What can the Current Year 10 Students Learn from Year 11 About Exams?

Year 11 students in the UK are fast heading towards the end of this Summer’s exam season. So during a revision session with my own class this week I asked them what they wish they’d done differently in terms of their exam preparation and revision.

There were a number of responses ranging from “engage with the lessons”, “Do some more work at home” or “attend some revision sessions”. By far the most common response, given by 96% of my class was:

“I wish I’d started my revision much earlier.”

“But I’ve been telling you to revise just a little bit every day since October last year”, I said. “Yeah, but I didn’t think you meant it” they replied.

WHAT??

“Not only that”, I said, “But I also told you that last Year’s Year 11 students said they wished they’d started earlier as well!”.

In fact, this pattern can be seen repeated year after year, with each group of students thinking they know best, but then regretting their lack of effort later down the line. Obviously this doesn’t apply to all students. There are some who, if anything, do too much revision at the expense of other parts of their young lives. So I’m not trying to lump everyone together in sweeping statements. However, the fact remains that the vast majority do, indeed, regret not preparing for exams sooner. Now, can I please ask that next year’s cohort don’t repeat the same mistakes.

So, what can be done?

A student’s knowledge of a lesson content often follows a fairly predictable pattern:

How Knowledge of a lesson varies with time

At the start of the lesson a student will usually know very little, and during the lesson that knowledge level will hopefully rise quite rapidly. However, without practice or review, that knowledge level will very soon return to just above its original level as the lesson is largely forgotten. This is why teachers will regularly link back to previous learning – to revise and review the content of previous lessons.

When knowledge is reviewed or revised it stays high for longer

Notice how a bit of revision brings the knowledge level back up to, and sometimes above, the dizzy heights it reached during the lesson. Furthermore, the eventual reduction due to forgetting will be slower than before.

Regular revision can keep knowledge levels high

With regular, little-but-often revision, a student can maintain a high knowledge level throughout the entire course. Imagine how easy their final revision will be at the end of Year 11. Rather than having to relearn almost everything from scratch, students who have done regular revision throughout the year only have to top up at the end.

“But I haven’t got time to do all that work throughout the whole year”, they say.

But here’s the best bit: This work doesn’t have to be a huge task. Little-but-often is the key. Just five minutes at the end of each day. Then 20 minutes at the end of each week. An hour at the end of each month. These timescales are not going to have a massive impact on anyone’s life but they could have an enormous impact on their grades.

Over the last few days I have discovered a free online software package called Decks (formerly MemRise). This is a site to which anyone can sign up and take part in mini revision tasks. The site was originally developed for learning language vocabulary and works by revisiting previous learning in a controlled way to maintain a high level of knowledge as described above. Recently the site has expanded to include numerous other subjects. I have enrolled and set up a group called Plutonium Science Open Group which I am offering anyone to join – for free!! Just go to: Decks group 349549, and then start learning the Biology, Chemistry and Physics keywords and Equations.

Of course, any revision method could work instead, but please feel free to join us on Decks.

Please don’t do what Year 11 do every year. Take a bit of control.

The Doc.

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