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Revision Plan: How A* Students Plan To Revise For A-Level Chemistry

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A-level students nationwide are beginning to wrap up their coursework and leave school for study leave in order to revise for their upcoming exams. Some students are prepared – they have a comprehensive revision plan, several years of mock exams to complete,  a thorough set of notes and a firm understanding of the course content. Other students may not be so well prepared – they have something that resembles a revision plan, a few mock exams that they have downloaded from the internet, a binder full of handouts, scribbled notes and marked exams and a weak understanding of the course material.

When the results are published over the summertime, the results at an initial glance seem to follow a predictable trend. Those students that were well prepared earned or exceeded their predicted grade. And those students that weren’t well prepared earned less than their predicted grade and have placed their entry into the university of their choice in jeopardy. And yet there are those few students that either seemed on track to earn their predicted grade on the exam and didn’t and those students that were predicted to earn a low grade on the exam that performed exceedingly well on the exam and exceeded everyone’s expectations.

As a parent, are you concerned about how your son or daughter will do on their A-level chemistry exams? Are you concerned that they may not be studying effectively for their exams? And are you curious about how some students earn top grades on their exam even though they seem to be woefully underprepared?

This two-part blog post will discuss the revision plan used by A* students when studying for their A-level exams in order for them to achieve an A* on their exams. It will also discuss the reasons why some students although woefully underprepared manage to earn a grade higher than their predicted grades on their A-level exams.

Revision Plan: Start With The End In Mind


Stephen Covey has an excellent quote “Begin with the end in mind”, that is one of the habits that he discusses in his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People.” Before revising for their exams A* students know what grade they want on their final exam. They create a study plan that maps out the topics that they will be revising during the weeks leading up to the exam.

However, they don’t just start with the first topic in the course specification and then move onto the second topic and work their way through each topic in the syllabus in sequential order. Rather they see the synoptic links between the topics taught in the first year and the topics taught in the second year of the course. For example, they study the topic of energetics with thermodynamics and the topics of kinetics with rate equations. This is because energetics and kinetics are taught in the first year of the course and thermodynamics and rate equations are taught in the second year of the course.

Excellent revision plans all start with the end in mind – the grade that the student wants to earn on the final exam. And a well laid out plan so that they know what topics they are studying each week. However, A* students also know the value of the content and the context of the course material.

Build A Firm Foundation With Content

Revision plan

A* students have a system of strategies in place in order to build a firm foundation in the content of the course. A* students have a preferred note taking system that they use in all of their A-level courses. Some students use the Cornell note taking method, others use the mind mapping method or a combination of both of these methods. It doesn’t matter what note taking method they use as long as the system that they use produces a set of notes that they can refer to while they study for the exam. They also have organised sets of folders that contains all of their classwork, homework sets and past papers.

A* students know that they need to study using active learning rather than passive learning techniques. Rather than copy over their notes and make a fresh set of notes on the topic, A* students spend a short time making  a colour coded mind map of the topic that summarises the main points of the topic. They know that their time is better spent completing past paper questions and updating their mind map after they complete each set of past paper questions rather than spending their time copying over their notes.

If your son or daughter doesn’t have a good set of notes or has disorganised folders there is still hope that they can earn a respectable grade on the final exam for the course. They are better off creating a colour coded mind map of the subtopics covered in the topic using the specification as a guide rather than creating a master set of notes in the weeks leading up to their final exams. Although it may seem counter intuitive, using active learning strategies such as completing past paper questions and updating their mind maps along the way as they revise for a topic is a better strategy than the passive learning strategy of creating a fresh master set of notes for each topic.

Read the blog post “A-Level Chemistry Revision: 5 Study Skills Used By A* Students”, for study skills your child can incorporate into their revision plan.

Putting A Plan Together Using The Context Of The Course

Revision plan

As mentioned earlier, A* students tend to have the ability to see the synoptic links between the topics covered in the first and second year of the course. However, they also revise for each topic by question type rather than just completing packs of past paper questions. This strategy allows them to model how to answer each question correctly and then reinforce the correct way of answering the question by answering several questions in a revision session.

For example, A* students may decide to revise 6-mark questions as part of their revision plan. Rather than complete all of the 6-mark questions in a session they spend some time reviewing how to answer the 6-mark question in terms of indicative chemistry content and the three levels of explanation. They then complete a 6-mark question, mark it using the mark scheme, update their mind map for the topic and reflect on how they can improve their score on the next 6-mark question.

Once they have completed their revision for the 6-mark question they use a similar strategy when revising for a 5-mark mechanism question, a 4-mark calculation question, a 3-mark concept question, a 2-mark definition question or a 1-mark multiple choice question. When creating their revision plan for the topic, A* students schedule their time by types of question that they will revise rather than revising the content of the topic. They know that this type of active learning will help earn them a good grade on their final exams because when they see the question on the exam they will recall the model answer for the question type, the steps required to to answer the question and earn the most points possible as well as the content required to answer the question.

5 Strategies For Creating An Effective Revision Plan To Earn An A* in A-Level Chemistry


When creating an effective revision plan, A* students use the following strategies listed below. They are more focused on deciding what they are going to do each week rather than focusing on using each minute of each hour of the day.

  1. Start with the end in mind – what grade do you want to earn on the final exam in the course?
  2. Pair up topics that fit together – for example kinetics and rate equations.
  3. Consolidate content – spend a small amount of time creating a colour coded mind map for each topic using the specification as a guide.
  4. Study by question type for each topic – for example 6-mark questions and then update the mind map for the topic.
  5. Complete whole past paper questions under timed conditions.


Mock Exam Results Explained: Are They A Good Indicator Of Your Child’s Future Success?

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Mock Exam Results Explained

Are you concerned about your child’s mock exam results? This week nationwide students took their mock exams in their A-level subjects and waited for their tutors to mark their papers. Some students were happy with the result that they earned on their mock exams and believe that they are on track to secure a place at the university of their choice. 

Other students were unhappy with their mock exam results and have had conversations with their subject tutors where they were given advice such as “study more” or “complete more past paper questions.” Some students who didn’t do well on their mock exams may also have been assigned mandatory study periods in order to help them use their time in the day more effectively.

Did your child do well on their mock exams? If they did well that’s great! If they didn’t do well, as a parent should you be concerned?

The Difference Between Formative And Summative Assessments


To understand the value of mock exams you need to understand how they fit into the learning cycle. Assessments in education are divided into two categories – formative and summative. Once you understand the difference between the two types of assessment you can understand the value of mock exams and will better understand your child’s mock exam results.

Formative assessments are assessments such as HW sets. They are used to monitor the progress that your child is making in the course as they are learning the course material. The teacher marks the HW set and notes which questions the students got correct and which questions they got incorrect. The teacher then tailors the next lesson to reteach any areas where there is a misunderstanding of the concept by the students. Summative assessments are assessments such as quizzes, end of topic tests or mock exams. They are used to assess how well your child understands the topic if its a quiz or an end of the topic exam. Or they are used to assess how your child is progressing in the course compared to a benchmark i.e. their predicted grade if its a mock exam.

A mock exam is a summative assessment of your child’s understanding of the course material to date and is a good indication of how they will perform on their end of course exams.

Help Your Child Be Successful In Their Studies By Helping Them Plan Their Study Time


Now you understand that the mock exam is a formative assessment that assesses your child’s progress in the course you are better equipped to decide whether you should be concerned about the grade on your child’s mock exam result. The answer is that you should be concerned about your child’s mock exam result as its a really good indicator as to how your child will do on the final exam of the course. So, although your child may tell you that “its nothing to worry about” or that “they have things under control”, as a parent you need to step in and take decisive action in order to help your child be successful in their studies.

One action that you can do to help your child is to help them create a revision schedule. In order to save time consider purchasing a dairy with one page for each day of the week. Then sit down with your child and block out and label each hour of the day during the week that they are in class or are attending subject tutorials or other school events. Block out and label time for eating breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as getting ready for the day in the morning. And block out and label an hour to relax at the end of the day and assign a reasonable time to go to bed.

Did you notice how commute time to and from school wasn’t blocked out? If you look at your child’s day on the planner you may notice that there are pockets of dead time throughout their day. For example, commute time to and from school or an hour between lessons on certain days of the week. Using these pockets of dead time to study can help your child become more productive during the day by using their time more effectively. Studying during their daily commute is a productive way to use this time as your child can revise keywords and definitions using an app on their smartphone or review the steps needed to complete a complicated problem.

Your child has probably been told by their tutor that they need to study so many hours a week per subject outside of lesson time. Most schools follow a plan where they assign five hours of homework per week per subject during the school year. However, in the ramp up to the end of course exams, the school may update their plan and recommend that students study five hours a week if they want a C at the end of the course and 20 hours a week if they want an A* in the course. It is now time to sit down with your child and map out the hours of revision time that they need to complete each week in order to earn the grade that they want in the course.

Mock Exam Results: Will Hiring A Tutor Help My Child Earn Better Grades?

Mock Exam Results Explained

A lot of parents panic after their child shows them their mock exam results and believe that a tutor is a solution to improving their child’s grades in their courses. In fact, according to the Evening Standard, 27% of parents have hired a tutor for their child.  The thinking is that their child is not doing well in their studies because of an external issue – the teacher is doing a poor job at teaching the course, the school isn’t providing the needed resources such as access to several years of past paper questions or the latest laboratory equipment or the subject tutorials offered by the school are rather lackluster and ineffective. Parents think that by hiring a tutor they will solve this problem because they are hiring an expert that can meet with their child for an hour a week and the problem is fixed! 

However, our experience indicates that it isn’t an external issue that is causing the poor mock exam results. Rather it is an internal issue that is causing the problem. Many children have not been taught by their subject tutors how to revise effectively for their exams. What they have been taught is how to create a revision schedule with so many hours of revision each week for each of their subjects. What they end up with is a piece of paper with all of their classes colour coded and all of their revision time for each subject colour coded and their days full from the time they get up in the morning to the time they go to bed in the night time. They put their revision schedule into a plastic sheet protector and place it in the front of their day folder and follow their plan and study each of their subjects for a set period of time each day. And at the end of the course, they don’t get the grade that they want on their exams and they enter clearing hoping to find a university that will accept them onto a course. And they feel resentment towards their subject tutors and their school because they did what they were told but they didn’t get the result.

Will hiring a tutor may help your child be more successful in their studies? It depends on the type and quality of the tutor that you hire to help your child. If the tutor understands that the issue with your child’s grades may be internally focused rather than externally focused then your child will improve their grade in the course. If they use strategies to help your child revise more effectively as well as review the subject content then it is worth the investment of your time and money. However, if the tutor just reviews subject content with your child once a week then your child’s grade in the course will not improve dramatically and the money spent will not be a good investment. If you are considering hiring a tutor, read the blog post “Imagine What It Would Feel Like to See Your Child Go to University” for factors to consider when hiring a tutor.



Hiring A Tutor For Your Child? 10 Factors To Consider Before You Decide

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Are you considering hiring a tutor for your child? Maybe it’s because you see them feeling frustrated and demoralised when they earn a failing grade on a test. Or maybe you see their report card and wonder if they are living up to their true potential. And maybe you wonder if they will actually attend the university of their choice.

Hiring a tutor for your child is a big decision for parents to make. You need to consider whether hiring a tutor will help your child earn the grades they need on their exams. And what factors to consider when hiring a tutor so that you hire a quality tutor for your child that helps your child improve their grade in the course and prepares them for their final exams.

Will An A-Level Tutor Help My Child Earn The Grades They Need On Their Exams?

Hiring A Tutor For Your Child

According to The Telegraph, there is an increase in the number of parents who are hiring a tutor for their child in order to supplement their education. Parents don’t hire private tutors because they are dissatisfied with the quality of teaching that is taking place in their children’s school. Rather, they hire private tutors either to help their child with a particular subject or because their child is excelling in their studies and they want their child to attend a specific university. Although some school headteachers frown upon using private tutors and instead suggest that if a student is failing at a subject that they should be tutored in-house by their subject tutor, the viewpoint is different when a child is taking A-levels. According to the article, David Boddy, head of St James Senior Boys’ School in Ashford, Surrey, believes that private tutoring is of a benefit for A-level students because it gives them a confidence boost, helps them with their work discipline and helps ensure that students get the grades on their exams that they need in order to get into the university of their choice.

10 Factors to Consider When Hiring An A-Level Tutor

adult agreement blur brainstorming

There are several factors to look for when hiring a tutor for your child either face to face or online. Consider the following factors:

  1. Ask for testimonials. A strong tutor will have testimonials from the parents of children they have previously tutored.
  2. Check credentials. A strong tutor will have the appropriate qualifications to teach the subject.
  3. Teaching Credentials. Strong tutors are qualified teachers that have teaching credentials. Weak tutors tend to be unqualified teachers.
  4. Criminal background check. Make sure that the tutor has been screened by the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB).
  5. Rapport with your child. Make sure that the tutor has rapport with your child. To check this, book an initial session with the tutor before committing further.
  6. Academic Strategy. Consider the tutor’s academic strategy for your child. Weak tutors will not have a well thought out plan for the time that they are spending tutoring your child. Their response will be along the lines of “give your child extra practice with homework” or “go over areas of the course that they are weak at” whereas a strong tutor will have SMART goals such as “review the module on atomic structure ” or “review past papers for three weeks.”
  7. Tutor Provided Resources. Weak tutors will not have their own resources rather they will ask to borrow your child’s textbook. They will ask your child if they have any questions about the material that they can answer. Strong tutors have their own resources and will give homework.  In addition, strong tutors will provide you all examination papers for your child’s course.
  8. Success Rate. Ask the tutor about their success rate helping students earn the grade they desire on their exams. Ask how many of their students have earned A*, A or B grades on their A-levels exams. Ask them how many students started with a failing grade in the course and earned a passing grade on their end of course exams.
  9. Price of the Session. Teachers are busy professionals and are either writing lesson plans, teaching students or marking papers. Check the market price of tutors at various agencies or independent tutors in your area. Beware of tutors who are marketing themselves a lot cheaper than other tutors tutoring the same subject. They are either starting out as a tutor and are inexperienced in tutoring or are building a list of referrals so that they can market themselves as a stronger tutor in the near future and increase their prices. You know the old saying “if it’s too good to be true then it probably is.”
  10. Online or Face to Face Tutoring. Some parents prefer to drop their child off at an agency to be tutored and don’t mind paying the markup that the tutoring agency charges. They enjoy the convenience of having someone else handle the scheduling of the sessions and the paperwork involved in the background check. Some parents want the teacher to come to their house and tutor their child in their home. They don’t want the hassle of having to travel to the tutoring agency several times a week and drop off and pick up their child. Other parents are more technically savvy and want their child to be tutored online. They understand that by working with a tutor online their child can have access to tutors that may not be otherwise available to them due to geographical constraints. According to Digital Journal, online tutoring is expected to grow in popularity at a rate of 14% per year until 2021.

How To Help Your Child Get The Grades

Every parent wants to see their child be academically successful and attend the university of their choice. They want to see their child have a better social position in life than they did in their lives. And every child wants to pass their coursework and exams with the best grades that they can earn and have less stress and frustration when completing their homework assignments and studying for their exams.

A tutor is someone who is a subject matter expert, someone who motivates your child to succeed and who believes in them. Maybe a tutor is a solution to the challenge that your child is having with their academic studies. If you are considering hiring a tutor for your child you may want to read the blog post “Need A Tutor? Should I Go With A Franchise Tutor For My Child?“, in order to understand the advantages and disadvantages of hiring a franchise tutor.


Solve Chemistry Problems In A-Level Chemistry Even If You Don’t Like Maths!

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As I teach and tutor A level Chemistry I notice that some of my students find the maths used to solve chemistry problems easy to follow and others seem to find these types of problems the area where they lose the most points on their end of topic exams. They understand the concept being assessed in the question but get caught up in the maths – they forget to carry the minus sign, multiply by a coefficient or the units don’t cancel out. And before they know it, the question doesn’t make any sense anymore and they look at their paper with frustration!

Does one of these scenarios sound like you? Do you wish there was an easier way to solve these types of problems and achieve a good grade in A-level Chemistry?

POGIL – Sounds Weird But Makes Sense

POGIL is an acronym for Process Oriented Guided Instructional Learning. The process was formulated in the late 1990s as a way to teach General Chemistry in the United States. It sounds weird but once you see it in action it makes perfect sense! I find that once I teach POGIL to my students, it helps the students who like maths and don’t like maths get the correct answer to computational type problems all of the time.

All you have to do is complete the following steps:

  1. Read the question carefully and underline any keywords or units.
  2. Circle the initial conditions.
  3. Circle the final conditions.
  4. Ask yourself “what steps do I need to complete in order to get from the initial conditions to the final conditions?”
  5. Write down any unit conversions that you may need to convert from one unit to the next.
  6. Make sure that the units cancel out as you move from one step to the next.

Solve Chemistry Problems: Example of POGIL In Action

solve chemistry problems

Here’s a sample problem you can solve using POGIL. It’s a type of problem that may be seen on the module on the amount of substance on Paper 1.

Q. How many chloride ions are present in 5.6 g of aluminium chloride?

Use POGIL to map out a path from the initial conditions to the final conditions.

  1. Initial condition: 5.6 g of aluminium chloride.
  2. Final condition: the amount of chloride ions.

Write down the steps you need to take in order to get from the initial to the final conditions:

  1. Compute the molar mass of AlCl3 which is 133 grams mol -1.
  2. Convert grams of aluminium chloride to moles of aluminium chloride.
  3. Recall that there are three moles of chloride ions per mole of aluminium chloride.
  4. Convert moles of aluminium chloride to moles of chloride ions.
  5. Recall that there is Avogadro’s number of chloride ions per mole of chloride ions.
  6. Convert moles of chloride units to units of chloride ions.

Graphically the process looks like this:

Screenshot 2018-12-27 at 07.44.25

By following the steps involved in POGIL when solving computational type problems my students get the correct answer the first time!

Are you considering hiring a tutor? Read the blog post “Hiring A Tutor For Your Child? 10 Factors To Consider Before You Decide“, for valuable information that will help you make the correct decision for your child.