A-Levels are considered some of the most important exams that a young person will ever take, and as such, preparing for them can seem like a daunting task - but it doesn’t have to be! A little organisation, some good time management and the following tips will have you well on your way to achieving the grades you want with minimal amounts of stress.
1. Understand how you’ll be assessed and what you need to know
A great way to keep your revision on track is by understanding what will be expected of you in the exam room and framing your revision around this. Start by going through the syllabus for the subject you want to revise for - the syllabuses for all subjects across all the examining boards (e.g. AQA, CIE, Edexcel, WJEC) can be found easily on the internet, and are accessible to anyone. If you aren’t sure about anything on the syllabus, take the time to speak to your teachers about it.
2. Find a learning style that works for you
Different people absorb information in different ways - what works for your mate may not necessarily work for you! It’s up to you to give a couple of methods a try and see what works best for you. Some learning styles are suited to some subjects more than others - for example, writing out note cards may be more suitable for a subject like English Literature, while a more visual/diagrammatic approach would probably work better for a subject like Math or Physics. Remember that learning happens through repetition! Keep going over your work and regularly test how much you can remember.
3. be organised - make a revision timetable and stick to it!
The human brain can only take in so much information at a time; keep this in mind when planning out when you’re going to study. It is strongly advised that you construct a revision timetable, but avoid scheduling in long hours of revision time. Split revision sessions into chunks between 40 and 80 minutes with 10 minute breaks in between - studies have found that revision sessions are more effective when broken up with regular short breaks.
Remember to be smart about how you break - taking time out to check Facebook and other social media can easily turn into hours of procrastination. Effective breaks allow the brain some time to focus on a different activity; why not do a little exercise or prepare a healthy snack to take your mind off things?
4. Study anywhere
It is important to set aside a dedicated place where you go to study (e.g. your desk or the library) - but remember that the opportunity to go over your notes may arise at any moment. Whether you’re in a car, on a bus, in a queue, or on the toilet - carrying notes around with you (or even voice recordings of you reading your notes!) allows you to regularly go over your notes, making the absorption of information more of a likelihood.
5. Practice makes perfect
Understanding and remembering your notes while they are laid out in front of you is all well and good, but the pressured exam room environment can make things a little harder to recollect - and you won’t have your notes with you! Simple exercises like covering your notes, writing down what you can remember, and going over what you didn’t write down is a great way to ensure that you remember all the important points.
It is also advisable that you practise working under exam conditions. Download past papers (like syllabuses, these are also available freely on the internet) and work through them, timing yourself and not looking at your notes - this will help make sure you are able to complete the exam in the given time, and give you plenty of time to practise improving your times if you aren’t able to.
6. Know Your Options
Sometimes, things go wrong - that's life. Rather than refusing to acknowledge this possibility, make sure you are prepared for both success and failure. Knowing if and when you will be able to retake your exams could help make the exam preparation process a little less stressful (But DO NOT use retakes as an excuse not to try your best the first time round!). If you have applied for university, check out this guide to clearing with everything you'll need to know should you fail to meet (or exceed) your course's grade requirements.
7. On the day of the exam
Here are some tips to ensure you are able to perform at your best on the day of the exam:
Get a good night’s sleep the night before - staying up late to cram may seem like a good idea, but you’ll be regretting it the next day when you’re tired and can’t concentrate.
Eat a healthy breakfast - the nerves may be killing your appetite, but a good breakfast will help your concentration (plus, a rumbling tummy in a quiet exam room is pretty embarrassing!)
Stay hydrated - dehydration affects your brain’s ability to function as normal - make sure to drink enough water on the day of your exam, and remember to carry an unmarked water bottle into the exam room with you.
Avoid panicky people - chatting with people who are freaking out about how much they have or haven’t studied isn’t advisable right before your exam. Arrive with plenty of time to spare, think peaceful thoughts, and keep to yourself.
Feeling ill? Tell someone - students who are ill or going through to unavoidable circumstances beyond their control can be granted special consideration.
Stay calm - it can be pretty difficult staying calm before or during an exam, but remember that neither success nor failure is the end. It may seem like your A-Levels are the most important thing in the world, but I guarantee that you will look back in a few years and they won’t seem as big a deal as they do now.
The team here at Student Hut wish you all the best with your exams - YOU CAN DO IT!