Easter holiday English tuition

revisionbartSpots during the Easter holidays are filling up fast – existing tutees, please get in touch ASAP to let me know when you’d like your lessons as it is first come, first served during holiday periods.  It’s a very short holiday (more’s the pity, I hear you cry!) and I’m already fully booked on some days.  If you’re new to tuition, please remember that this is the busiest time of the year and there is a waiting list for some slots.  Get in touch soon to make sure you can get booked in.

And on that note, have you made your revision timetable?

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The big question: how do I make a USEFUL revision timetable?

Lots of students tell me that they don’t have a revision timetable because they don’t know where to start with making one.  Lots of other students tell me that they’ve made a revision timetable but they don’t use it!

There’s no point in making a revision timetable unless it’s going to be useful to YOU and YOUR learning style and YOUR habits. The first thing you need to do is decide whether you want it to be colourful and beautiful, stuck above your desk, or whether you want it to be accessible everywhere, perhaps on a calendar app on your phone.

Steps:

  1.  Title a large piece of paper with subject 1’s name.  Repeat for all subjects.
  2. Write a list of all the modules you’ll be examined on, and using them as subheadings, write down ALL the different topics you have to know.  Check your text books, your notes, your mark schemes and your past papers so you’re sure you haven’t missed anything out.
  3. On another large piece of paper, draw a table showing how many days you have until exam season.
  4. Fill in your exam modules.
  5. For each subject, work back from your exams.  The fortnight before each exam you shouldn’t be revising anything for the first time, so block out those weeks.  Those will be purely for past papers.  The number of days left between now and then are what you have to work with.
  6. Count the number of topics you have to learn for each subject, and the number of days you have available.  Fill them in – in as logical an order as you can manage.
  7. Remember that looking at a topic once is highly unlikely to be enough!  Give yourself at least three different occasions to look at each topic, a week or so apart.
  8. Most people can’t concentrate on one topic for much longer than an hour.  Be reasonable with yourself.  During term time you can probably do a couple of hours revision each evening.  (You’ll also have your frees at school of course.)
  9. You might want to make a neat copy of the final timetable (or enter it into your phone calendar – especially good if you share it with your parents and want them to be able to see what you should be doing).
  10. If you find you’re not sticking to it, don’t abandon it entirely.  Ask yourself why – what about it isn’t working for you?  Address that.  It is far better to have a timetable that works for you than to just dive into some books when you feel like it and hope you’ve got time left to cover everything you need to study.

And the last step – ask me for help!

Half term shenanigans

So the iGCSE is done and dusted, the Shakespeare paper has been tackled this morning and pupils will be breathing a sigh of relief up and down the country… Not quite so for the GCSE lot, who have English Language still to go – cruelly placed as it is, just after half term.

How do you maintain that exam focus over a week of holiday?  Yes, of course, you stick to your revision timetable, and you try to remember to eat well, and, if you’re like me as a teenager, you lock yourself in your room for a few days at a time only to reveal yourself, mad-doctor-haired and more than a little smelly, desperate for a shower on about Wednesday afternoon.

crazy-professor-28436930The most important thing you can possibly do though, no matter where you are in your exams and no matter how many you still have to go, is to give yourself a day off.  A whole day. Preferably (and I know that in terms of your social life this is tantamount to suggesting you run through the school shouting the national anthem while wearing a bear costume) while turning your phone/laptop/brain-chip that connects you to your friends off.

I can hear people scoffing.  But you’ve just spent the last few weeks living, breathing and dreaming exams.  You’ve been in school every day or revising at home, you’ve sat in the same spot in the exam hall staring at the head of the same boy in front of you through hour upon hour of test and you’ve spent your break times and lunch times conferring with your friends about which bits were easy and which bits were hard, probably winding yourself and each other up about all the silly little mistakes you might have made but won’t know about for sure until results day.  You need to just…stop.  Have a day off. Spend it outdoors.  Spend it with your family but tell them they’re not allowed to mention the E or the R words.  (That’s ‘exam’ and ‘revision’ not ‘Emergency Room,’ though probably best to avoid a trip there too.)  Go to the seaside, engage in some mindless window shopping, play with your little brother, walk the dog, read a magazine, watch the news and remember the real world out there, go to the park, go swimming – do whatever it is that you used to do back in the days when you were ‘normal’ and not thinking about Geography Unit 2 when you woke up in a sweaty panic in the middle of the night.

Have a day off.  Your books will be there tomorrow.  And when you’ve had a good, old-fashioned exhausting day of playing out, (which no one is ever too old for, by the way) sleep well, set your alarm for a decent time and get going on that revision.  It’ll be worth it.

Revision Blues

So, how do you approach that enormous pile of files and books?  Put them under your pillow and hope the information magically gets into your brain while you dream?  It’s one approach, but I can’t guarantee it’ll work… What I can guarantee though, is that starting is the hardest and most important bit.  Here are some ideas on how  to get going.

  • Make a plan.  Work out how many days you have until the end of your exams, and then how many revision sessions you can do per day.  If you’re on study leave then you can probably do 2 sessions in the morning and 2 in the afternoon.  You might want to do some evening sessions too.  Keep your sessions fairly short – an hour to an hour and a half is fine, depending on your age and attention span.
  • Get a big bit of paper and draw a calendar on it, showing each of those days and sessions.  Write your exams on it.
  • Go through each of your subject files and write a list of all the topics you need to revise.
  • Work backwards from your exams and put your topics into your calendar.  Use a pencil as you’ll need to rearrange them while you work this out!
  • Remember that one session per topic is probably not enough.  Plan in second sessions to go back over your notes and consolidate your learning.  Also plan in sessions where you can do timed past papers and essay questions.
  • You might not stick to this calendar rigidly, but if it’s there, prominently on your wall, it should help you keep focused on all the things you need to do.

Next, decide your approach for each subject.  Get organised – you need a file where you can find things quickly and easily.  In English you might need time to do any or all of the following:

  • Re-read your texts
  • Learn quotations
  • Study the mark scheme
  • Read exemplar essays
  • Read through your own old essays and preps
  • Read past examiners’ reports
  • Plan essays using the mark scheme to help
  • Write essays
  • Write essays in timed conditions

How do you learn quotations?  Some people find this really easy and others find it awful.  If you’re in the latter camp, try and integrate it into your everyday life.  For each theme or character you need a sheet of plain A4.  Write the name of the character or theme in the middle and circle it, then go through the text and pick out the main, appropriate quotations.  Write them around the page in different colours so they stand out.  Once you’ve done this for the whole text, wallpaper your bedroom.  That way when you’re losing focus during your revision and you glance up to stare into space, you’ll find yourself staring at King Lear instead…  Another good place to put them is in the bathroom.  Nothing like staring at the loo door to help you learn quotations about philosophy and the meaning of life!

So how do you start revising?  Make a plan and then…just start!

Learning styles

“But how do I revise?” is a question I hear several times a year.  There’s no easy answer unfortunately – you are an individual with individual needs!  A good place to start is to decide what kind of learner you are.  Think about your lessons at school, for instance.  Do you learn best by listening to the teacher and then writing down notes?  Or would you forget everything she was saying before it got to paper?  Perhaps you need to keep moving while you learn – do you pace your room while reciting verbs?  Or maybe you need to see the idea in written or figurative form, and then write copious notes of your own? Basically, do you learn best by listening, moving or seeing?  Once you have answered this question, you can use your own personal learning style to help you during your revision.

Auditory learner tips (LISTEN):

  • Go through your notes with someone – ask each other questions
  • Record your notes and then listen to them
  • Talk to yourself while you revise – read aloud and ask yourself questions about the topic
  • Listen to quiet music while you work (although bear in mind some people find this very distracting – know yourself!)

Kinaesthetic learner tips (MOVE):

  • Use flash cards and turn using them into a game
  • Take regular breaks from your revision to go and do something active
  • Fiddle with something like blutack or a stressball while you’re working
  • Think of physical examples of the concepts you’re revising where possible

Visual learner tips (SEE):

  • Turn your notes into colourful diagrams such as mind maps
  • If you’re writing notes in list form, make them interesting to look at, with colours and hilighters to help you cross reference
  • Use flash cards
  • Watch videos explaining the idea you’re trying to learn

Next time:  How to begin your revision