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Making the grade: A* students share their revision tips and secrets

What separates the A* students from the rest? We asked those who got top grades in their exams to divulge their tips and study hacks.

Do you know how to revise? It might sound like a silly question, but some killer revision tips could take your revision, and consequently your exam prospects, from whatever to wow.  

This is what students on The Student Room (TSR), who received at least one A* in their A-level exams, attributed their success to. Unfortunately, none of them include leaving things to the last minute.


Read the examiners' reports

My number one gold-star advice (and I genuinely believe this is the only reason I got my A* in English language) is this: read the examiners' reports. Then read them again.

What baffles me is that, year upon year, the exam boards make public a document that is, wait for it, written by the people who are going to mark your papers. And in it, they tell you what they like to read. They also give you examples of what not to do.

Exam-technique wise, this is the most useful and important resource you have. Utilise it. Be all fancy and print it off and highlight key points and make spider diagrams. Stick it on your fridge. Memorise it, then eat the paper – whatever! Just make sure, if you're doing an essay subject, you walk into that exam knowing that, for the past five years in a row, examiners have given high marks to pupils who offer criticisms to viewpoints, or who relate to personal research. Thompsonic7 | The Student Room Member


Check past papers

Practice is key, so getting your hands on past paper questions and answers is very important. You're able to make connections between different areas of the syllabus. This is very important when it comes to A / A* questions.

So put down those revision cards and mind-maps once you've learned them. There's no point going over something a million times; you need to be able to apply it. At least two weeks before your exams, start concentrating on past papers. Do each one at least twice. With each one, trawl through the mark scheme and ensure you understand everything there. This gives you a better idea of how to think through an exam question.

I rarely just know the answer. In the harder questions, I have to think about it and work it out. That's what you need to be able to do to get the high grades. Dmccririck | The Student Room Member


Be prepared

If you're unsure what will come up in an exam, get a copy of the syllabus off the internet and literally tick off every single thing on the list. Britchick | The Student Room Member


Make it more manageable 

Break down your subject into ordered sections. Breaking down the exam into lots of little sections makes revision less daunting, and you'll know exactly where you stand in terms of how much you've done.

For my exams, I broke down a module into 20 sections or topics. It meant it didn't seem like much of a chore to start the next one, as they didn't last long. Then, before I knew it, I'd whizzed through the module without it being much work. Britchick | The Student Room Member

Don't be tempted to cram

Revise continually. Don't leave it a few weeks before an exam. Revise the stuff you're learning as you learn it.

Go home from school and make flash cards and posters and so on. That way, when you come to the exam period, you already know most of it and it's just brushing up on final details. Don't frantically cram for an exam. There's no point - it won't go in. Davidmroper | The Student Room Member

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    Create a plan

    The best thing my mum ever did for me was make me set up a revision timetable. I wrote out every topic within every subject I needed to revise, then estimated how many sessions of 50 minutes I would need to revise that topic.

    I then put this into a timetable so when it came down to revising I wouldn’t spend ages just flicking through any book finding something to revise, but would know exactly what area I was to cover in that time period. Strawberryjellybaby | The Student Room Member

    Revision help, hacks and tips: survive exam season with our advice section

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