With exams looming, now is the time for all National 5 and Higher pupils to begin final revision. Here are a few hints, tips and handy links to help you maximise your revision time.
1) Make sure you know when your exam is, and plan out your revision time between now and then using a revision timetable. Don’t spend more than 45 minutes on any one topic. You will gain more from repeated chunks of revision spread out over days and weeks, than one mammoth, all-day session. [SQA Exam Timetable 2014]
2) Prioritise your revision time. If your close reading grades are already strong, spend more time on your literature texts – or vice versa. If both areas need work, make sure you split your time equally. Now might be a good time to dig out your Prelim Self-Assessment sheet and decide where your time would be best spent.
3) At this point in the year, ‘reading over your notes’, highlighting, and making study cards are likely to be of very limited benefit. Focus your time on the things you will actually have to do in the exam: reading close reading passage and answering questions, or writing essays.
4) Timed practice is essential to improve your pace for the exam, but be sure to take the time to reflect too. Don’t just churn out essay after essay, answer after answer, without looking at how to improve. Use marking keys, study guides, essay checklists and sample essays to help you identify your areas of strength and weakness, and aim to improve these in your next timed practice.
5) Spend time re-reading your literature texts – not your notes or key quotes, but the actual texts. To write a strong critical essay you must show understanding of the whole text and its wider themes. Re-acquainting yourself with the literature is essential. Look for new ideas/connections that you hadn’t seen before. It may be months since you last looked at some texts in their entirety (especially plays and novels), so now is the perfect time to go back and read them through again. Once you’ve done that, you may wish to investigate some online revision guides for your texts, looking for new perspectives/ideas. See the links on this blog for literature study guides.
6) Revisit work completed in class this year. Complete any unfinished questions/essays/homework. Try re-writing and improving essays you wrote earlier in the year.
7) Identify the question types that recur in the critical essay paper. (For example, there are often questions on ‘character’, ‘turning point’ and ‘theme’ in the drama section of the paper.) Then prepare general essay plans that can be adapted. A good plan should include your line of argument (a series of linked points that answer the question) and a range of supporting evidence from across the text. You could also write and memorise a generic introduction for each of your texts.
8) Target those close reading questions that need most improvement. You should also bear in mind, however, that ‘own words’ / ‘summarise’ questions and ‘language’ questions (imagery/word choice/sentence structure) make up the largest proportion of the paper. Conversely, ‘link’ and ‘context’ questions rarely appear more than once or twice in any single paper.
9) The final close reading question in the Higher exam is an easy opportunity to pick up 5 marks. Have a quick look at it before you read the passages so you have an idea of what to look out for. You may find it useful to practise summarising the main idea(s) in a passage in preparation for the final question. To improve your ability to summarise key ideas and follow a writer’s argument, you should also continue to read quality non-fiction writing/journalism from broadsheet newspapers or quality magazines.
10) Finally, make sure you reward yourself for effective study. Exercise, sleep, healthy eating and relaxation will all help you to perform well in an exam. Nerves are normal and a little adrenaline can sometimes be helpful on exam day; crippling anxiety or stress is not. You will know best whether you’ve prepared fully for your exam. If you’ve put in the necessary effort all year, and are ready to give the exam your best shot, then you have nothing to worry about. If you know that there is more you could do, then head back to step number one, and get revising!
For further expert advice, and access to study tools, past papers and useful links, check out: http://www.sqa.org.uk/sqa/68900.html