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When should I start revising?

The team at Oxford Revise share their revision advice, including when and how to start revising for your GCSE and A Level exams.

Revise As You Go

The number 1 top revision tip we can give you, is to revise as you go along. Get into the habit when you start Year 10 that after you’ve finished a topic, you look back over it. Use the Knowledge Organisers in Oxford Revise to make this manageable. They contain the absolute key information you need, nothing more and nothing less. They are your quick-fire way to ask yourself “do I get this?”.

Any things you aren’t sure of, ask your teachers. Still not sure? Have a look for videos or podcasts of teachers or students explaining those topics. Make sure what you are watching is at the right level and exam board. People like Primrose Kitten or Big Manny make really good videos. These revision sessions don’t have to be long. All you are trying to do is to lock that information into your long-term memory before you forget it.


The Forgetting Curve

There is a science behind this. The Forgetting Curve is a memory model the Psychology students among you may be familiar with. In a nutshell, the model shows us how we forget things over time if we don’t actively try to remember them. By looking back over your class notes and actively revisiting what you learnt in class, you are strengthening those memories; like a brain muscle work out. You are interrupting that curve and putting yourself in a good place for the exams.

Factors like diet, getting enough sleep, and presentation of information are important too. That doesn’t mean go wild with your highlighter pens; just that the way information is laid out can really help you to remember it. The talented bunch of Oxford Revise Designers have done a lot of research into how best to lay information out so that it gets stuck in your long-term memory more easily.


Build Your Revision Plan

As you get closer to your exams, your revision sessions are going to need to ramp up. If you haven’t managed to revise as you go, don’t panic, there’s time. Remember, for lots of subjects you won’t have finished the course until really close to your exams.

Use Oxford Revise’s free Revision Planner to start to build your revision plan. Work backwards from your key exam dates, listing out topics for your subjects and mapping them into your plan. Be specific – “titration” rather than just putting “Chemistry”. Make sure you switch between subjects and topics – that switching (fancy word: interleaving) helps your memory.

Here is a guide but remember, everyone learns differently. There is no right and wrong, the key is just to start.

From September of Year 11

30-minute revision sessions per week: revisit topics, use Knowledge Organisers, look for gaps you didn’t understand from class and ask your teacher for help.

Remember: Keep your revision active – quiz yourself or ask your family and friends to test you. Don’t just re-read your notes, give your brain a work-out with some flashcards, mind maps and Retrieval Questions from Oxford Revise.

Ahead of your mocks

You are likely to have mocks sometime between November and January of Year 11. Use these as a good opportunity to see how you are doing, and what you need to do next. These will highlight to you what you’ve managed to lock into that long-term memory and know well, and where you need to focus.

Three months ahead of your exams

This is the time to really step up your revision. 45 minutes is a good guide for 1 revision session. It’s not really about the time though, it’s what you do with it – measure your progress against topics covered and getting answers to Retrieval Questions correct, not how long you spent.

See what you can fit in during the week bearing in mind you’ll need time for homework, exercise, and seeing friends and family. At the weekends try to do more sessions. The number of sessions really depends on how many topics you need to cover, but make sure you are taking breaks in between each one.

Make time to go outside, talk to friends, eat healthily, and relax with activities you enjoy. Your school may start to run revision clubs and you’ll be doing more and more practice questions at school.

A month to go

You’ve really got to prioritize now – focus on topics you find trickiest and ask your teachers for help. They may have ideas for areas more likely to come up and suggest honing skills on questions that carry the most marks.

Top tip here: do as many practice papers and exam-style questions as you can. Really get used to the terminology that’s going to come up – evaluate, assess, analyse etc. and make sure you know how long to spend on different question types.

Ultimately, whatever revision time you’ve got will make a difference. Just start. You’ve got this!


Some advice from the Oxford Revise Team:

  • Rachel : “I find reading out loud helps me to remember things better – I used to record myself and then listen back to it. I got slightly sick of my own voice, but it worked for me!”
  • Becki : “I always preferred doing revision sessions with friends, testing each other using flashcards. We’d do them in different places like the library or the bus stop. I found that helpful too – I’d remember the place and that helped me make the memory link to the content.”
  • Matt : “I liked the sense of satisfaction that comes from ticking off a topic, knowing that I felt confident with it. I’d break my revision into really small chunks, and then give myself lots of ticks!”
  • Sundus : “I find that visuals like mind maps and diagrams really work for me. I have always worked best when information is laid out really clearly; not cluttered, messy notes which I’ve always found overwhelming.”

Revision books

GCSE Maths books

Revise and practice everything you need to do well in your AQA or Edexcel GCSE Maths exams. 

GCSE English Language books

Master the areas that you need to do well in your GCSE English Language exams. You will work through Paper 1 and 2 Reading and Writing questions with clear step-by-step strategies.

GCSE & A Level Science books

Prepare for your biology, chemistry and physics exams with confidence. These revision guides cover everything you need to know to do well in your GCSE and A Level Science exams.

Our top tips: Oxford Revise has you covered for revision and exam prep

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Top tips to help you revise
Top tips to get you through your exams