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A-levels, study strategies

How To Study For Tests: Earn An A* On Your EOU Tests


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Learning how to study for tests is a key skill that all students need to know if they are going to be successful in their A-level courses. In A-levels, end of unit (EOU) tests are used by a teacher to assess how much the students know about a given topic in the course. They are administered and marked by the teacher every three to four weeks. If the student does well on the test they are praised for working hard and meeting or exceeding their predicted grade. If they don’t do so well on the test the teacher may suggest attending subject tutorial once a week or place them on an academic contract.

As a parent, how is your child doing on their EOU tests? Are they passing their EOU tests with their predicted grade or higher? Do they feel confident when studying for and taking their EOU tests? Or, are they failing their EOU tests? Do they feel as if studying for the tests is a waste of time because they don’t know what concepts will be on the tests?

If you are interested in helping your child earn their predicted grade or higher on their EOU tests then keep on reading!

Tip #1: Preparation: Notes And Homework Sets

how to study for tests

The first step your child needs to take when learning how to study for tests is to be prepared for their EOU tests. Being prepared for their EOU tests means that they are organised, have a master set of notes and understand the homework sets for the module.

They need to be organised which was a concept was discussed in detail in the blog post Six Form Essentials: How To Help Your Child Get Organised For Their A-Levels. In brief, they need to have an A4 lever arch folder, college ruled paper, plastic sheet protectors, tabbed dividers, coloured pens and pencils, a calculator and a school planner.

They need to have a master set of notes for the unit. Creating a master set of notes was a concept that was discussed in detail in the blog post How To Take Notes At A-Level To Earn An A*. In brief, they need to have a detailed set of notes based on the specification for the unit which allows them to complete homework sets and past paper questions to a high level of accuracy without referring to their textbook.

And they also need to understand their homework sets for the unit. Scheduling time to complete their homework set which was discussed in detail in the blog post A-Level Success Tips: How To Manage Your Workload. In brief, they need to understand their homework set for the unit. This means that they understand and explain the concept being tested in each question on the homework set.

If they aren’t prepared for their EOU test now is not the time for your child to start with day one of the course and try to get caught up with their organization, notes and homework sets. Rather, they should focus on completing a master set of notes and understand the homework set for the unit. If they don’t understand their homework set it is imperative that they see their subject tutor as quickly as possible to learn the concepts being tested on their homework set.

How To Study For Tests: Tip #2: Revise By Question Type

how to study for tests

The second step your child needs to take when learning how to study for tests involves having a strategy for completing past paper questions. Most students complete packs of past paper questions by answering the questions in sequential order. They then make a note of what questions they answered incorrectly when marking their work and repeat the process. The issue with this method is that they are not practising a template for a model answer and practising what they understand rather they are reinforcing the incorrect way of answering a question until they complete a pack of questions and mark their work.

A better approach is for your child to complete the questions strategically by answering the questions in order of decreasing point value. Your child answers all of the six-marker questions in the question pack and repeats the process for the five-marker questions and work their way through the pack answering sequentially lower point value questions until they had answered all of the questions in the pack.

If they run out of time they change pen colours and keep working until they have answered all of the questions in the pack. They then mark their work using the mark scheme and update their notes to include any keywords or definitions, concepts or strategies for answering questions.

The reason that this approach is so effective is that allows the student to model correct answers for each of the types of questions. It also allows the student to get into the habit of answering the large point questions first on the exam. And it allows them to become more relaxed on the exam by quickly earning their predicted grade on the exam.

Tip #3: Use The Mark Scheme To Guide Your Revision

The third step your child needs to take is to use the mark scheme to guide their revision for the EOU test. Too often, students complete packs of past paper questions with the mark scheme open which gives them a false sense of security about the content on the test. They believe that they know the course content when actually they don’t know the course content. Or they don’t understand how to use the mark schemes effectively in their revision.

The use of mark schemes in a student’s revision for the tests has been discussed in detail in the blog post A-Level Mark Schemes: 5 Ways They Can Be Used To Earn An A*.

When using a mark scheme to mark their work your child should complete the following three tasks:

  • Check the mark scheme for keywords or phrases which are printed in bold and are commonly known as Quality Of Language (QOL) and update their notes to include these terms.
  • Check the point value for question in the mark scheme and make sure that their answer contains enough concepts, i.e. one concept per point to earn all of the points that the question is worth.
  • Check that they have the concept in the answer in the mark scheme in their notes. This will allow them to maximise the value that they get from using mark schemes in their revision plan.

If they follow these steps your child will see a rapid increase in the grades that they earn on their EOU tests. This is because they will be engaging with the mark scheme in what is known as active learning rather than just reading the mark scheme in what is known as passive learning.

Tip #4: Think Like A Teacher

how to study for tests

The fourth step that your child needs to take when learning how to study for tests is to think like a teacher when they are studying for their EOU tests. Students often wonder what is on their EOU tests and how they should best revise for their tests. Sometimes they are surprised to see a concept on the test and wonder if they have been taught the concept in their lessons.

Thinking like a teacher allows a student to bridge the gap between the course specification, their notes, their homework set and their EOU test. Students need to keep in mind that the test is timed and so there can only be so many questions on the test. With this in mind, their teacher has to choose the questions carefully when making the test to make sure the test is levelled for the average student in the class and covers all of the major topics covered in the unit.

When revising for their test, your child should keep the following three points in mind when reviewing questions.

First, they should check to see if the question is checking their understanding of a major topic that is listed in the course specification for the unit. If it is then it’s a type of question that is most likely going to be on the test. Also, if the question keeps appearing in the pack of past paper questions they are completing where maybe small changes have been made to the question then this is another strong indication that this type of question will be on the test.

Second, is the question a synoptic question? A synoptic question is a question which includes two concepts in the question and requires an understanding of each of the concepts and the relationship between the concepts in order to answer the question. It is a favourite type of question for teachers to use on exams because it allows them to test the student’s understanding of two related concepts without using too many points on the test.

Third, is the question a challenging question? When a teacher makes a test they have to be able to differentiate between the A* and the A students. To do this they normally include one question on the test that requires a higher level of mathematics ability or a deeper understanding of a complex concept. When revising for an EOU test look for questions that fit these criteria and make sure that you understand them as they will probably be on the test.

If your child follows these three simple rules when studying for their EOU test they will see a marked improvement in their test scores because they will be thinking like a teacher.

Tip #5: Complete Past Paper Questions Under Timed Conditions

The fifth step your child needs to take when learning how to study for tests is to complete past paper questions under timed conditions. A lot of students complete past paper questions under non-exam conditions when revising for their EOU tests. They complete past paper questions without keeping an eye on the time with the thought that they are better off learning the material and that they will complete some past paper questions under timed conditions at a future date. The issue with this idea is that most students don’t tend to complete past paper questions under timed conditions because they run out of time studying for their EOU tests.

A better idea is to always complete past paper questions under timed conditions. If your child runs out of time completing the pack of past paper questions they should change pen colours and keep on working until they have completed the pack of past paper questions. After they have marked them and updated their master set of notes they need to complete the next pack of past paper questions more quickly while maintaining a high level of accuracy.

The idea is to be able to complete a pack of past paper questions in 90% of the allotted time. So, if they have 60 minutes of past paper questions your child should be able to complete the pack of past paper questions in 54 minutes. If they practice answering past paper questions in 90% of the allotted time on the EOU test they will have a few minutes to spare at the end of the test to check their work. And they will not feel as if they are working under time pressure on the test.

How To Study For Tests: 5 Strategies To Earn An A*

In order to earn their predicted grades on higher on their EOU tests your child needs to complete the following:

  • Be organised and have a set of master notes for the module.
  • Study by question type.
  • Use the mark scheme to guide their revision.
  • Think like a teacher
  • Complete past papers under timed conditions.

If they complete these five steps discussed in this blog post your child will earn the highest grade that they can on their EOU tests.

study strategies

5 Revision Tips For A-Levels: How To Increase Your Course Grade


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Revision tips for A-levels is a subject that most parents are interested in learning about. They are watching their child transition from being a GCSE student to being an A-level student. Their children have managed to organise their day effectively and are using a note-taking system to capture the ideas that they are learning in class. And they are managing their workload so they don’t get burnt out with their studies.

The next step in their journey is to learn how to revise effectively so they can earn their predicted grade on their EOU tests. So, if you are interested in learning how your child can study effectively for their EOU tests and want to learn about the five revision tips for A-levels then keep on reading!

Why Earning Your Predicted Grade On EOU Tests Is Really Important

revision tips for a-levels

When talking to your child about how their A-levels are going they may mention that they have just received their test papers back from their teacher. They may have earned a good grade on their exam and be happy with their results or they may have earned a bad grade on their exam and be frustrated with the teacher and their progress in the course. In either situation, as a parent, it is important that you keep track of their grades in the course.

There are three reasons that this is an important task for you to complete as you help your child be successful with their A-levels. The first is that the teacher uses their course grade to monitor your child’s progress against the predicted grade they have been assigned in the course. The predicted grade is the grade that the college believes that they should be able to attain based on their GCSE grades. If their course grade is below their predicted grade then their teacher has to follow the college policy and place them on an academic contract. This may involve taking away their free periods so they can attend mandatory study sessions, require that they attend mandatory subject tutorials and be set improvement goals on their exam grades that they must attain otherwise further action will be taken.

The second is that the course grade is a good indication of how your child is learning and retaining the information in the course. If your child’s course grade is above or equal to their predicted grade then you have nothing to worry about. If it’s one letter grade below the predicted grade then its something to be concerned about. If its two or more letter grades below the predicted grade then its something that requires immediate action on your part. The reason for this is that the longer your child is not working at their predicted grade in the course the more difficult it is for them to get their grades back on track.

The third is that your child’s course grade is a strong indicator of what grade they will earn on their UCAS prediction exam. The UCAS prediction exam is the exam your child takes at the end of Year 12 which along with their course grades is used to predict the grades that they will earn at the end of the course. And this is used by universities to give unconditional and conditional offers to prospective students.

Help your child understand the importance of their course grades:

  • Talk to them about the grades they are earning on their EOU tests.
  • Help them understand the importance of keeping their course grades on track with their predicted grade.
  • Help them understand that their course grades and their UCAS grades are used to predict their final grades in the course.

Once your child understands the importance of earning their predicted grade on their EOU tests then they will understand the importance of the 5 revision tips for a-levels and how it can help them earn good grades in their courses.

Revision Tips For A-Levels: Create A Master Set Of Notes Using The Course Specification

revision tips for a-levels

The first tip you can use to help your child is to help them create a master set of notes using the course specification as a guide. If you need help doing this then read the blog post “How To Take Notes At A-Level To Earn An A*“. It is crucial that your child has a master set of notes before they start revising for their EOU tests.

The idea is that your child takes notes during the lesson that captures the concepts being taught in the lesson using a note-taking system. Then they create a master set of notes from the notes that they took during the lesson, from reading the resources they were given in the lesson and from reading the textbook. As they create their master set of notes they are using the course specification as a guide making sure that they have notes on topic and subtopic listed in the course specification.

The indicator that your child has a thorough set of master notes is when they can follow the directions of each subtopic listed in the course specification for the topic. For example, they can state the definition if a key term. They can describe the trend seen in a set of data. Or they can compute for an unknown variable using the formula given in the textbook.

Help your child create a master set of notes for each of the units in their course:

  • Review with them how to create a master set of notes using the link above.
  • Help them create a master set of notes for each topic.
  • Use the course specification as a guide to quiz your child on the course material contained in their master set of notes.

Revision Tips For A-Levels: Make Sure They Understand Their Homework

The second tip you can use to help your child is to make sure they understand their homework sets. There is a distinct difference between completing a homework set and understanding a homework set. When your child is given a homework set there is a due date associated with the homework set. Your child completes their homework set by the due date and submits it to their teacher. When they get their graded homework set back from their teacher they make a note of the grade that they earned on the assignment and file it in their folder.

When a child understands a homework set they understand they take their learning one step further than other students. They make sure they understand the questions being asked on the homework set and seek clarification of any concepts they don’t understand before they complete the homework set and submit it. When they get the homework back from the teacher they review their homework set using a mark scheme, make a note of what questions they got correct, seek clarification on what questions they got wrong and update their master set of notes. They then file the homework set in the appropriate section of their lever arch folder.

If your child is are having issues completing their homework by the due date then make sure you read the blog post “A-Level Success Tips: How To Manage Your Workload” so that you can help them complete their homework in a timely manner.

It’s taking the time to review their graded homework set and fill in any gaps in their knowledge that is the important point. If your child does this as they complete their homework then they will keep up with the course work and their understanding of the course work.

Help your child understand their homework sets:

  • Review with them the blog post on how to manage their workload.
  • Make sure they are submitting completed homework sets by the due date.
  • Discuss with them the importance of understanding their homework sets rather than completing their homework sets.
  • Encourage them to see their tutor during subject tutorial and ask for clarification on any concept in the homework that they don’t understand.

Revision Tips For A-Levels: Use Past Papers Wisely

revision tips for a-levels

The third tip that you can use to help your child is to help them use past papers wisely in their revision for their EOU tests. When a student knows that they have an EOU test coming up the tendency is to print off packs of past paper questions on the unit that have been made available by the college or that they can download from the internet. They complete the past paper questions with the mark scheme open. They read the question, think about what they would write on the exam, check the mark scheme and write down the answer in the mark scheme. To the student, this makes perfect sense since they are saving time by not writing down the incorrect answer, having to mark their work and then correct their work.

The are several issues with this strategy. The student is lulled into a false sense of security. They will not have the mark scheme available to them on during their test so they will feel additional stress on exam day. They are not practising how to recall information from their short term and long-term memory so they will not be able to do this during their exam. They are not crystallising the thoughts in their head by writing down the answers on their practice papers. They are not learning how to answer exam questions in the style wanted by the examiner. They are not learning how to write answers worth the number of points for each question. And they are not learning how to answer each type of question that they will see on the exam.

A better way of studying for their end of unit tests is for your child to use the mark schemes in a more proactive manner in their revision. For a more detailed explanation of this approach read the blog post “A-Level Mark Schemes: 5 Ways They Can Be Used To Get An A*“. The idea is that your child prints off a pack of past paper questions and completes them under timed conditions with the mark scheme closed. Once they have completed as many questions as they can under the time given they mark their work against the mark scheme making a note of what questions they got incorrect and on what questions they lost points. If they don’t understand a concept they ask their teacher for clarification the next day they are in school. They then update their notes and add to their notes anything that is missing that prevented them from getting the question correct on the exam. After they have completed this cycle for one pack of past paper questions they complete the cycle on subsequent packs of past paper questions. Using this method builds your child’s confidence their exam-taking ability, allows them to practice the recall of information from their short term and long term memory, allows them to practice writing answers to exam questions in the way that the examiner is looking for and allows them to practice answering certain types of questions.

Help your child use mark schemes effectively in their revision:

  • Review with them the blog post that discusses how to use mark schemes in their revision for their EOU tests.
  • Help your child understand that using mark schemes incorrectly is not going to help them earn a good grade on the final exam.
  • Help your child understand that using mark schemes correctly allows them to develop their exam-taking skills and helps consolidate their knowledge in the course.

Revision Tips For A-Levels: Learn To Think Like A Teacher

The fourth tip you can use to help your child is to help them think like a teacher. When putting a test together the teacher can only include so many questions due to the time constraint of the test. Therefore teachers tend to create their tests using four criteria: Does the question test one of the main concepts from the course specification for a unit? Has the content of the question been included in the test in a different question? Does the question include a different question type that has not already been included in the test? Is the question one that is more challenging and can be used to differentiate between A* and A students?

With this understanding of how their teacher constructs a test, your child can now approach their revision with a more critical eye. They can start to think like their teacher when they are completing past paper questions. When they are completing a question they can ask themselves questions such as:

  • What main concept listed in the course specification is this question testing?
  • Have I seen a different question that tests this concept? If so, is this a better question compared to the other one? Which one would I include on the exam?
  • What type of question is this (definition, concept, computational, mechanism, six-marker)?
  • Does this question contain parts that could be used to differentiate between A* and A students?

By pausing to reflect on each question type your child is analyzing the question from the holistic or big-picture perspective and cataloguing questions into different types. This allows them to analyse the question based on the concept being tested, the type of question, the point value of the question and difficulty of the question. This is a much more effective way of studying compared to completing stacks of past paper questions.

If you need help with helping your child study effectively for their exams then read the blog post “A-Level Chemistry Revision: 5 Study Skills Used By A* Students” for more information.

Help your child think like a teacher when revising for their tests:

  • Help them analyse the test questions using the four criteria listed in this section.
  • Help them catalogue questions into different question types.
  • Help them analyse each question and determine if it should be included in an EOU test.

Complete PPQ under exam conditions

The fifth tip that you can use to help your child is to help them complete past paper questions under timed conditions. A lot of students run out of time on their exams which causes them to earn a lower grade on the exam. This can be overcome by helping your child complete past paper questions under exam conditions as part of their revision cycle.

This step is the last part of their revision cycle and to be beneficial must be completed after they have completed their master set of notes, understood all of the concepts on their homework sets, have completed packs of past paper questions and analysed practice questions. Otherwise, it will have little benefit to your child.

To complete past paper questions under timed conditions your child completes as many of the past paper questions in the time allotted. For example, if the pack of past paper questions had a time limit of 60 minutes then they spend 60 minutes completing the papers with the mark scheme closed. If they run out of time they change the colour of the pen that they are using and complete the rest of the questions in the pack.

Next, they mark the papers using the mark scheme using the strategy outlined in this blog post. Then they determine why they ran out of time completing the pack of past paper questions. Was it because they didn’t know the concept? Was it because they could not recall the concept? Did they spend too much time determining what the question was asking them? Did they spend too long answering the question? Did they become mentally fatigued as they were completing the questions?

The answer to all of these questions indicates a specific weakness in your child’s study habits that can be fixed by adapting their study habits. After they have determined how they will strengthen the weaknesses in their study habits they consolidate their learning by re-reading and adding to their notes and seeking help from their teacher. Then they complete another set of past paper questions with the target goal of completing the questions 10% faster than they did previously while maintaining their predicted grade on the past paper questions.

The final goal with regards to completing past paper questions under timed conditions is to be able to complete the questions in 90% of the allotted time. This gives your child 10% of the allotted time on the exam to review their work for errors and check that they have answered all of the questions correctly before submitting the exam to their teacher.

Help your child complete past paper questions under timed conditions:

  • Have them complete as many of the past paper questions they can in the allotted time.
  • Have them complete any remaining questions using a different colour pen.
  • Have them determine why they didn’t complete all of the past paper questions in the allotted time.
  • Help them update their revision plan to strengthen any weaknesses in their plan.
  • Help them set a goal to complete the past paper questions in 90% of the time allotted while maintaining their predicted grade.

If you help your child use the five revision tips for a-levels mentioned in this blog post they will be well on their way to earning their predicted grade or higher on their EOU tests. This is because the five revision tips for a-levels discussed in this blog post help your child think about their course work holistically and begin to think like a teacher. This gives them a competitive edge that allows them to increase their grade in the course.