Tuesday, 25 November 2014

6 Months to Go; 6 Things to Do

Public exam candidates go into the Christmas break with 6 months to go to their exams. It’s not long. For some it’s the same length of time as the interval since their last set of exams; others will have other ways of calibrating the time. Here are six activities which are worth undertaking this far from the exams:
  1. Organise files, and catalogue them. Not only should all notes on a particular topic be in the same section of the file, a contents list of each file section is helpful. Summarising the content of a subject topic on one side of one piece of paper at the start of each section is an excellent revision tool to be done now (this is one that should never be left to the pure-revision last phase of learning). In addition, a cover page for the file as a whole, detailing the contents of the file is a good thing - in many subjects a thorough knowledge of the way that the specification is organised can help to contextualise questions.
  2. Collate feedback on written work by subject. It can be helpful to try to group all feedback on written work (and on reports if they are available at this stage of the year), to spot patterns. Identify what skills are strong, and which are lacking. Most broadly, the skills might be classified as knowledge, expression of that knowledge, choice of which knowledge to deploy well, ability to analyse (or compute), ability to evaluate/express clear answers and conclusions. These five areas could be scored: sound, needs improvement, could be improved, crucial weakness and so on.
  3. Review previous experience of taking exams: what has gone well, what went badly? What natural biases were learned in the experience? Are there tendencies to over-estimate ability and understanding, or under-estimate them? What does this mean for the next few phases of the work?
  4. Turn short term memory of the Michaelmas Term’s work in to long term memory. Now is the time to write those revision notes, for two reasons: first, the material should be familiar enough still that the notes will be informed not only by what you have written down, but also some memory of the sights, sounds, amusements, and incidental goings-on which surrounded the learning. Recalling these things (and even referring to them in your revision notes) uses deep memory for academic understanding, and will make them stick.
  5. Collaborate: take the time now to form your revision relationships. These could be study-buddies for each subject, or they could be a sibling who will share responsibility for testing, chatting practice answers, bouncing ideas off, or helping with the most difficult technical aspects. Anyone who can help here is a good choice: some students benefit from practising their language oral presentations with their own teddy-bear, but you are unlikely to get much help from this source for your Maths A level.
  6. Have a rest: make sure that the return to school in January sees you at your peak. Don’t waste week 1 re-acclimatising to the routine of getting up at a certain time to get to school. You’d never approach being an athlete, or an interview, like that. Make sure that you are in the best place you could possibly be to take advantage of lesson 1 in 2015.

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