Archive for February, 2015

How do you eat an elephant?

Posted: February 12, 2015 in Uncategorized

In just 12 weeks, the exam season will begin. Right now, that seems like a long time away but, believe me, it will soon pass. For many, revision can seem like a daunting task. I’ve been asked questions such as ‘where do I start?’ and ‘how do I revise?’. And of course, there’s the problem of juggling parental expectations with having a life, not to mention the fact that revision is actually pretty boring.

In my recent flexi lesson, we talked about  the best ways to approach revision. We began by creating an overview. In other words, write down or mind map everything you need to know for each subject. Actually, the students were surprised at how much clearer everything seemed once they could see a list of the skills and topics they needed to know. Knowing what you need to know sounds obvious but do make sure you understand what exams you have and what topics you will be questioned on. Understand the assessment objectives and if you’re not sure, ASK!

Next, we looked at all the resources available to make the job a bit easier. From revision guides to online videos, we discussed where to get the help you need. Your text books and exercise books, teachers, each other, websites, blogs, documentaries, past papers… the list is seemingly endless. So do some research and find out what you need to give you the information you need and test your skills.

Finally, we talked about all the different ways to revise. People learn in different ways. The best advice is to mix it up. Combine mind-maps of topic areas with flash cards or post-it notes with quotations or key vocabulary. Do a practice exam question one day and design acronyms for formulas the next.

Making a timetable will be really helpful but don’t be so rigid that you can’t change your mind according to your mood. Some days you just can’t face quadratic equations! Aim to spend one hour per week on each subject, increasing this as the exams get nearer to 2 or even 3 hours. Break each hour up into 20 minute segments, doing a different revision activity every 20 minutes. For English this could be: read and summarise the main points of a chapter of your prose text, then mindmap the language, context and themes of a poem followed by a practice exam question from the language paper (12 minutes for an 8 mark question with 5 minutes reading time.)

Tackling the thorny issue of revision early on makes sense. Leaving it to the last minute will mean stress and possible failure. You just can’t cover 4 years work in one night! So don’t leave it to the last minute.

So how DO you eat an elephant? One bite at a time, starting today! Good luck.

I’m happy to mark any practice questions.