A-level Revision Tips & Advice

With AS and A level exams approaching, the time has come to focus on revision and ace these upcoming exams! Having completed my A levels last year I understand how stressful this time can be so I have compiled the most useful tips that helped me in the weeks before my exams.

  1. Grab a hold of the specification for each of your subjects

The specification tells you exactly what you will be tested on and what examiners are looking for so be sure to use it! Always have it around whilst you revise and use it to clarify what you need and don’t need to know and use it as a checklist to tick off concepts that you understand and/or have memorised.

  1. Understand the concepts

Understanding is so crucial. Ensure to take the time out to understand the material within every topic that you must learn for your exams. With understanding, memorising becomes much more easier. You can be confident that have understood a concept or topic when you can explain it to someone and do so with ease. Try this out with friends or someone in your family!

To go about understanding a concept I would start with a single topic for one subject and use multiple resources such as my exam boards endorsed textbook, the specification, my revision guide and other online resources to make my own short and concise notes.

  1. Memorise definitions

As tedious as this may seem, make a glossary for the key definitions for each subject. These are such easy marks to pick up in the exam so do not overlook this!

  1. Memorise your notes by frequently testing your memory

Continuously test yourself on what you have learned. Don’t fall into the habit of just reading your notes. You often find that after, you may not remember half of what you had just read. Instead use active recall to strengthen your memory on a particular topic. Active recall involves retrieving information that you have previously learned from your brain.

There are a number of active recall strategies and you must find the one that is best for you. What worked for me was creating mind maps/spider diagrams with my textbook closed and my revision notes away after I had reviewed them for a particular topic. This would force me to retrieve facts from my memory. After, I compare what I wrote on the mind map to my notes and see what I had missing (what I had forgotten) and take extra time to memorise that specific section. I would continue this process until I was certain that I could recall all the concepts in that topic with ease!

I would suggest after you finish revising a topic, do topic past paper questions on it to consolidate what you have learnt. A good website I used was http://www.physicsandmathstutor.com/past-papers/

This is a great way to find out the topics that you are weakest on. This means that you must take more time and effort to understand and then memorise the concepts. Continue to revisit the notes you have made or talk to your teachers.

Repeat this process of memorising your notes and then using topic past papers until you have covered every topic for that subject.

Once you are confident in your ability to recall the material and have completed topic past paper questions, the next step is to use full past papers.

  1. Past papers

Past papers are amazing because they give you an idea of what the real exam will be like. Please note that you CAN use past papers from the old specification to revise, although be sure to only answer questions suited to the new specification.

Once you have learnt the material, doing past papers allow you to practice applying your knowledge and truly test your memory. Do as many as you can. You will often find a pattern over the years with the question style as examiners tend to repeat questions. The mark scheme is  so crucial – use it to find out how to phrase your answers to questions. I found many questions crop up again and again over the years so I made a small booklet of these questions and I used the mark scheme to create the “model answer” that they were looking for. Also, when you mark your paper, spend time reviewing your mistakes. Know why you were wrong and what you can do next time to avoid the same mistake. Lastly, do read the examiners report! These are very helpful as it tells you exactly what the examiners were looking for in the answer for a specific question. It also gives an insight into the common mistakes made by students which once you know, you can avoid!

New specification

My biggest advice for the new specification (A level/year 13 students) would be to revise both AS and A2 topics simultaneously. This is so key, especially for A-level chemistry. You find that many topics overlap and interweave. For example, when I would revise chemistry, I would focus a few days on physical chemistry and make sure I focus on topics from AS and A2 physical chemistry. I would do the same for inorganic and organic chemistry. With biology, you find that a number of AS concepts form the foundation of concepts seen at A2.

Practical questions

  • Paper 3 of biology and chemistry are heavily based on required practicals that have been done over the two years of your a-levels. The practicals are dependent on your exam board so be sure to check their website!
  • With practicals, understand and memorise the technique you used and the process involved in carrying out that practical. Understand WHY you must carry it out in that particular way. Be familiar with the names of the equipment and what they look like.
  • I found that watching youtube videos on the practicals really helped with this. In the exam I would picture the video I had watched or remember the practical from class.

Youtube videos for practicals that I found very useful (AQA):

Biology: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2dl_L6mPytI&list=PLsEnAD-2IndpSDiIPscoCNnfuj1ZXgDgN

Chemistry: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Ck5JJwxXC4&list=PLayB-FDU4NRRbdUJJwcXcAqSZSbrPilK2

https://chemrevise.org/2017/04/21/aqa-paper-3/

  • To test yourself, do the old specification ISA questions (AQA unit 3 and unit 6 questions)

Lastly, with the new spec, there is a huger emphasis placed on maths skills so do take the time out to brush up on your maths, especially if you do not do A level maths.

Good luck!

Resources

Chemistry

Phsyicsandmathstutor – http://www.physicsandmathstutor.com/past-papers/

Chemrevise – https://chemrevise.org/revision-guides/

A-level chemistry – http://www.a-levelchemistry.co.uk/

Biology

VBiology – http://vbio.weebly.com/

Written By Sarah O’Connell

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