The revision period is, arguably, the most difficult part of any exam process. The exam itself – usually between one and three hours – can be portrayed as a performance of sorts: a chance to use all the knowledge you have built up over several years, crafted neatly into a well-rounded response to a question or series of questions.
While pressure and nerves can undoubtedly make it an uncomfortable experience, the knowledge that it is the culmination of the entire process should provide some comfort.
From your desk in the exam hall, a summer empty of academic or curricular concerns is only hours away. However, from your revision desk, in the midst of a chilly April and with weeks of revision stretching out in front of you, the end can seem very far off.
While it will not make the time go any faster, nor unfortunately will it make the process any more “fun”, a well-structured revision plan can formalise your revision, and can act as a telescope through which you can spy those post-exam summer holidays.
Below are my top tips for creating a well-structured and comprehensive revision plan which, if adhered to, will provide the best chance of success in the summer.
It ought to go without saying that planning your revision timetable must be done before anything else, to ensure there is enough time for comprehensive coverage of all subjects.
GCSE students, for example, usually study between eight and twelve subjects. If you plan to devote a week revising each subject, then that will require two or three months of revision.
With most exams starting at the end of May, the revision plan should be in place by the end of March at least.
Initial and continual assessment
As well as being an exercise in memory and assessment, revision should be a process of improvement. In order to chart your development effectively, we recommend that our students attempt practice papers in each subject, marked according to the relevant mark scheme and curriculum.
This allows you to establish a base from which, via further and regular assessment, you can judge your progress. It will also help you identify which subjects, modules and topics require more work (see below for more on this).
Order your subjects strategically
The best revision plans have an element of strategy to their creation. Ordering your subjects in an effective manner can help to do this.
For example, scheduling English revision to appear early in your revision plan may provide useful when revising essay-based subjects such as History, Religious Studies and Politics later on.
Similarly, choosing Maths to be one of the first subjects that you revise may prove invaluable when studying numerical or statistical subjects such as Physics, Economics and Business Studies.
This practical layering of knowledge can reinforce and enhance your revision for each subject. Balancing this process with the demands of the exam timetable – for example, starting with a subject that appears early on in the exam timetable – makes for an extremely prudent approach.
Each subject is different
You should not feel as though you must devote an equal amount of time to each subject, since there may be a variety of reasons why certain subjects may require more revision.
For example, Modern Foreign Languages tend to be highly content driven (therefore requiring a good deal of factual memory learning), whereas English Literature will tend to be more essay-based (therefore more concerned with form than specific content).
Depending on your learning style, you may find one easier than the other. More unusual exam types, such as controlled coursework and performance exams, require their own unique attention.
Not only this, but your time allocation may be dependent on your own aptitude in that subject (more on that below). Ultimately, when structuring your revision plan, you must make sure that sufficient “blank” time is left close to the exam to revisit those subjects, modules or topics that you feel require particular last-minute attention.
Focus on strengths and weaknesses
A large part of planning how much time to spend on each subject will be based on how much attention you feel each subject requires.
Obviously, it is usually recommended to spend the majority of your time on those subjects, modules or topics that you have found more difficult. However, it is vital that you also spend due time focusing on traditional areas of academic strength.
Not only should you refresh those areas to make sure you are not caught out due to overconfidence in the exam, but there may be certain topics or elements within the general subject or module that you are less familiar with.
It is important, therefore, that every area of study is covered at least once, and that nothing is glossed over.
Strict yet flexible
Clearly, it is important both to create a revision plan and stick to it. Not only does this foster mental discipline, it also ensures that every topic area will be covered at least once in the run-up to each exam.
Falling behind early could mean that a crucial area is missed out, resulting in valuable marks being dropped. However, while I encourage you to stick to your plan as much as possible, you must be able to exert a degree of flexibility.
If one subject, module or topic takes longer than expected, then you should not panic, as hopefully the time can be made up in the planned “blank” space.
Furthermore, you must also make allowances for your life outside of revision. Playing sport, meeting friends and going to concerts are all important outlets you should use to blow off steam.
Total abstinence is not necessary – nor, indeed, is it practical – but you must make sure that you find a healthy balance, which is constantly reweighed in favour of revision as you get closer to the exams.
A device more commonly associated with creating revision notes, colour coding is a useful memory aid that can allow you to unify all the elements of your revision.
Whether coded per subject, per module or per topic, matching the colours in your plan to your revision notes can provide an important subconscious link that may help your memory recall in the exam.
Turn it into a poster
Having created your plan, we encourage that they are scaled up and then printed off, ideally to A3 or even A2 size. Having a physical version is useful for two reasons.
Firstly, the larger your plan, the more room you may have to make any additional notes to comment on each revision session – for instance, to note if you had time to explore additional topic areas, or if there was not enough time to finish certain topics.
Secondly, a physical copy will provide the means for some well-needed catharsis, allowing you to tick off the days as the exams approach.
A balance of these eight elements will help you create a comprehensive and well-organised revision plan, regulated by frequent practice of both past papers and mock exams. The tough part of the process is making sure you stick to it.
William Stadlen is Director and Lead Consultant at Holland Park Tuition & Education Consultants
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In Health and Social Care, we assess 8 of the 12 units through coursework. The amount of coursework students must complete depends on the award they are entered for. Check the specification section for more details.
The coursework assignments involve a number of activities including:
- investigative reports;
- case studies;
- a health education campaign; and
- the design of an information pack.
Each coursework unit is worth 16.66 percent of a full GCE. Teachers mark the coursework items and we moderate them. Centres must submit coursework for moderation in January or May.
Teachers must guide and advise students in the production of their coursework. While some work, particularly in the early planning stages, may take part in groups, the input of the individual student must be clearly identified and the judgements and conclusions reached be his/her own.
For more information on coursework, see the full specification.