The Best A-level Revision Methods: Backed by Evidence

A quick guide on the study methods you should all be using and the ones to avoid if you want to achieve the top grades at school and beyond.

December 2020
Ella Walkeden (Marketing & Outreach Lead)
Leeds - 4th Year Medical Student

There are two sides to studying, the first is about finding the motivation to study (see our blog post 'How to revise a subject you hate') and the second is studying itself. I’m going to give you some specific tips on how to study effectively. These are the things I wish I knew back in secondary school but I had to figure them out by a process of trial and error. The caveat to all this is that everyone is different and a learning style that works for some might not work for others. But the tips I’m going to share are all backed by evidence as well as my own personal experience.

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”

We’re all probably guilty of sticking to a revision technique that isn’t producing good results, just because it’s easy or familiar. We should try to challenge ourselves to experiment with different strategies and find out what works.

You might like to start off with a quick quiz, check out the link below. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try every style, but it could point you in the right direction. My results show that I’m an auditory and visual learner so the act of teaching others by using diagrams and explaining concepts out loud is useful for me.

http://www.educationplanner.org/students/self-assessments/learning-styles-quiz.shtml


Study strategies that DO NOT work

These strategies are popular because they don’t require much effort but it feels productive, but studies have shown that they’re not efficient. I am guilty of using all of these strategies and I bet you are too!

Study strategies that DO work


Active recall and spaced repetition are proven to work - these are buzz words that essentially just mean test yourself (i.e. retrieve information from your memory) at specific intervals over a period of time (i.e. don’t cram all of your studying into one session!). I would recommend:

1. Flashcards for example ANKI.

This is a free online flashcard creator. The system uses spaced repetition which means that you answer the card based on how well you knew it. You will see a card that you know less well more often than a card that you’ve rated as easy. That way you’re challenging yourself to recall the harder things more often, which leads to a strengthened connection to that fact in your brain.

2. Closed book recall

Close the book. Recall. Write it down.

Read a chapter or page, then close the book and write down everything that you can remember; if you’re a visual learner it might be useful to draw pictures or make mind maps. Or an auditory learner could speak through the topics and make a recording. Compare what you’ve been able to recall with the textbook and repeat the process until you can remember everything.

3. Teaching

Teaching leads to better:

Split a subject up into topics for each person to study and teach in a small group.

But you don’t actually need another person to benefit from teaching. Evidence shows that you will remember something better just by pretending to teach yourself!

So there you have it, my top three methods for learning and revising. Give them a try and let us know (at our Instagram @medmentoruk) if they make a difference to your grades!

For those of you who want to go the extra mile and achieve the top marks, I have one bonus tip: STUDY SMART! Follow these steps to perfect your exam technique:



References:


https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/2372732215624708
https://effectiviology.com/protege-effect-learn-by-teaching/
https://www.aft.org/sites/default/files/periodicals/dunlosky.pdf

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