Having finished my A2 Exams, I think I am qualified to write this post.
Compared to AS I worked miles more efficiently this year after completely shaking up my approach to learning and studying. At AS I worked hard but I didn’t know how to work well (because of my GCSE results) throughout the year. By the time exams rolled up I was stressed, tense and tired it is an actual miracle I got the grades I did.
Obviously there were other factors involved ( Family Bereavement, choosing the wrong subjects etc.) but the disappointment of not being able to apply for Medicine spurred me change everything for A2. I researched all I could about studying techiniques and came up with this game plan which (hopefully) worked in the end.
Disclaimer: This obviously won’t work for everyone- the whole point of my research was to come up with something that would work for me and my subjects (Biology Chemistry and English Literature). Also, It may seem too stringent or extreme but I found that was the best way to keep myself on top of everything . You need to be positive and open minded towards your learning if you want to reap the best. My schedule also allowed my to play sport/workout and basically do whatever I wanted to do for fun. Thus time management and organisation is key.
Learning From September:
Make an effort to listen and understand in lesson. When you leave that class make sure you know what it was about and asked all questions. Take GOOD CLEAR NOTES. ( It honestly doesn’t matter how as long as it is clear and makes sense- I liked spacing them out and making a note of everything)
The next day in my free periods or afterschool I would review by also reading the chapter in my textbook or finding notes online- making my own version, I would add this to my class notes. Again make sure you understand and condense the information putting the key points in your own words.
A week later for the same subject content I would review all the notes I’ve made taking a highlighter or coloured pen and highlighting the key words and again trying to remember the key concepts. By the time you’ve done this, you will have learnt/reviewed that lesson 3 times and it really helped with the homework (which I do advise you do) and the learning of ‘this weeks’ information because it’s all taught in layers. Doesn’t really matter when you do the homework- just
For Topic Tests
I would mainly focus on practice; I went online and found websites with questions by topic and did them all until I was satisfied with how to do it and my marks. Try the really hard questions to push yourself and take any problems you’re not sure of to your teachers until you get it. Making flash cards can also be a good idea but don’t do it if you won’t use them.
I also made ‘rough notes’ from my class notes- I always found my school notes to be scruffy and a bit all over the place even at the best of times so I bought cheap notebooks ( you’ll see why later) and copied out my class notes topic by topic again wanting to make sure I got used to writing the information out and pounding it into my head. Again you want to condense it and keep it snappy. This is not a textbook- it is for your revision. Even for my mathsy questions in Chemistry I wrote out simple steps to answering certain questions with examples.
Don’t practice until you get it right. Practice until you can’t get it wrong.
For the Mock Exams
TREAT THEM AS REAL ONES
You NEED to see whether your tactic is working for the subject and pinpoint exactly what needs to be done. If you don’t study you don’t know how well you can do with maximum revision. I felt that I’d worked well for my Chemistry Unit 4 Mock in January and although I ‘knew everything’ the mocks my E grade in the mocks revealed my biggest issue was exam technique.
What I did:
- I copied my ‘rough notes’ into neat in a good quality project notebook.
- Condense the information onto topic mind maps
- Use your flash cards if you made them
- Practice Questions -PRIORITISE your worst subjects
- Do as many past papers in timed conditions as possible- good for exam technique.
- Go to all the revision sessions and especially listen out for things you don’t know- Revision sessions aren’t just there to check you understand everything but to drop tactics and hints to cracking the questions in the most efficient ways.
For the Real Exams
- Review your neat notes (again highlighting the key words)
- Use your flash Cards
- Walk around the house reading your mind maps out loud and again highlighting info.
- Do past papers systematically and track your progress. You’ll want to do them a few times over a spaced period of time and increasingly in exam conditions. Questions that continually come up you may want to make a flash card or add to your notes.
- By now problem topics should be obvious- do more topic questions and ask your teacher for more. Prioritise them. Don’t be afraid of re-doing question booklets multiple tines (spaced repetition)
Pre-Exam if you’ve done this comfort yourself with knowledge that you have done all you can and whatever happens happens. You’ve done your best.
For English Literature specifically:
- Ensure your coursework is on pointe.
- Do every single practice essay you can. Exam Boards often recycle content.
- Read outside the assigned books but do this early on.
- Read the assigned books as well as companion notes both in books and online.
Planning and Organisation:
I talk about materials I used in my video.
In terms of actual time management I used a planner and literally time-blocked my free periods and afternoons as seen on my timetable. I then broke down what I needed to do in small manageable tasks so I wasn’t trying to cover too much then wrote them in my planner. I included tick boxes next to each task so if I did it I ticked it and felt happy and if I didn’t do it I highlighted the task so I would remember to do it later that week.
I also used the cutest egg timer to time everything and when the alarm went off I trained myself to stick to it. So I got my 15 minute breaks and still did 45 Minutes of solid focused work.
Tracking your Progress:
You need to be able to track your progress.
- Past Papers: I made a progress sheet recording the exam year, grade, mark and my weaknesses as well as the actions I would take to correct them. Recording the the types of mistakes you made can be really useful too. NOTE: THIS USELESS IF YOU DO NOT ACT ON THEM AFTER THIS. A LITERAL WASTE OF TIME IF YOU DONT TRY.
- General Productivity: I had a huge 3 month calendar that had my exams at the bottom and a column at the end to tick whether I had a productive week (3+ good days of solid work) Of course not every day is productive but whenever I didn’t do the work I planned that day I marked on the calendar when and why I didn’t. Over time you can see patterns in your productivity and change your schedule accordingly or just to show yourself how little you’ve actually been doing.
Staggering your revision
What I didn’t foresee was how to deal with the later units. By May I essentially had less time to do more work and it had to be layered with going over the previous units, finishing coursework and practical exams. I literally tried to do the same process of reviewing, learning and consolidating the units I was learning during the week then doing revision for older units on the weekend.
I am so thankful that I tried to do this even though I wasn’t able to do the same level of work for my later units, I heavily relied on the fact that as I was learning it, I reviewed and studied it well enough so coming back to it wasn’t way too hard. Learn your first units well so that revising them is cut out for you.
Dealing with Disappointment and Bad Days:
Loads of students also start well but slip by November. Make sure this isn’t you by rewarding yourself when you do well and generally being strict with yourself. Focus for those 45 minutes and then have a good break. You really want to get into a good rhythm early on because it honestly gets easier and essential to do this.
Every student has lazy days, days you just can’t focus, days when surprise events crop up and you don’t study. That is okay. Even the most efficient students don’t always feel 100% and you’ve just got to believe that you’re doing the best you can. BUT you must practice getting yourself back on track and having catch up days to make sure you’re still on top of everything.
Disappointment is a healthy and important part of being a student. My Sixth Form regularly sent home grades that were lower than what I’d actually achieved in class or tests and sometimes just plain wrong ( I got predicted 3 D’s when I got ABD in my mocks lol) which often got me down. In the end I had to trust my own progress tracking and trust my self- reflection. The most important part is how you use that information and emotion . At the end of the day what matters is your final performances in the exams.
Tell me if any of this helped! GOOD LUCK 🙂