Many of you who are doing exams this year will be revising or starting to think about revising. As a tutor, I am often asked, “What should I revise?” The answer is, unfortunately, everything that you have covered in the course. No one except the exam writers know what is going to be in the exams in any single year, so always make sure that you cover everything.
Barnaby Lenon, an ex-headmaster at Harrow, has recently written in a blog that GCSE students should revise their course at least three times. The same applies for A level students, but officially there is no magic number given as to how many times you should do so. Usually, however, it will be more than once. Some lucky people, the exceptions, can read something once and it will “go in”, but more will have to go through the course over and over again for it to sink it. We are all different, and this is the main point with revising – what works for one person will not work for another.
With all this in mind, there are some tips below. Remember, some will work for you, some won’t.
• Find a good place to work. Some of you will like quiet, others will like some noise. We all work best in certain places. Some students may like to work in a library, others in their room, others in a coffee shop. Find a place that works well for you and stick to it.
• What time works best for you? Some people work better early in the morning, others in the afternoon, others late at night. Again, stick to what works for you. If you are a night owl, it’s pointless to try and force yourself to get up early and study – it just won’t work as well. Use your strengths and find the best time to suit you.
• Avoid distractions. There are so many distractions today: mobile phones, television, emails and so on. It can make it hard to study. If you are reading this now but also looking at your social media feed on your phone, for example, it’s doubtful all you are reading will go in. So avoid such distractions if you can. Turn off your phone. Turn off your emails. If you find it hard to do this, give yourself a time limit, “I will revise for one hour, then spend five minutes looking at my phone.”
• With the above point also in mind, some students find it hard to sit down and study for long periods. Others prefer it. Again, you should do what suits you best. If you do find it hard to sit for long periods, give yourself a reward. One student I worked with played volleyball at national level. He found it very hard to sit down for long periods and study. Consequently he was doing hardly any revision. We came up with a plan. He would revise for 50 minutes, then go outside and play with a ball or go for a jog for ten minutes. Then he would revise for 50 minutes again and so on. This worked well for him. You may find a similar reward works for you, looking at your phone, going for a walk, making a cup of tea, watching TV, phoning a friend and so on. Decide on your time limit and give yourself a reward.
• Aim to study for no more than two and a half hours without taking a break. You are probably not revising as well as you would if you carry on revising after that time.
• Making and reading notes and using flashcards can all work well for some students. Others can make recordings of their notes and listen back to them when they are going for a walk or even when they are sleeping at night – Mind maps and memory palaces can also be useful when revising. Again, find a method that works well for you and stick to it.
• If you are reading something and it isn’t sinking in or you don’t understand it. Try a few of the following techniques…
o Read it out loud. When you do this, sometimes it seems to make more sense.
o Try and explain it to someone else – You may find that you know far more than you think you do when you explain it to another person.
o Read it in another way. There are a lot of resources online today, so if you don’t understand your notes or textbook, look online and find another explanation.
• Making a revision timetable for when you intend to revise your subject is also useful. You may be revising for more than one subject, so work out when you are going to study and make a plan for each subject.
• Practice exam papers and old TMAs under “exam conditions.”
• Try to take off a day a week. You decide which day. Take some time off from all that studying.
• Try to start revising as soon as you can. The earlier you start to revise, the more revision you will do.
Remember, you have revised before. You know what has worked well for you and what didn’t. So if you have a good way of revising, stick to it. But if your way hasn’t worked so well, why not try another option from those listed above? There is also of course a lot of advice out there online and in books. The best way to revise is the way that works for YOU! So find your best method and stick to it.
Finally, though success in them is all about your hard work and revision, I am still going to wish you this – Good luck with your exams!
For anyone interested in taking a break from the books for a bit and taking a field trip to a Science Museum, or wishing to take part in an event on any part of the subject, the following may be of interest…
British Science Week 2015 will take place 13 – 22 March. This is a ten-day celebration of science, technology, and engineering and features, entertaining and engaging events across the UK for people of all ages. You can find more information, including activity packs for different age groups, through their website at http://www.britishscienceassociation.org/british-science-week . Anyone can organise an event or activity, and the British Science Association helps organisers plan by providing what are free support resources.
The Big Bang Fair UK: Young Scientists and Engineers Fair www.thebigbangfair.co.uk/
This fantastic event is coming back to the NEC this month from 11 – 14 March 2015. Visitors can meet engineers and scientists from large multinational corporations and a range of diverse and unique UK companies.
The Summer Science Exhibition at the Royal Society London
The Royal Society’s Summer Science Exhibition is their main public event of the year and showcases the most exciting cutting-edge science and technology research and provides a unique opportunity for the public to interact with scientists.
The Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition 2015 runs from 30 June – 5 July at the Royal Society, London.
There are a great many science museums in the UK. Here are some of the best.
1) Science Museum, Birmingham includes a science garden, planetarium and an interactive show which lets children explore the human body by seeing what it’s like to shrink to the size of a living cell. thinktank.ac/
2) National Space Centre, Leicester. Here you can explore the wonders of the Universe and discover the science behind the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence, plus take a tour of the 42m high rocket tower. There is also the Sir Patrick Moore Planetarium. spacecentre.co.uk
3) Museum of the History of Science, Oxford, has an unrivalled collection of early scientific instruments in the world’s oldest surviving museum building. mhs.ox.ac.uk
4) Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI), Manchester is currently showing a 3D printing exhibition. mosi.org.uk
5) The Science Museum, London contains a new nanotechnology exhibition, and the space travel exhibition is outstanding. I found the history of medical science exhibition very good. sciencemuseum.org.uk
6) Techniquest, Cardiff is currently showing an exhibition of colourful chemistry over the weekends 28 February – 22 March. techniquest.org
7) MAGNA, Rotherham has a fantastic electric arc furnace exhibition, including pyrotechnics. visitmagna.co.uk
8) Discovery Museum Newcastle www.twmuseums.org.uk/discovery.htm
This museum houses the finest collections of scientific material outside London and has important collections of maritime history.
The museum contains Charles Parsons’ ship, Turbinia, and Joseph Swan’s historic lightbulbs.
The Turbinia is my favourite museum exhibit which I saw on a school trip in 1967. She was designed by the Tyneside engineer Sir Charles Parsons in 1894 and was the world’s first ship to be powered by steam turbines. Until 1899, Turbinia was the fastest ship in the world, reaching speeds of up to 34.5 knots.
In order to show your tutor the resources you have used to gain an understanding of your subject, all the documents you’ve read should be listed at the end of your work in the form of a bibliography.
So that you don’t forget which sources you have read once you get to the end of your study, it is a good idea to jot down the details of each item you’ve read as you go. You will need to make sure that you have details of the work’s full title, the author, place of publication, publisher, and the date of publication.
A bibliography should be written in alphabetical order and split into sections, beginning with books, then periodicals, and finally online resources (check with your tutor to make sure he or she prefers this standard format or if they like to have online resources listed first).
Below are some examples of how to reference different types of study material.
Author’s surname, Initial, Title, (City of publication, Publisher, Date).
E.g., Kane, J., Another Cup of Coffee, (Cardiff, Accent Press, 2013)
Periodicals and Magazines
Author’s surname, Initial, ‘Article Title,’ Name of magazine. Volume number if applicable, (Date) page numbers.
E.g., Bellamy, J., ‘The Coterel Gang: An Anatomy of a Band of Fourteenth Century Crime’, English Historical Review Vol. 79, (1964), pp.1-39
Encyclopaedia Title, Edition Date. Volume Number, “Article Title,” page numbers.
E.g., The Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1997. Vol 7, ‘Gorillas’, pp.50-51
Blog via the Internet
Author of blog, (Date). Subject of message. Electronic conference or bulletin board (Online). Available e-mail address if given.
E.g., Jenny Kane, (September 22, 2014). The Story Behind Another Cup of Coffee, http://jennykane.co.uk/blog/the-story-behind-another-cup-of-coffee/
WWW: Author, Web Address
E.g., Oxford Open Learning, http://www.ool.co.uk/
To prove that you have used a variety of sources for your research, it is important to reference the sources you have read correctly. Whether you use online sources, books, or periodicals, or a combination of all three, footnotes or endnotes should be used to display every document you have used.
When you make a statement within your work that has been generated from reading a specific book, then you need to reference that fact. This is done by placing a small number next to the full stop that ends the sentence in question. This number is often (although not always) placed within closed brackets. The following sentence would therefore appear like this in your text;
The son of Edward II, also Edward, was dealt a challenge in the ruling of England that was more difficult than any monarch who’d come before him. (1)
Then, at the bottom of the page in which that sentence appears, you should record the full reference as below.
1. Prestwich, M., The Three Edwards: War and State in England 1272-1377 (London, 1980), pp.20-26
Should multiple references appear on the same page, then they should be listed in numerical order. For example-
1. Prestwich, M., The Three Edwards: War and State in England 1272-1377 (London, 1980), pp.20-26
2. Knight, S,. Robin Hood: A Complete Study of the English Outlaw (Oxford, 1994), pp.59-60
3. Holt, J., Robin Hood (London, 1982), pp.1-9
Some tutors prefer their students to use endnotes rather than footnotes. The process of referencing within the body of your project remains the same as with footnotes. Rather than placing your references at the foot of each page, however, they should be listed all together in numerical order at the very end of your document.
Whether you use footnotes or endnotes, the references themselves should always be set up with the author’s surname first, followed by their first name or initials. Then comes the book title (underlined), followed by the publication location and date in brackets. Last of all, you need to record the page (p.) or pages (pp.) that are specific to the reference you are making within your text.
We learn from birth, maybe even before. We learn to talk, walk and play as babies and young children. Our school syllabus as young people and various things teach and develop us as we get older. Jobs, hobbies, skills, languages, education courses, professional training. We’re actually very good at it and you can always get better at it too, which is nice.
Scientists have been fascinated by learning and how the brain does it for a long time. They say we’re better people for it ( you could look up Maslow’s triangle and Carl Rogers’ ‘fully functioning person’ ). You can obviously feel a sense of achievement and as you might expect, that will usually do yourself some good.
But how do we do it? And when? You can usually manage your learning yourself to some extent and it’s probably more effective if you do. When do you work best; in the morning or late at night? When the mood takes you? None of these are right or wrong. But some of them might work best for you, and that’s what counts. Are you better at reading, listening, doing, copying? All are recognised ‘Styles of Learning’ ( maybe have a look at Kolb?). There’s even a learning exercise called ‘sitting next to Nellie’ ¨because “Nellie” knows what she’s doing and if you watch her so will you.
The science of learning is interesting and very current. Cognitive neuroscience is a branch of science that really looks at the brain. Is it a good thing? Well, it’s taught at a very good university in UCL, which alone should point to its value.
So how do we feel about this new-found freedom in learning and the ‘fashion’ of brain science? Is it all a bit much? Is it a bit false, perhaps? More personally, do you wish you’d been better at school, even that your teachers had been a bit more strict or traditional? Or are you happy to manage yourself? Do you want freedom or direction? Oh, and while we’re at it, do we also think we learn attitudes and understanding? Why not tell us what you think?
There are many more aspects of learning, but if you are interested in the subject, it could be best to go and discover them for yourself. It’s all part of the process!
What initial conclusions about the future of GCSE exams can we draw from the mountain of documents which Michael Gove and the Department for Education released last week? And who will the winners and losers be if these proposals come to pass in their current form?
There is no doubt that the new exams will be harder and more “academic”. If not a return to the degree of difficulty posed by the old O-level exams, these new outline specifications match the difficulty and depth of the current IGCSE (International GCSE) specifications set by Edexcel and the Cambridge board. The message seems to have been: take the best of the current IGCSE specs and call it a GCSE instead.
The subject advisers seem to have taken this brief quite literally in most of the core subjects. It is perhaps most clearly seen in Mathematics, a subject in which the IGCSE specifications already require a number of skills that have been beyond the scope of the GCSE Maths syllabuses for 25 years but which are fundamental to AS level Maths. These include function notation, kinematic problems, set notation, rates of change and Venn diagrams, to name but a small sample of topics. There they are in the new drafts in bold print. This is IGCSE Maths by another name.
Most topics are not in bold print, implying that the boundary between what is now the GCSE Foundation and the current GCSE Higher levels is set to shift. Vectors, formerly to be found in the GCSE Higher level requirements, appear in plain text here, including the multiplication of vectors by a scalar. Some maths teachers may need to go on a refresher course to master the required skills!
Similar principles underlie the Science draft. Not only will the individual specifications require considerably more depth of study, as they do in today’s IGCSEs, but the Combined Science qualification will be the equivalent of two GCSEs, not one, just as it is today with IGCSE Science but not GCSE Science. The simple principle behind GCSE Science is to take one-third of the Biology specification, one-third of the Chemistry and one-third of the Physics, while IGCSE takes two-thirds of each of the respective individual subject specifications. The new proposals unashamedly mimic the IGCSE formula.
If this means that all candidates will now face a choice between tackling the new Double Science GCSE or leaving school without any formal recognition of their achievements in the sciences, there will be huge numbers of schoolchildren who fall in the latter category. While the old “everybody passes” philosophy of GCSE had its disadvantages, do we really want to stigmatise a whole generation as incapable of taking and passing the “simplest” of the new science specifications?