Easy Revision Strategies For Science

I learnt how to revise science the hard way, through failure, trial and error and pure determination.  I got through my GCSE exams by reading through my science books – once or twice!  I was lucky to have a good memory.  Then I did my A levels and discovered that I had to do a lot more reading, but just reading wasn’t enough.  I had to read, write, talk, test, draw, re-write, re-read, re-test and repeat. It still wasn’t enough and it wasn’t until I started my degree that I really understood how to learn properly.

Has this ever happened to you? When you think you’ve done enough revision and realise after the exam that you didn’t know anything?  Now that I have been teaching for 22 years, I have seen thousands struggle like I did, but if you follow my very simple guidelines, you will save so much time and avoid the stress.

Step 1: Make sure you have decent notes.

If you are lucky, your teacher may give you printed notes so you won’t have to write your own.  I ask my students to show me their science books and what I usually see is half-written experiment write ups, loose worksheets and maybe a few answers to questions from a text-book.  You cannot revise from these.

So get hold of a course syllabus.  What’s that?  It’s called a specification and you can download it from all the examining board websites.  Make sure you know the title of your course so that you download the correct one.  Sometimes teachers give out a summary sheet at the end of a topic which lists everything you need to know, and have notes on.  topic listGo through the list or the syllabus and start writing notes on the topic IN YOUR OWN WORDS.  If you are just copying, you are not thinking.notes

Be warned, this step takes the longest, and more so if you don’t have the right sources of information.  If the notes in your books are not enough, use textbooks as opposed to revision guides.  I find that revision guides don’t go into detail, so only use the revision guides as a quick reference point but they won’t explain anything. If you still need more notes then go onto BBC Bitesize like I have explained in this post and top them up.

One of my students had to do this for all of the topics she had studied since the beginning of year 10.  She gasped and said,

“Miss that’s long! It will take me ages.”

Yes it will, but you will only have to do this once.

Step 2: Transform your notes

I took inspiration form @study_motivation101 on Instagram. She posts pictures of student notes and revision techniques and they all make you want to do the same.

For this step you will need:

  • highlighters

Highlight the keywords and important bits in your notes. Make a key to colour code your notes so you could use one colour for all formulas, one colour for all definitions and one colour for all the tricky bits you keep forgetting. highlighter

  • plain paper

Draw mind maps.  Write the topic title in the centre of the page and then branch out.  The first time you do this, don’t look at your notes, just add on everything you can remember.  It doesn’t matter if it’s just a few words. Then look at your notes and fill in the gaps.  Use diagrams, charts and tables in your mind maps too.mind mapmind map

  • felt tips

Using colour will keep you awake while you revise. The more colourful the better.  Write in different colours, draw bubbles around important information and underline keywords.  You can even write questions in the margin in a different colour to test yourself as you read your notes.


  • index cards

Read your notes, and now only write down the most important information. Index cards shouldn’t have lots of words and should be used as a “quick look” guide.  Look at the way they have been used in the picture below. Use colour, diagrams, highlighters, and subtitles to break up the information into manageable chunks.index cards

  • post it notes

Use post it notes to remind you about important points. You can also cover some of your work with them and write a question on them.  The answer is revealed under the post it note. This student has used post it notes directly on a revision guide. post it

Step 3: Practice questions.

As you go through your notes, always think about how you will be tested. What questions could be asked?  Write questions for yourself as you go along, the simplest ones could be just recalling facts.  For example when revising a diagram on the digestib=ve system, you could write down the question “name 5 parts of the digestive system and put them in order”.

The second type of test questions could be end of topic tests you have done at school. Ask your teacher for these and go through the questions again.

The third type are usually found in text books at the end of each page or chapter.  They usually have answers too, so a good place to start.

BBC Bitesize also has end of topic test questions.

Step 4: Download past papers and their mark schemes.

Many students get to step 3, and then think they know it all. The game isn’t over until you have done some real exam questions. This will get you used to the wording of the questions and you will see that questions are repeated (although they are not exactly the same).  When you have revised a topic, answer and mark the exam questions just on that topic rather than answering a whole paper. Learn how to mark the questions so that you don’t have to wait for your teacher to mark them.

For my students I have created custom made exam packs focusing on just one topic at a time.  Once they have mastered every topic in that paper, I let them do the whole paper.  I have created exam question sets by topic.  Below are some of the ones I have done so far.  They do not have answers yet.

OCR 21st Century C1, C2, C3

OCR 21st Century C1.1 exam questions (which gases make up the air)

OCR 21st Century C2.1 exam questions (properties of materials)

OCR 21st Century C3.2 exam questions (where does salt come from)

OCR 21st Century P1, P2, P3

OCR 21st Century p1-1 exam questions (planets and solar systems)

OCR 21st Century p2-1 exam questions (radiation and photons)

OCR 21st Century p3-1 exam questions (how much energy do we use)

OCR Gateway P1

gateway p1 cooking and comm with waves exam questions

gateway p1 data transmission exam questions

gateway p1 heating and cooling exam questions

 To summarise

              how to revise 1how to revise 2


Student Alert: Why Didn’t I Pass My Mock Exams?

You revised, you went to revision classes at school, you paid attention in class, you did your homework, yet you still didn’t get the grades you hoped you would. What did you do wrong?  If you are wondering this, then read on.

This week I have had numerous calls from worried parents who have said the same thing to me.  Their child works so hard, yet it doesn’t show, what could be the reason?  They saw their child sitting at their desk with their books open, sometimes even staying up late to get the work done.

Experience tells me that any child can learn, if given the right tools.  It’s all about focus, technique and time.  If one of these three elements is missing from revision, then it won’t work.


The obvious meaning is to avoid distractions, and really really concentrate.  Don’t procrastinate.  One of my students can take up to 10 minutes just getting her books out, another will leave out the tricky topics hoping that they won’t come up.  One student had a super organised study area, where she had a collection of text books, notes, past papers and worksheets, but no real revision had actually taken place.

The other meaning is to cast aside all the stuff you don’t need.  Only revise what is going to come up in the exam.  If you don’t know what will come up, then you need to ask your teacher to print off a syllabus. Then tick off each topic as you revise it.  It will show your progress and will ensure that you don’t miss anything out.  If you missed out questions or revised the wrong topics, then you didn’t FOCUS on the right things.



1.  What’s your learning style?

We all learn in different ways.  I am an auditory learner, so I prefer to watch videos or listen to talks and lectures.  Sometimes I like to make notes, and use highlighters to help me remember things.  Find a learning style that suits you and one that comes to you naturally.  If you don’t have a preferred way of learning, then use what works.  This infographic will help you find out your learning style and how you can use it to study better.

what type of learner are you

2.  Test yourself.

There’s lots to revise so break down each topic into smaller chunks.  Revise that chunk, and then test yourself.  So many students will revise without doing past papers and tests.  Worse still, they do the past papers and wait for their teachers to mark them.  How will you know if you got the questions right? It’s like cooking something to eat and not eating it!  Mark the papers yourself, look at the wrong answers, and then figure out how to get the right answer.  Then do another paper and repeat.


I was watching a TED talk on YouTube called “The First 20 Hours — How To Learn Anything.  The speaker claims that all you need is 20 hours to learn something and is worth watching. Did you devote this much time to your revision?  If you did fail your mock exams, then now is the time to get organised.  Watch the video and then act on it.

21 Ways To Revise GCSE Maths

  1. Start revising early in the year (about now) and learn the work you do in class.

  2. Get a copy of your syllabus and go through each bullet point.  Any topics you don’t understand should be highlighted.

  3. Write a list of all of the topics and cross them off the list once you’re sure you know them.

  4. When you revise topics make notes on the method and then do a few examples, then try some questions yourself on that topic.

  5. Do as many questions as possible, especially on subjects that you find difficult as practice is the only way.  You can get questions from:

    • Text books

    • Revision books (for example CGP books)

    • Homework sheets

    • Class tests

    • Past papers

  6. Online websites such as mymaths.co.uk or bbc bitesize.

  7. Practice loads! do loads of past papers and if you run out of past papers to do, do them again, especially the questions you didn’t do so well on.

  8. After revising a topic, go through past papers but only do the questions on that topic.  For example if you’ve just revised circle theorem, do past paper questions on circle theorem only. 

  9. Your textbook is full of explanations and worked examples you can follow, study and use to improve your understanding. It’s generally a good idea to find a topic you need help with, read through the explanation (looking up anything you don’t understand), before following along with the examples.

  10. After every exam paper, make a list of what you did poorly on and revise it.

  11. Revise with a friend or work in a small group. 

    • You can explain maths to your friends.

    • Your friends can explain things to you.

    • You can work together on problems.

    • You can test each other.

    • friend
  12. One of the most effective ways to learn a new skill is to write down the steps you have to take – either as a list or as a flowchart. 

  13. Make flash cards, but double sided ones, the reverse side having questions on it or page numbers from your text book where you can find these questions.  You could have a set for each of the following:

    • FORMULAS.  The formulas you need to memorise for the exam

    • METHODS.  How to work out a problem, for example the method for working out Pythagoras.

    • DEFINITIONS.  Write down the meanings of maths words you need to know.

    • NEED TO KNOW.  In maths there are quantities and number you must know off by heart.  Such as grams in a kilogram or square numbers.  One side has the question, the other side has the answer.

    • flash cards
  14. Make a cheat sheet.  This is one sheet of A4 paper with a summary of everything you need to know.

  15. Go online and revise topics by watching videos or practicing questions online.

  16. Create mind maps.  There should be a word/question or something in the middle of the page, with questions, facts or methods coming out.

  17. Create posters.  Make them colourful and big so that they catch your eye.  Display these posters on your walls so that you see them all the time.

  18. Use highlighters and shade/colour in important facts from text books and workbooks.highlighter

  19. If you have a really good set of notes or still have your maths workbooks from school, then you can write questions in the margins to jog your memory as you read.

  20. Use sticky notes to write down formulas and facts, they are quick and easy to do, as you learn each fact, just throw the sticky note away.sticky notes

  21. LOOK at a worked example of a question.  COVER it.  WRITE it yourself and work it out from memory.  CHECK to see if you’ve done it right.  If you’ve missed something out or done it wrong, TRY AGAIN.

If after all this you are still not getting anywhere,  let us do the work for you.  Book  a free assessment and let us take care of things.

Student Alert: Why You Probably Won’t Get The Grades You Hoped For.

I get a lot of comments from frustrated GCSE students who just don’t know how to revise effectively and get the grades. Despite trying their best to study and swatting up for exams, they keep failing. Some do well in class, know all the answers but flop in exams. Others will spend hours making colourful notes, drawing mind maps, reading books, and trying all sorts of revision strategies and still end with a fail. So what’s going wrong? Are they just not cut out to be A* students?

I don’t have a magic formula to help students pass their exams but I can draw on my past experiences when helping students revise to come up with some winning strategies. There are 4 types of problems:

1. When You Get Good Marks in Class Tests But Not in Real Exams

A class test is usually taken in the classroom and it is usually with the class teacher present. This makes it easier for students to relax because they are not faced with something unfamiliar. The class test is often not taken as seriously because “it doesn’t count” and so again helps the student to be more relaxed.
Another reason is that class tests are taken straight after a topic is finished whereas exams are on topics which might have been done months ago. For example, if your child is taking AS exams, then they might have to revise all the work they’ve done since January or even September. For GCSE students, they will be tested on topics they’ve covered since the beginning of year 10. For KS2 SATs students, they will be expected to know everything they’ve done in year 6.
To get over exam nerves , students need to get used to working under timed conditions and under pressure. Practicing past papers at home with a stop clock ticking away can help a child get accustomed to it. Getting used to the idea that it is normal to be nervous for exams, and learning strategies to cope with such feelings can also be beneficial. I have taught students who have well-used revision guides and text books, but haven’t seen a single exam paper. They haven’t had mock tests, and they haven’t timed themselves to see if they finish on time. So you must:

  • get used to working under pressure

  • practice tests at home under timed and un-timed conditions

  • compare your test results to see if you really are performing as well as you can in exam conditions

2. You Don’t have Enough Time To Learn It All

There’s no point in revising topics you know already. Find out what your weaknesses are and which skills you need to brush up on. You can ask your teacher if you don’t know. Then choose one topic you need to improve on and find exam questions on that topic. For example if you need to improve your vocabulary, then you need to read more and work out the meaning of unfamiliar words in the context of a passage of text. If you are a level 3 because you don’t know how to read tables and graphs, then find questions on data handling.

Exam papers are written so that the easy questions come first. For a higher GCSE maths paper, the C grade questions come first, for KS2 SATs, the level 3 questions come first and for English reading papers, the easy comprehension questions come first. Save time by finding out what level/grade you are working at. If you are already a C grade and need to get a B, then just skip the C grade questions. If you want to get a level 5 in your SATs then start at the back of the level 3-5 paper to practice harder questions.

3. You Spend Too Much Time making Notes/Mind Maps/Revision Cards

I encourage all of my students to have a good bank of resources to help them revise. For some students, this could be a set of colourful index linked revision cards, for others it might be mind maps and for some may even be their school text-book with highlighted text. In fact it’s essential when it comes to revision.

But some students take this as the “be all and end all” to revision, just because they’ve spent hours writing these beautiful colourful notes. Revision resources have to be used once they have been created. Aim to have all resources ready at least 4 weeks before the exams. There are many ways to use revision resources. You can:

  • read them

  • edit them

  • re-write them

  • shorten them

  • add questions to them

  • pin them up in your bedroom

  • use them when revising with a friend

4. You Don’t Know How To Revise

Read my other blogs on revision techniques:

How To Revise 1-create a timetable

How To Revise 2 – do some mock exams

How To Revise 3-read with a purpose

How To Revise 4- understand the wording

How To Revise 4 – Read The Question

Before studying any topic you must have a copy of the course content or exam syllabus.  This will tell you exactly what you need to know and often it is put simply in bullet points called learning objectives.  However, do you know the difference between “recall” and “know”?  These words are used often in exam syllabi, and you must be able to tell the difference so that you know how to learn the topic.

So here are the top 10 words used in exam syllabi that you must know the meaning of:

1.  Comprehend – Describe in your own words, tell how you feel (interpreting and understanding) about it, what it means, explain, compare, relate.

2.  Apply – How can you use it, where does it lead, apply (applying, making use of) what you know, use it to solve problems, demonstrate.

3.  Analyse – What are the parts, the order, the reasons why, (taking apart, being critical) the causes/problems/solutions/consequences.

4.  Evaluate – How would you judge it, does it succeed, will it (judging and assessing) work, what would you prefer, why you think so.

5.  Recall – to remember, learn off by heart.

6.  Know – Say what you know, or remember, describe, (knowing and remembering) repeat, define, identify, tell who, when, which, where, what.

7.  Compare – to show the differences and similarities.

8.  Define – can you give the formal meaning, learn the definition word for word.

9.  Predict – How might it be different, how else, what if, (connecting, being creative) suppose, put together, develop, improve, create your own.

10.  Understand – Comprehending the meaning, translation, interpolation, and interpretation of instructions and problems. State a problem in one’s own words.

Make sure that children know these words so that they know why they are studying a topic.

When Your Child Needs Help With Reading

I have been fortunate enough to work with many youngsters over the past few years. Many have been academically able and highly motivated and have achieved outstanding results at school. Many have lacked self-belief and have needed encouragement and backing, in order to progress to levels they would not have believed possible. So I have decided to share some of these stories with you and hope to add new case studies on a regular basis.

Do you have a gut feeling that (s)he is not ‘doing fine’?

We are constantly told by mothers who bring their youngsters for assessments that they really regret not having listened to their hearts and trusting their own judgments (often from a year or several years before), rather than listening to those who tell them that their children are ‘doing fine.’ One such mother was 6-year-old Zach’s mother.

Yet when Zach’s mother brought him to me for an assessment, she told me that he didn’t know his numbers beyond 10, and that he didn’t know the 45 high frequency words he had to know in reception year. She tried to help him at home, but didn’t have the expertise and knowledge to do so effectively. Little or no support was given by the school. His mother said the following: “I find it hard to put on paper what I feel in my heart. When I came to see you with my son Zach, I was so worried about him, yet his teacher said that he was doing fine.”

I tested Zach’s reading and discovered it to be at least a year below what it should be and he didn’t understand the concept of calculations in maths. He could count from 0 to 10, but not from 10 to 0, and he couldn’t recognise the difference between 13 and 30.

I decided to concentrate on his reading, and to teach him how to learn and work independently. One of the most striking things was his poor retention. For example, to login onto our computer programmes, children must type in their name with a capital letter and then press “enter” to start. In one lesson, a child can do up to 3 computer based activities which requires the child to follow the same login procedure. It took Zach 8 lessons to remember to do this without waiting for the teacher to prompt him. And I think that this was partly due to his poor memory and partly his over-reliance on adults (parents and teachers).

So, where are we now? Zach’s reading age has improved by 18 months in just 14 weeks, he is able to answer comprehension questions in simple sentences and he is reading more fluently and with expression. He comes to lesson and gets going without being told to, and asks for harder work. His mother can’t believe the transformation and he now holds his head up high. He says that schoolwork isn’t hard anymore. He believes that he can do anything if he tries.

How To Revise 3 – Reading and remembering

Do you read without thinking?  And then don’t remember much about what you have read?  This blog post will teach you how to read effectively so that what you read, you remember.

All revision and study involves reading, but if the reading is just superficial, then it’s pointless.  Here are some tips on how you can read actively so that you understand thoroughly what every word, sentence and paragraph means.

Why are you reading?

When revising, there is always an aim or a purpose.  Identify that purpose and as you read have that purpose in the back of your mind.

  • If you are going through Romeo and Juliet then you might need to memorize quotes or highlight the important/most exciting parts of the play.  This blog post gives some excellent advice on how to do it.

  • If you are revising maths, then make sure that you know which formulas you have to memorize and which ones will be given to you.  You will also need to remember the steps involved in specific calculations.  For example, you need to know how to work out the surface area of a rectangular prism.  This blog posting gives you 21 ways of revising maths.

  • If you are revising history, then learn important dates, events and try to imagine what life would be like in those past times.  As you read, make notes and create timelines.  Actively highlight key points in the text.  This article gives some great revision tips on revising history.

  • Younger children often read mechanically, and look at the text word by word.  They are so absorbed in working out what each word says that they don’t think about what they are reading.  When helping a younger child with reading, help by decoding words, going over particular sounds and working out the meaning of new words.  Also, stop at certain points and ask question on the text.  These blog posts has some great advice on helping young children to read with more comprehension.

  • When revising science, make sure you know which topics you have to “recall” which means to memorise and which topics you must “understand and apply”.  There is a lot to learn in science, so it is best to learn how to skim read and zoom in on the key words in the text.

Don’t Lose Concentration

To avoid getting bored and to staying focussed:

  • use highlighter pens – the colours add variety to our work

  • write questions in the margins to jog your memory

  • make up mnemonics to help you remember

  • use “sticky notes” to add points to think about

  • try to find patterns when you read

  • look for links between cause and effect or to other topics

You should be able to learn the work in such a way that you can teach someone else without getting muddled up. You don’t have to memorize every single word of your notes, but aim to memorize the main points at least, so that you can then write down these main points in a summary or on revision cards.

How Do I Know It’s Sinking In?

Re-read many times, even if you think you know it all.  Test your knowledge by covering the page you are reading and then seeing how much you can remember.  Then read the parts you forgot again.  Read and understand one sentence at a time.

This is called active learning and it ensures that you are concentrating on what you are reading and will help you to remember more.

The important thing is to try a variety of techniques and to do it properly.  I’ve seen students work, where they have revised using a highlighter, and they have highlighted nearly every word on the page.  Another student, said he had revised using the “questions in the margin” technique.  There were not enough questions to test that he had understood everything on the page.

Try them out and see what works for you.

How To Revise 2 – Do Some Mock Exams

There are many aspects to creating good study habits, and the first of these I have already mentioned in a previous post which is to get organised.  Creating a timetable can save many precious hours as we come to exams.

Another component of revision is going through past papers.  In fact this should be included in your revision plan.  Giving yourself mock tests can highlight how you work under pressure and it will show you the gaps in your learning.  Going over your revision notes many times is a pointless exercise if you haven’t  tested your knowledge .

When you are ready to do a mock exam (at least three weeks before the exam), make sure that you do it under exam conditions and that you keep to the time limit.  You may have gone through exam papers in class already, so choose an exam that you know you have not seen before.  Make sure it has a mark scheme so that you can give yourself a grade when you mark it.  Mark yourself strictly, and as you go through the paper analyse what went wrong.  the table below summarises the most common types of mistakes students make and how to fix them.

What went wrong

How to fix it

I couldn’t do the question on a specific topic Go over the mark scheme and make sure you understand the answers.  Go back over your notes and revise this topic again.  Then redo that question.
I didn’t finish on time Why was this? Was it because you spent a lot of time trying to remember your work to answer the questions?  If so, then you need to revise more so that the information is at your fingertips.  You shouldn’t have to rack your brains to remember things.
I made silly mistakes This is the most common reason why students get low marks.  Get into the habit of checking your work at the end.  Aim to finish 10 minutes before the end of the exam so that you have time to do this.
I didn’t read the question Use highlighter pens or underline key words in the question.  Learn to skim read so that you can pick out the important information in the question.  Exam questions are very wordy and you can easily lose yourself in the background information.  Learn how to get to the heart of the question.  A good way of doing this is to imagine you have to tell someone what to do in the question without reading out the whole question.
I left out a lot of questions Never leave a blank answer.  Especially if it’s a multiple choice or a one mark question.  If you skip the question thinking you will come back to it at the end, you might forget.  So make an educated guess and write something down.

A week before their A2 Chemistry exam I taught 2 different students.  The first got a D grade last year and the second got an A grade.  And in my opinion, both seemed to know their subject equally well.  But what differentiated them both significantly was that the A grade student had completed and marked 4 full exam papers and highlighted specific questions for clarification from me whereas the D grade student had attempted 1/2 a question paper, not marked it and not even highlighted the parts that she needed further support on.

Upon marking these papers, the A grade student was getting a C grade and the D grade student was failing.  A day before the exams, the A grade student had completed and marked and read through at least 3 times all past papers since 2002 and the D grade student hadn’t attempted any.  Her excuse being that she had other subjects to revise for.

What actually happened was that getting a bad grade in the initial mock exam seemed to motivate one student and de-motivate the other.  It made her face her fears and her “fight or flight” instinct kicked in.  The D grade student chose”flight”.  But, if she had stuck to her timetable and been more organised, and maybe started going over past papers 3 weeks before the exams, then would the results have been different?  We shall have to wait and see what grades both students get.

How To Revise 1 – Create a Timetable

The results of poor study skills are wasted time, frustration, and low or failing grades. No two people study the same way, and there is little doubt that what works for one person may not work for another. But what works for everybody is creating a timetable.

Creating a timetable will help in the following ways:

  • help you to organise your time

  • make sure that you are studying equally for all subjects

  • allow you to keep track of your studying

  • make you follow it! 

And don’t forget that a timetable can be revised and modified according to your needs.  Don’t go into too much detail by timetabling every minute of the day.  Organise each day into blocks such as “free time”, “homework time”, “guitar practise”, “exam revision”, “meal time” and  “TV time” for example. 

The time slots given for each block can also be changed and you can delete/add blocks into the timetable at different times of the year.  You must understand that your timetable is to help you develop good study habits. Once you have developed them, timetable construction becomes easier.  Note that you should not be studying continuously for more than 30 minutes. Make sure you incorporate a 5 minute break in between study periods.

So spend 5 minutes of your time today to make up a timetable and STICK TO IT! It will save you more than 5 minutes of your time in the long run.  This poster has some good tips.