Starting revision can be hard, but once you get into a good rhythm there will be no stopping you. Once you’ve set yourself some revision goals, you need to nail the process that will get you there.
In order for this to happen, you need to have a system that runs smoothly. As with any biological or chemical process, one thing needs to happen in order to trigger the next step in the cycle.
This is how you should view your revision routine; don’t move onto tackling past papers if you haven’t nailed your notes yet, and don’t move onto another topic if you’re not confident about what you’ve just read. The flow chart above illustrates what your revision process should look like.
Following this cycle of Notes > Topic Questions > Past Papers means that you will constantly highlight gaps in your knowledge, which will show you what you need to focus on in your next revision session.
So let’s look at those steps in a bit more detail...
Take your revision one topic at a time. Notes lay the necessary groundwork for you to be able to test yourself on specific topics. They are the foundations of effective revision, and should be revisited and reread as often as possible. Make yourself a book of notes that is as thorough and detailed as possible, so that everything you need to know can be found in one place.
A good book of notes should be handwritten, colour coded, and clearly divided into topics, subtopics and bullet points so that they are easy to visualise when you are in the exam. But make sure you’re not just mindlessly copying things down; concentrate and make sure you understand each thing you’re putting to paper. If you don’t understand the content, pause and spend some time getting to grips with it before you keep going with your notes.
Questions by Topic
Once you have written all your notes on a topic, complete a question pack from our relevant ‘Questions by Topic’ right away. These questions allow you to focus on the specific area that you’ve been revising, and find out whether you understand it well enough to tackle exam questions. This will not only reinforce what you have learnt, but most importantly it will highlight where the gaps in your understanding lie. Keep a list of the questions and subtopics that you got wrong, so that you can return to these in your next revision session and patch the holes.
Past papers are there so that you can practice your exam technique. By the time you get to this stage in the cycle you should be 90% happy with all the content in the exam, so that you can answer most of the paper under timed conditions and feel confident in your answers. Timing is key, particularly when it comes to answering long-form questions, so make sure you stick to it; and always refer closely to the mark scheme when checking your answers. Some strong self-discipline when it comes to timing and marking your past papers will lead to faster improvement.
Note: Only move onto past papers when you’ve completed the previous two steps for all topics.
Next time we’ll be looking at how you build the perfect revision plan, so you can put the above techniques into practice. See you then!