How can we best prepare students for A Level revision?
Getting our students to revise for A Levels should be simple. Let’s face it they chose the subjects and they already know about revision from their GCSEs… but it is completely different.
Firstly the depth of knowledge they need for their exams is considerably greater and on top of that, with the recent changes, they have two years’ worth of study all examined at the end of Year 13. So it’s really tough!
A Guide To Good A Level Revision
I want to offer some advice for teachers to be able to use to guide their students through the next few months to prepare for their exams. This time is crucial for their success!
1. Start early
For A Levels the students need to have a deep understanding of the work you have covered over the last two years. This can only be achieved by good quality revision over time allowing the students to go over everything, carefully.
2. Plan for perfection
The most important part of their revision is to write a revision time table. They will all have anywhere between two to four subjects to study for. Of course we all think our own subject is the most important but for them they need to focus on them all equally. They need their revision broken up into manageable chunks accounting for the all-important down time too.
Our brains need to rest and this is a very important message to get across to our students. Sleep and doing other activities they enjoy must be a part of their schedule.
As Magdelena Bak-Maier says in her post, “When you sleep, the brain keeps working for you. Cleaning up, reorganising, making sense of all the things that happen during the day. During sleep your mind also creates a much needed integration between your recent memories and your past memories and experiences so it can produce meaning and continuity.”
3. Mix it up
Revision can get boring but a variety of activities can make all the difference.
There is some value in writing up and organising their notes from the two years so this should be included, but encourage your students to look at imaginative ways of doing this. Using colour, tables, diagrams and mind mapping are all great ways to engage with their work. This allows the students to go over the knowledge again but to also make the all-important connections between the different aspects of the course.
Analysis of subject content is a huge part of all A Levels, often accounting for more marks in the final exams. It’s important that your students concentrate on the analysis of their subject as this is where the connections come from. There are many websites and useful tools on the internet too. Watching YouTube videos could be a great way to break up the monotony and consolidate their learning.
But do warn them that too much screen time can also be detrimental, so good old fashioned pen and paper is still a useful tool.
4. Word perfect
Subject specific terminology is essential. A dictionary of terms including what they mean and when to use them can be a useful step in the revision process.
5. Practice makes perfect
Having a go at answering lots and lots of exam questions is vital. Many courses have changed this year but often the content and knowledge remains the same. If it’s anything like my subject the exam board have released only one sample paper so I suggest you dig out and adapt some old questions.
Don’t worry about the increased marking load as you can encourage your students to mark their own answers using the mark scheme. This is a great learning experience and shows them just what the exam board are looking for. If you are new to teaching A Level see if there is a Facebook or online group for your subject out there. Many teachers are happy to share!
6. Where and when
The working space your students chose to revise in is important. It needs to be quiet with little or no interruptions. This isn’t always home for some students so going somewhere like a library could be a good option to get the hours in away from home.
7. Work together
Encourage your students to work together at times. This should form part but not all of their revision. Sharing thoughts and ideas can be fun and it’s good to work together on this.
8. Target revision
As they approach their exams encourage your students to do more targeted revision. What do they know, what don’t they know? Now is the time to focus on the bits they find harder. It is natural for us to avoid the things we find harder. Using a RAG (Red, Amber, Green) analysis or something similar from the course specification could highlight the bits that need more focus as the exams get closer.
I think it is really important that we guide and encourage our students through this time. Many of them won’t feel confident with revision so will need ideas from you and many of them will find this time very stressful with pressure on them from all angles. Remind them that their best is good enough.