7 Things GCSE and A-Level Students Commonly Get Wrong With Their Revision

Year after year I see GCSE and A-Level students making the same old mistakes with their revision.

Here are the top seven…

7 Things GCSE and A-Level Students Commonly Get Wrong With Their Revision

1) Making a Revision Plan that's doomed to fail

Some students spend hours meticulously planning their revision. Their plans are weeks long and very specific.

Unfortunately, these plans are doomed to let them down, largely because it's almost impossible for anyone to estimate how long any specific topic is going to take. That means that as soon as one topic takes longer than it's allocated slot the whole plan goes out of the window and the student in question thinks they're a failure. They're not – the problem was with their plan.

In The Extraordinaries Club and on my Revision Kickstarter Workshops I teach a better way of planning revision.

2) They think revision is passive

Too many students engage in the whole of their education, not just their revision in a passive way. They turn up to lessons just expecting knowledge to be dished up on a plate by their teachers. If they don't understand something they just let it go. And, when they're revising they just read and highlight and expect the information to magically transfer into their brains.

Learning doesn't work like that. You have to engage in it as an active participant. Once you're the driver behind your own learning you'll get much further, much faster.

3) They think revision is boring

This is very much intertwined with taking a passive attitude towards learning.

Basically, if any kind of learning is boring you're doing it all wrong.

Revision is about achieving mastery over your knowledge, understanding and ability to communicate these things with the examiner. If you're using active revision techniques you will be engaged and motivated by your revision, you will also feel yourself getting better and better, moving closer and closer to mastery. This is hugely motivating and not boring at all.

I discussed the role of mastery in my interview with motivation expert, Sharath Jeevan.

4) They don't take responsibility for their learning and outcomes

Again, this is very much linked in with being a passive learner.

When students allow their teachers and parents to be the drivers behind their education they're never going to achieve their full academic potential.

It was only when I hit the lowest point of my GCSE years that I realised that if I wanted grades that truly reflected my ambition and ability I had to take responsibility for my own learning and revision.

I had taken a module test that counted towards my final mark for GCSE science. I got an atrocious mark on the foundation paper (the only time I was ever entered for foundation) and it was like a mortal blow.

 I was generally quite good at science but I really struggled with this particular module: electricity and magnetism. It was taught by a newly qualified teacher, who was a biology specialist and didn't really know anything about physics. 

Each lesson, she took the textbook (that we all owned a copy of) and copied it word for word onto the board. We then had to copy it from the board into our exercise books. She didn’t explain anything.

Unsurprisingly, we didn’t learn much and it culminated in this terrible mark.

That was the moment I realised that I needed to take responsibility for my own learning. I wanted an A* in science – if my teacher couldn’t help me get it, I’d have to take charge of the situation. 

I got books out of the library and spent hours teaching myself the topic so that I could rescue my grade in the final exam. I also transferred this attitude to all my other subjects.

It's not good enough to blame a ‘bad' teacher for poor grades. You don't get an asterisk next to your grades explaining the context. If you want a good grade, it's basically down to you.

5) Encouraging distractions

Too many students allow or even create a revision environment where they encourage distractions. This involves keeping their phone with them while they're revising, checking every notification that comes in. It can come in other forms as well, such as just watching the next video YouTube decides to put in front of you, even if it's not a revision video like the last one you watched.

In some ways this is only human if they think that revision is boring and they're engaging in it in a passive way. They human brain will always search for interest and variety when it's bored.

But it also indicates a lack of commitment to and responsibility for revision. If you really want to do well you'll leave the phone in another room.

6) Using breaks in the wrong way

Have you ever heard of or done couch to 5K? It's a running programme that takes you from sitting on the sofa to being able to run a whole five kilometre route.

They don't start you out by making you run non-stop for 5000 metres. That would just end in you giving up. Instead, they use interval training to increase your fitness. You run for a short amount of time and then walk and do that repeatedly through each training session to build up your fitness.

Revision should be treated like interval training. You use strategically timed revision breaks to give your brain a rest, let the knowledge you've just gained settle in and enable you to actually do more revision in a day because your brain has been treated with respect and isn't worn out by a marathon revision session.

7) Failing to recognise the importance of repetition in learning

A lot of students will create a flashcard, look at it once and then declare that flashcards don't work for them.

The thing is, whichever revision technique you use you have to recognise that a lot of repetition is involved in making any knowledge stick. For example, I've been learning to crochet and I have to do each type of stitch many, many times before it becomes second nature to me. It's the same with learning new subject specific words – you have to hear them many times, really understand what they mean and see them used in lots of different sentence structures before you become comfortable with using them yourself.

Repetition is the essence of learning. If you neglect it you'll be selling yourself short.

Which of these mistakes is your teen making with their revision?

In the comments below let me know which of the mistakes I've outlined here your teen is making with their learning.

And, if you need help to stop making these mistakes and start revising in an efficient, effective and motivating way join The Extraordinaries Club. Every day we're working with GCSE and A-Level students to prevent these mistakes and get them revising in the right way to reach their academic potential.

Click here to find out more about The Extraordinaries Club.



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