to learn effectively and cover all required parts of the subject, you need to break down each subject into manageable chunks. Only then can you start to work out exactly how long it will take you to do each and the subject as a whole. Armed with this knowledge you can then make an A level revision timetable based on your learning needs and the time left before your exams.
    9. Not taking time off Everyone needs some mental rest, even if you are trying to cram before an exam. Your mind needs space and time to be able to digest all the information that it has been absorbing over the last days and weeks. If you stay up late and wake early to fit even more revision in, say goodbye to mental stability and memory recall. The effects of poor sleep on learning and cognition; including work and task performance; and personal life, including personal well-being and relationships are well documented. It is a negative spiral that keeps on going until you rest properly. Don’t fall into the trap of exhausting yourself right before the exam.
    10. Losing Perspective Part of the problem with the A level bubble is that revision and grades become your world. With the anticipation of grades and university still months off your mind can imagine the worst scenario on results day. Keep in mind that worry will do you no good and likely worsen your marks. Concentrate on what you can control and keep revising in a steady and consistent manner to get the grades you deserve.


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