HOW TO REVISE
INTRODUCTION This guide is primarily intended bor parents of boys in the Fifth Form and 6.2 who are preparing for Public Examinations. At the end of the Michaelmas Term term, your son will have been formally briefed on how to revise over the Christmas holiday, in preparation for his mock exams in the Lent Term. Additionally, there began, at the start of the Vth Form, a rolling three year programme of talks on study skills hosted by external providers Elevate Education. This complements the weekly academic meetings with Form Masters and the everyday conversations with subject teachers. The pattern tends to be that the mocks awaken boys to the forthcoming realities and helps them learn lessons about technique and timing, as well as seeing the gaps in their preparation.
So please donâ€™t be too crest-fallen if the mocks donâ€™t necessarily bring top results. This is a vital time for realism and the exposing of weaknesses, which can then be addressed, with lessons learned and adjustments made. Of course, each situation is individual but mocks are meant to reveal what needs to be put right... In the mock periods, dons will NOT be formally teaching the Vth but can be available to help boys with issues as they arise. A frequently asked question is: if a boy has finished his mocks early, because of the distribution of his papers, what should he do? Answer: continue revising for the real thing and plug any gaps which he has become aware of!
TIMELINE Vths Revision Briefing
Christmas Holidays Revision
Christmas Holiday Revision
JAN Parents’ Meeting to discuss progress and A level Choices (start of Trinity w/e)
First Half of Mocks (Start of Term) 6.2 Parents’ Meeting to discuss progress so far (start of Leave Away) Second Half of Mocks (shortly after Leave Away)
Mocks (1½ weeks after Leave Away)
Easter Holiday Revision
Exams start in earnest (start of May)
Most Exams finished (mid June)
Easter Holiday Revision
Exams start in earnest (mid May)
JUN Exams finished (end of June)
For exact dates, please see the calendar
HOW CAN YOU HELP? If you can do one thing to assist us in getting your son to do his best in May and June, it is in reinforcing the centrality of revision planning, memorisation and exam practice. These all need to start in earnest in the Christmas holiday.
At the end of this booklet is a copy of the revision planner template. In addition to your sonâ€™s own revision, each don will have set specific work to be completed over the holiday, which is probably mentioned, at least in outline, in the end of term reports.
MEMORY Every year, I have no doubt that a minority of our Leavers underachieve in their exams because they failed to process this central fact: the long term ‘deep memory’ has limitless capacity, but the short term ‘working memory’ has very limited capacity. If we try to use the latter as the former, through ‘cramming’, we can come unstuck very quickly. The writer Joe Kirby makes these points: ‘Why might students forget things they’ve been taught? Attention: you can’t remember things you haven’t paid sustained attention to in working memory. Storage: you have paid attention, but it hasn’t made it into long-term memory – it never stuck. Usage: you can’t remember things that no longer reside in long-term memory – they have faded through lack of use.
In short, we don’t remember things because of insufficient focus, time or attention spent on them, and because of insufficient practice, usage, revisiting, consolidation or application. [So we must always ask:] have they really learned it? Have we really taught it with sufficient time, focus and attention? Have they sufficiently revisited it? Have they consolidated it in their minds? Have they mastered it? Have they automated it in their longterm memories?’ ‘Automaticity’ is a word used by neuroscientists and simply refers to our ability to pull something out of the long term ‘deep’ memory, without thinking about it. What is the capital of France? What is 9x9? When did Elizabeth II become Queen? The more material a pupil has committed to his long term memory, which can then emerge through the process of automaticity, the quicker and more precisely he can answer (hard) questions.
HOW TO REVISE WELL Whatever your son tells you(!), I recommend 4-5 hours of solid study. Given that some of the time we think we have given to revision is always (as you will remember) lost in distractions and interruptions, I don’t think it is possible to really get on top of things if a boy sets out to do much less than this. As mentioned above, I also append a copy of the revision planner template. Two of the three natural parts of the day should be used. The planner suggests evenings should be free, but boys should adapt it as they see fit. It is a very good idea to get up in good time and get to bed in good time. Try to discourage your son from being a ‘night bird’, however romantic a notion it might be to him. Clearly he needs some days off and I suggest this totals no more than a week. This could be a single block or the major events of this holiday. Even if he works in the morning and
afternoon, he can still take part in something social as long as it does not end too late and he doesn’t overdo it... A room should be free of distractions - phone, TV, iPad etc - wellventilated, well-lit ( a good table lamp is essential) and with a chair and table which are comfortable (but not too comfortable) to sit at. Lots of water should be drunk and I recommend getting up and walking about after every 25-30 mins. Too much coffee is not a good idea, especially after midday. In fact, I wouldn’t take any coffee after then if I wanted to sleep well… Needless to say, alcohol taken in excess will wipe out the ability to work and to remember... Staring at pages will achieve nothing. Notes should be taken, but there are many different ways to do this, as boys have been told and different departments will have made
subject-specific recommendations. NB ‘Multitasking’ does not work so please help us in the war against Facebook etc. being accessed during ‘revision’. It should be called ‘task switching’, not multitasking. I suggest it’s a disaster for those trying to learn... http://coschedule.com/blog/ multitasking-and-productivity/ http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/ teaching-professor-blog/multitaskingconfronting-students-with-the-facts/
There is no single ‘best’ way to revise which can be recommended to every boy as a template for success. Yet we can say with certainty that lack of thorough revision is a very strong cause of underachievement... Many thanks indeed for your cooperation in this joint endeavour. With all good wishes, Stephen Rathbone, Academic Director
REVISION PLANNER Period 1
Day 3 Lunch
8 x 40 minutues with 20 minutes off 2 hour break in the middle of the day