We've compiled an awesome guide of the best tips and tricks by students who have aced their A-levels. Check them out below and see what you find useful!
1. Gather your study materials before you start
This includes snacks, water, textbooks, paper and just about everything else you’ll need. The more times you have to get up to find things, the more you’ll get distracted and lose your focus. Minimising distractions is the key to have a successful and productive study session- there’s no point in spending eight hours studying if you spent half of the time being distracted and looking for textbooks. Making sure you are spending your time wisely is important for time management at A level.
2. Read the examiner’s report
Nobody knows what examiners are looking for like examiners themselves. This is the best way to hone your exam technique to make sure that you are gaining the most marks you can in the exam and that you know exactly what the examiners are looking for in your answers. You can get the reports for all subjects on the exam boards’ websites for free. A good technique is printing these off and highlighting them for their key information- you could even go as far as to making mind maps of exactly what they’re looking for in your answers.
3. Explain your revision to other people
Trying to explain the things you study to people who don’t do that subject is an excellent way of developing your skills when it comes to communicating knowledge in exams. Getting a ‘study buddy’ who does different subjects to you can help you break down difficult concepts into simpler steps that anyone can understand and they won’t be afraid to ask you to explain it further if they don’t understand. Being able to put your thoughts down on paper is a key skill in ensuring that you gain all the marks you can in exams.
4. Remember your goal
Studying difficult subjects for two years is bound to make you lose your motivation a couple of times. To avoid this focus on your main reason for studying- is it to get onto a particular university course, maybe it’s for that feeling of accomplishment on results day? Write or print out something to remind you of your goal and place it near where you study for an extra boost when you need it. Objects like a mug from your dream university or a picture of your ideal exam results can be the perfect things to get you back on track when you’re feeling tired and unmotivated.
5. Read your notes aloud
This forces you to be pay attention and process the information you read properly, thus increasing your productivity and reducing the chance of you going on ‘autopilot’ whilst quickly reading through your notes. Hearing your own voice makes sure that you are actually reading rather than just scanning the page, whilst increases the chance of you remembering it. You could even go as far as recording yourself reading your notes so that you can listening to them whilst doing things like waiting for the bus.
6. Get a change of scenery
Locking yourself in your room for the weeks leading up to your exam will not help you revise, instead it may even hinder you. Spending so much time in the same room means you’re likely to get bored and even distracted. Try heading somewhere like a coffee shop or a library, or even just another room in your house for a bit of change. An even better option is heading outside (providing it isn’t raining), getting fresh air and enjoying the sun makes studying much more enjoyable.
7. Do your homework when it is set
A levels require so much work that it’s easy to get behind and feel like you’re drowning in it. Keeping on top of your work gives you time to research things you don’t understand or ask your teacher. Also making sure that your homework is all done also means that you know how much extra time you’ll have to do your revision and studying for that week, so you could even get ahead of your class.
8. Don’t blindly follow your textbook
Whilst it is a great guide for your specific exam board, it should not be your only source of revision. Often they go into too much detail or over-complicate things, some even miss out key information. Make sure that you look at multiple sources when making notes to make sure that you are only learning what you need to; this could be anything from another textbook to the specification to a YouTube video about the topic.
9. Eat healthy snacks
Consuming healthy snacks will leave you feel healthier and more energised, therefore keeping you more focused throughout your study session. Keeping your fridge stocked with fruits like apples and bananas will make you less likely to reach for that sugary snack which will inevitably lead to an energy crash.
10. Get some rest
Forcing yourself to stay awake will just lead to you eventually feeling more run down in the long run. Sleep is your brain’s way of resetting after a long day. Getting at least 8 hours sleep is key to feeling focused and positive for a tough day of studying.
11. Keep a positive attitude
You're not the first person to struggle with school and you definitely won't be the last. Focus on what you can do and how far you've come. You've probably survived topics you found impossible before so you'll manage to do it again.
12. Stay hydrated
Your body needs water to run and it has been proven over and over again that you focus better when you drink more. If you're feeling stressed whilst studying, take a break to grab a cold glass of water. It'll wake you up and hopefully improve your focus.
13. Bite the bullet
When it comes to revision or doing homework start with the subject you enjoy the least. Once you get it out of the way you'll feel much more relaxed and may even be able to enjoy it. It also ensures that you don't end up leaving it until the last minute and getting even more stressed.
14. Take regular breaks
Study time is precious but your body still needs a chance to recharge. Using methods like the Pomodoro method can help you to take more regular breaks and avoid feeling burnt out when studying. If you're finding that you're losing concentration then take a five minute break to get a glass of water or a snack before heading back to work.
15. Plan out your study sessions
Splitting up larger tasks like ‘study physics’ into smaller tasks like ‘read pages 23-29 in textbook’ makes revision and homework seem much less daunting. Also, estimate how long each piece of work will take you so you don't find that you only completed half of your to do for the day because it took longer than expected.
16. Switch it up
Using the same revision method day in day out is a quick way to feel burnt out. Not all studying has to be hardcore, it could be as simple as watching a video or answering a couple of questions. Make sure to change how you study for each subject every so often so you keep interested and productive whilst learning the subject.
17. Flashcards are your friend
Flashcards are one of the most versatile study tools out there. If you don't have a lot of time to study then make flashcards with key questions on information on them so you can test yourself on the go. They're not only for question and answers though- they can also be used for mini mindmaps, vocabulary cards and even speaking assessment questions.
18. Don't rewrite your notes if you don't have to
Whilst many people use it to consolidate their knowledge after class, if you can learn to write notes effectively in class then this isn't needed. It won't be an effective revision tool for all students so don't get sucked into the trap of doing it if you know that writing notes is not helpful to you when revising. You could just be wasting your time, which you can't really afford to do!
19. Find out what type of learner you are
Once you find your learning style (you can find dozens of quizzes online) you'll be able to tailor your studying so that it works best for you. If you're a visual learner then videos or mind maps may work best for you, auditory learners may revise well by listening to podcasts or even songs about the topic. For kinaesthetic or read/write learners then writing notes and answering exam questions may be the best way to maximise your revision.
20. Break it down
When you can't do an exam question then the best thing to do is to break it down into steps you can do. Look at content you've studied that could possibly relate to it and work from there, especially if it is question that is more application based. You may get some marks even for just stating basic facts which may relate to it.
21. Get some exercise
Even if you're not a fan of sport, getting some exercise is a great way to keep your focus when studying. Something as simple as walking the dog or even just dancing in your room can be enough to clear your head before sitting down to study. If you're losing concentration you should head out and exercise then return to it later, not only will you feel better but it's a great way to keep healthy too.
22. Ask for help
If you don't understand something then ask for help. It may seem obvious but many students just forget it so they ending up avoiding the subject rather than understanding it. This doesn't have to be just a teacher, it could be a student or even someone online. It will be much easier to understand if you can find someone to talk you through it slowly and at your own pace.
23. Figure out when you're most motivated
If you're a night owl then working later in the day may be your most productive time, especially if you're often sluggish in the morning. If you tend to be more awake in the morning then it may be better for you to do your studying early in the day. Working to your preferences can make studying less like a chore and you are also more likely to be productive.
24. Do a brain dump
Before you go into an exam, get a piece of paper and write down all the key information you can remember about a topic. This also works well for important equations before a maths or science exam. This gets you thinking about the content before you even sit down to start and it also serves as a refresher so things are more recent in your mind.
25. Don’t revise on the morning of an exam
A quick flick through flash cards will usually suffice when it is the morning of an exam. You should instead be focusing on staying calm and making sure you have all the essential items you need for the exam. Revising can stress you out before you even reach the exam hall so in many cases you should avoid it if possible.
26. Be realistic
If you know that it typically takes you a long time to revise then you should only plan to cover 2-3 topics per day, then anything else you do on top of that is a bonus. If you know that you can cover things quickly, especially if they’re easy then you can plan for more. By being realistic it gives you a more accurate plan of how much time you’ll need to revise for a subject so you don’t end up getting behind in your revision.
27. It doesn’t have to be pretty
If you know that taking notes is a good revision method for you then don’t be afraid to do it, but your notes do not have to be perfect every time. Once you have your summaries or class notes to study from then any notes you make after that can be scruffy because you only need to make them to improve your memory of the topic. It can cut the time it’ll take you to make them in half and they’ll usually be just as useful.
28. Know your habits
By being aware of what makes you procrastinate and get distracted it is much easier to avoid it. If you know that you often go make a snack in order to waste time, then maybe you should study in a library or somewhere where you can’t do that. Similarly, if you often find yourself daydreaming on your own then maybe study with friends so that they can help to keep you focused on what you’re meant to be doing.
29. Start with the general concepts
It’s no good focusing on details until you know the basics by heart. When a topic is tough it is best to get your head around the general concept of the topic and then add in the details later so you don’t feel too overwhelmed. It’ll also be much easier to link it together and taking the time to revise it more than once means that it’s more likely to stick in your memory.
30. Record yourself
Not only will speaking your notes out loud help you to remember them, it also provides you will a handy revision tool that you can access whenever you have a little bit of spare time. Listening to yourself read your notes is an easy way to go over your content without having to sit down and get your books out. You can listen to it on the bus or just when you’re sat in your room; you could even make notes as you listen if you feel like it.