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As an A level student, what advice would I give on being successful in my exams? I often struggle with answering that question because I never feel there’s a right or wrong answer. It’s subjective. Different strategies work for different students. Learning styles and preferences differ. Some favour independent learning where they write their own notes and learn them. Some prefer group revision where they can interact with others and stimulate ideas. And for others, they have absolutely no clue what works for them.

 

I’ll be honest, I always felt like I could never be like those A* pupils. I always wondered how they did it. They seemed to know the answers to new topics teachers introduced whilst I was there questioning what on earth was going on. I’m sure many of you reading this can relate. But I’m here to tell you, despite how insecure it makes you feel, it does not mean you will fail. You CAN get there! You CAN achieve higher than the grade you’re attaching yourself to! And you CAN remove your self doubt and work towards success!

 

The first thing I’d like to address, is the infamous question: ‘how do I revise?’
I have heard it plenty of times, both from asking myself to hearing it from my peers. The truth is, there really is not a correct way to do so. You have to explore and find what works for you. There are a number of different ways to do this and I would recommend trying them all. Dismiss the ‘what if they don’t work for me’ attitude and push yourself to try out these 5 revision techniques:

 

1. Mindmaps- Particularly for my essay based subjects, such as English, History and Religious studies, mindmaps were an extremely useful revision tool. I was able to condense all my information onto an A4 sheet for each topic and use highlighters to colour code important bits of information. Then, simply stick it up on your bedroom wall so that you can familiarise yourself with all the key info you need to know. A method of ‘retrieval’ simply means looking back at It often so that it incorporates into your memory. And stuck on your wall, surely your retrieval will be consistent. Don’t forget to use colour!

 

2. Teach someone else- As an English tutor, I had to know my subject in and out before I could go on to teach my students. I had to be prepared for every possible question I could be asked and be able to explain it in a way that they would understand. If I couldn’t do this, I simply did not know the content well enough. And how could I ever be prepared if I wasn’t properly equipped with knowledge? My advice would be to find someone once you have learnt the content and try to teach it to them. Whether that be your parents, a sibling or even a classmate. Remember, if you can’t teach it to someone else then that means you have to teach it to yourself better!

 

3. Create associations- As a child, we were all taught the famous ‘BIDMAS’ to help us answer sums in the correct mathematical order. Interestingly enough, years later we can still remember something we were taught in primary school very well. And that’s due to mental association. This is where we can link together academic content with something we are more likely to remember. Let me give you a more relatable example. If you struggle with remembering ‘o2’ is the symbol for the chemical element oxygen, you might mentally associate it with the phone company ‘o2’ so that  it’s easier to recall. Remember, acronyms are great too!

 

4. Practice papers- Whilst learning the content is the main thing, don’t forget that past papers are great performance boosters. They are available on exam board websites as well as study pages for students. Complete them in timed conditions with the knowledge you know and use the mark scheme and examiners reports to assess how well you’ve done. If you haven’t done as well as you hoped, rewrite answers for questions you struggled with and learn the content in more detail, so that you can pick up more marks. Remember, they aren’t your final paper so any weaknesses can be dealt with!

 

5. Revision cards- This was by far the most effective strategy for me. I could bullet point or ‘chunk’ down my notes into small pieces and the great thing is, they can be done physically or by interaction. Apps like quizlet allow you to prepare flashcards online and are great for if you’re one constantly on your phone. Swap exploring your socials for hours with going through your quizlet notes and adding to them. Additionally, you can write notes physically on flash cards and I would encourage this method more as information is more likely to stick into your head. And a plus, it avoids getting distracted by pesky notifications on your phone!

 

So really, what advice would I give on being successful? Honestly, I can sum it up into one word: persistence. Self doubt, fear that strategies won’t work, frustration and major distractions will arise. But the key thing is do not stop! Continue to strive! If you feel one strategy is not working for you, simply choose another one. But remember, do not give up!