Spring is a season of beauty with bluebells and apple blossoms, and the cuckoo’s return, but for A-level candidates, it’s the season of stress and revision. So, how can they make the best use of their time? The advice from last year’s candidates who received the grades that helped them secure their first choice of university places, is to focus on the effort put into revision, not just the amount of time spent. It’s about building neuron connections rather than gently massaging the brain while scrolling through social media. Breaks and occasional nights out are also needed to recharge.
Examiners agree that revision should not be a marathon, but an assault course. They advise students to ensure their mental wellbeing during this stressful time. A good night’s sleep and a nutritious breakfast on the day of the exam are crucial. However, total recall of the syllabus and churning out what you know will not guarantee high scores. How information is used matters too. Humanities candidates need to select the right information to answer questions and analyze and evaluate it. It’s equally important for maths and science candidates to apply formulas and knowledge to different situations.
Past papers provide hurdles for preparing for exams. Candidates can review annual examination reports for each subject posted on exam boards’ websites. Included in some of them are candidates’ handwritten answers with a commentary on where they gained or lost marks.
Last year’s candidates have helpful tips for revision. Max Randall spent a lot of time doing past paper questions. It showed him what the examiners were looking for. Tierney Mizell found that taking time for herself helped reduce stress levels, although practice questions are useful too. Vikram Kumar Khosla used flashcards to note the most critical content. Knowing the exam structure is essential and critical dates, and key facts are often handy. Reuben J Mitchell recommends knowing how to apply knowledge, rather than memorizing it.
Meet Rebecca Thorpe, an 18-year-old with a BA combined honours degree from Newcastle University. Her A-levels include psychology, English language, and politics.
In preparing for her psychology exams, Rebecca implemented several strategies. She created informative fact sheets and reviewed them with a study partner, identifying areas where she struggled. Then, she condensed the material into brief prompts on flashcards for easy access and review.
For her politics exams, which required more argumentative approaches, Rebecca utilized mind-mapping techniques to explore themes such as socialism. She did not adhere to a strict study schedule and instead focused on topics that were closest to the exam and those she felt least confident about. Every night, she made an effort to study flashcards on at least three topics within a subject area. Additionally, to allow for relaxation, Rebecca always finished her studies by 8 pm.