Our latest Instagram Live was hosted by education expert Manisha, from iXL Tutors. We know that exams are going ahead in 2022 and that many students are feeling very nervous, especially as it’s been a while since exams have taken place as normal. Manisha gave us some truly excellent advice on revising for GCSEs and A levels, much needed for many teenagers at the moment as they struggle through mocks. Here’s a summary of Manisha’s top revision tips for GCSEs and A levels:
Manisha’s top tips
- Do your revision little and often, as this will help cement the knowledge in your long term memory. It’s so much better to do an hour a week over a long period of time rather than cram 7 hours in the day before an exam! This is especially important for GCSE subjects that you are planning to take on to A level, as you will need that core knowledge and solid foundation.
- Do a variety of subjects each day. This will allow you to practise the different techniques that different subjects need.
- Use a variety of different written methods such as tests, quizzes and past papers. Regular testing helps to improve your memory. It also helps to familiarise yourself with the questions – how they’re worded, the techniques and timing. One of the biggest problems students are experiencing at the moment, due to Covid, is issues with timing. If you can get really comfortable with practising questions now, you will be happy that your timing will be perfect. Using lots of different past papers can also help reduce exam stress, as you get more familiar with how the exam will be structured and how the questions will be worded.
- Find a study partner. This won’t work for everyone but if you can find someone you can work well with, who’s hard-working and doing the same subjects as you, it can be amazingly effective. I’ve seen some fantastic study groups put together by students. You can feed off each other, ask each other questions, clarify things you don’t understand and keep each other motivated when you could get distracted. Just make sure you try and avoid working with students who have the same areas of weakness as you.
- Vary the techniques that you’re using. For example, try using flashcards, posters and spider diagrams to create connections between different topics. Look at online apps and websites (I’ve suggested some below). Use a variety of these so that you understand what works best for you. That’s what a lot of students find difficult, especially with GCSEs, as they’re the first big set of exams that you do. You won’t necessarily be sure what method you should use at first and that’s totally normal.
- Make a timetable. BUT include school, sleep, social time with family and friends, and exercise as well as revision.
Techniques and resources
Exam specifications are basically where the exam board sets out everything that you will cover in that subject; everything that they can test you on. If it’s not in the specification, they can’t test you on it. Get a copy of the specifications and RAG rate it. Highlight everything in red that you’re really uncomfortable with, in amber the topics that you’re a little bit shaky on and in green the ones you’re really happy about. This will give you a good idea of which areas you need to focus on first.
Mind maps are another great technique. They work in most subjects and help you develop connections between different topics.
Lots of our students love using mnemonics. For example, one we use in business studies is SCORE – Sector and Size of the business, who the Competition is, the Objectives of the firm etc. It’s a really helpful way to remember different ways to tackle questions when you’re in an exam.
When you’re doing past papers, it’s really helpful to download the mark scheme and the examiners’ report at the same time. These are available free on exam boards’ websites. You can mark past papers yourself. It gives you an idea how you can improve when answering questions. But don’t forget to look at the examiners’ report too. This is written by the examiners after they’ve marked all the papers and it gives students tips about areas that are done well in questions and areas that need to be developed. You can use these to get an idea of what the examiners’ are looking for when it comes to the different questions. It’s my absolute top tip – they’re just not used enough by students.
Some students love songs – they’re a really creative way of learning different topics. I’ve seen some really fantastic science raps recently! They’re brilliant for complex topics at GCSE.
YouTube is full of educational videos for students. Use that to your advantage!
There are so many different tools out there for you. We find that students don’t utilise podcasts as much as they could. For economics A level, for example, there are some amazing podcasts available. For most subjects, there are some really excellent podcasts that you can use to develop your knowledge and understanding.
There are many subject-specific websites and apps but some general ones are:
- Kahoot, which is great for quizzing yourself and has a competitive element where you can play against each other.
- Seneca is fantastic because it has videos and multiple choice questions. It covers most subjects from primary through to A level, and covers the different exam boards as well.
- Quizlet is a brilliant app to use on the move.
- BBC Bitesize has a whole different range of subjects.
What do you do if you’re lacking motivation?
- Think about your goal. Is it to get a certain grade at GCSE so that you can study a subject at A level? Do you want to get certain grades to do an apprenticeship? It really helps to keep your goal in mind.
- Mock exams will help to remind you about how close you are to achieving your goals. They will cement for you some areas that you need to work on but also some areas that you’re really good at, whether it’s content or technique. Have a careful think about these.
- Parents – if your teens are really struggling with motivation, it’s important to talk to them about positive mindset and helping them to develop this. There are a few ways that you can do this with them. Talk to them about their work and encourage them to talk to their teachers and to their fellow students. Suggest that they try out different learning techniques. Finally, make sure they are thinking about self-care and maintaining good mental health.
Dealing with exam stress
Look into breathing and relaxation exercises, as they can be really helpful, especially when you’re actually in the exam itself.
Spend some time away from phones and screens on a daily basis.
Engage with a hobby, something you enjoy and that takes you out of your day-to-day routine. It’s really good for your brain to focus on something else, as this will help you to be more productive when you go back to your revision.
If you enjoy reading, reading for pleasure is a great distraction.
Eat well, sleep well and take regular exercise.
Finally, if you’re really struggling, talk to someone – a parent, a friend, a teacher or anyone that is around you. Tell them how you’re feeling and they will be able to help you manage the stress.
We really hope you’ve found these revision tips for GCSEs and A levels useful. If you’d like more help from Manisha, iXLTutors offers one-on-one tutoring and also make educational materials for students and for schools such as revision guides and booklets. If you’d like to listen to the Instagram Live, you can find it here.
And if you’d like to find out more about managing stress and anxiety, the Teen Mental Health section of our blog has some excellent articles.
Louise & Anna x