12 Highly Effective GCSE & A-Level Revision Tips That Your Teachers Don’t Tell You
“Achieving top grades is simple but not easy.“
In theory, to succeed in A-Levels, GCSEs or any others exam; you first need a decent plan that shows you what and how to revise. Then you just need to get to the table and stay there consistently. However, you and I both know this is easier said than done!
It’s very easy to slip into an unproductive study cycle.
Many people come home after school/college, eat dinner, watch a bit of Netflix, browse through YouTube, lounge around until late in the evening, feel guilty about not getting anything done, have a mini existential crisis then go to sleep.
The same pattern repeats itself the next day.
To achieve top grades, you need an efficient study cycle that runs like a Ferrari not a banged-up Skoda.
Thinking about studying is easy, taking action and maintaining your attention span is the tricky part. This is where revision tips can help.
If you can stretch your attention span and find ways to stay engaged, achieving As & A*s or 8s and 9s becomes realistic. The big question is – how?
Motivating yourself to study is a lot like playing Quiditch.
In the game of Quiditch, quaffles are worth 1 point and the golden snitch is worth 13 points.
Quiditch teams try to find and catch the snitch while also scoring points with the quaffle. This is exactly how you should approach your day to day work towards exam glory.
Each day, you should be using quaffle strategies while also keeping an eye out for a golden snitch that can win you the game. First let’s talk quaffle revision tips:
1. David Attenborough is in my head
While reading a page, you’re narrating it in your own voice. Try switching it to someone else’s voice – I like using David Attenborough or John Motson because they have very engaging voices.
Use this technique to squeeze a few extra minutes of work before taking a break.
2. Goal setting
Goal setting – I’m sure you’ve heard a lot about goal setting so I won’t go on forever – my rules are…
- Written down (make it tangible)
You should also create goals across multiple time frames. Long medium and short term…
3. Hang out with people who care
You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with. When graduating, I was 1 of 4 people who was awarded by the dean of students for academic excellence. The other 3 were my closest friends. This wasn’t a coincidence.
We are constantly influenced by those around us.
Your desk should ideally have 3 items:
- Learning pack (textbooks, classroom handouts or equivalent)
- Paper pad.
No laptop, family photos, coloured pencils, highlighters etc.
Focusing for long periods of time is hard. When your attention span is stretched, your mind will latch onto any external distraction.
Give yourself the fewest external distractions possible.
5. Get rid of your phone
We’re all addicted to information.
Technology entrepreneurs have designed these devices and the apps within them to keep us addicted. In fact they hire PHDs specialised in addiction and engagement to help build them.
Keep your phone away – out of sight out of mind.
6. Use white light
There are 3 different types of light…
Yellow lighting is designed for living areas and bedrooms for comfort.
White and blue light are designed to imitate daylight and are used in office spaces.
We’ve evolved to be alert and awake when exposed to daylight.
By working in your living room, you are putting yourself at a disadvantage.
7. Avoid heavy meals
Blood rushes away from our brain to our stomach to digest food – so we feel sleepy. Have light meals before study sessions.
8. Change environments regularly
After a few hours of working in the same spot it’s helpful to move somewhere else. Psychologically you will be ‘starting fresh’ again.
I personally like spending one half of the day at home and then walking to the library to finish the rest
9. Listen to gaming music
Mobile gaming companies have studied what types of music keep people glued to their apps. They found repetitive gaming music with no lyrics works best.
Walking with Elephants by Ten Walls is one of my favourites.
10. Ejection seat
Whenever you see a distraction coming, like the urge to open up Netflix on your phone; bring the distraction close to you, count to 3 and walk away.
Silly but surprisingly effective.
Sometimes it feels like we are the author of our own thoughts but we’re not – random thoughts come in and out without notice. Have any of you ever tried meditating? It’s difficult to control our minds.
Tracking your distractions can get you ‘back in’ quicker and be more productive – this is how it works…
When you sit down to start a study session – you set your goal e.g. Pages 23-31 by 12:30
Whenever you catch yourself day dreaming about something – write it down, cross it out and get back to work.
This is an example of one of mine…
As I was finishing pg 23 – I drifted off
I began thinking about my friend Roshan because we had an argument the day before.
Caught myself, crossed it out and got back in.
Then I thought about my mum – she had to go in for a second breast cancer screening because they found something abnormal. So, I was worried about what that could be – crossed it out got back in.
Then on page 24, good old insecurity about intelligence crept back in – reminded myself that I don’t need high intelligence to achieve good grades – crossed it out and got back in.
Then I got a business idea – I wrote it down in the ideas section on my phone – crossed it out and got back in.
You’ll find that most of your distracting thoughts are about other people.
In a hour session, I warded off 11 distracting thoughts and completed 9 pages of work.
This is a great technique if you have an erratic attention span like me.
12. Gamify your learning process
Games are the most engaging activities invented by man.
Ever played a strategy game like Age of Empires or Sid Meier’s Civilization? Or even simple games like Candy Crush or Angry Birds? Hours can go by when playing these without notice
Revision will never be as engaging or addictive as these games, but you can incorporate techniques and habits into your learning process to find a state of ‘flow’.
Reading and re-reading or high-lighting or passive note taking, are not only ineffective learning techniques according to Professor Douglas’s meta study, they share no game like characteristics whatsoever.
One of the reasons Games are so engaging, is they provide frequent feedback on how you are doing. There is always a scoring system.
Your revision process should also contain scoring feedback. I used to track everything…
- Attention span (I used a stop clock)
- Total amount of pages covered
- Questions attempted
- Total time studying
- Total distractions cut out
How Quaffle strategies can improve your grades
Setting goals or distracking every day on their own may not make much of a difference to your final marks, but using multiple strategies on a daily basis can collectively have a big impact on your grades.
We estimate that by using all these quaffle strategies, you could improve your marks by 10.1%. That’s the difference between a C and an A!
What about the snitch?
A snitch is not a strategy or technique, it’s a person.
A very unique person who can reach into your brain and rewire it.
A very specific type of person who…
- Has achieved what you want to achieve
- Has been in your shoes before
- Can paint a very clear picture of what your future could look like 2-3 years from now
- You admire, respect and most importantly trust
A snitch could be someone in your family, an older friend or even someone you haven’t met yet.
If you find the right person, you won’t have to worry about motivating yourself or use any looney revision tips.
Influence from the right person can significantly improve your chances of achieving exam success.
Finding a snitch is rare. It probably will only happen a few times in your life time. I’ve only ever experienced it three times. Once after first year college and another time in 2nd year uni.
One of the reasons why I improved my grades so drastically was because I had a mentor a few years older than me who understood what I was going through.
My parents had told me to do this and that all the time and I didn’t listen, but when this guy told me to try this technique or this approach – I did it.
For those 2-3 years I had a snitch in my life, I didn’t really set any goals or needed to use strange tactics to keep me moving forward – I just got on with it.
I could clearly see where I wanted to be in 3 years and I fell in love in the idea of being that person – that was enough for me to put the work in every day.
How do you find a snitch?
- Say yes when a teacher or parent asks you speak to some stranger they think can help you
- Actively seek out mentors
- Be less cynical, hear people out who are trying to help you
When your parents want you to meet a 3rd cousin who’s an oxford undergrad running an Instagram fitness business – say yes. That person can change the way you think permanently.
Let yourself be inspired.
Each year, I become a personal snitch to a small group of students.
Everyone I have mentored, have increased their marks by at least one grade point. On average, they improve by 24 UCAS points. That’s like going from BBB to AAA. Or CCC to BBB
If you’d like me to be your snitch, book in a free 10 minute consultation here.
Got any revision tips of your own? Have any questions about the ones above? Leave a comment below.
When will I receive my A-level or GCSE results this year (2020)?
By the end of July.
Will your A-level predicted grades be your final grades?
No, the Department of Education realise this would be unfair and will consider other factors to calculate your final marks.
What if I'm unhappy with my grades?
You can appeal the decision, and if necessary, sit an exam after your school or 6th form reopens. You also have the option to sit your exams in summer 2021.
If I take the exam option, will I still be able to go to university this year?
This can't be guaranteed, but Universities UK have assured that most universities will be flexible.
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