Why revising for seven hours a day at Easter isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

There has been a bit of twatter on twitter recently caused by the headlines in newspapers suggesting that students should do seven hours of revision over the Easter break in preparation for their GCSE exams. Reading through some of the stuff is a good voyage through fluffy thinking.

Firstly, there is the outrage that working for seven hours a day is just the worst thing that could happen to a 16-year-old student. Stamping out childhood and all that. Surely at that age, they could just as well not be in school and working a full-time job… McDonald’s anyone? (Disclaimer: my first job at 15 was in McDonalds and I had weekend jobs throughout sixth form).

Then there is the implication that revising hard for big exams at the end of 11 years of schooling means that the students and schools have wasted the last 11 years of schooling…..

Then there is the implication that if students are revising they haven’t been taught well, as if teaching well and revising hard are mutually exclusive

Then there is the implication from this tweet that working for seven hours can’t possibly be a quality revision..

Working seven hours a day on revision for one or two Easter holidays of a young adults school career (once in the run-up to GCSE’s and once in the run-up to A Levels) isn’t that much to ask.  GCSE exams and A Levels exams are both fairly high-stakes examinations which can have impacts on a student’s future prospects. The person who should be primarily responsible for investing their time into their future is that student, and it is a teachers role to advise and instruct them how to best approach this time.

Neither does working hard and investing time in your future during your Easter holiday undo the work of the last 11 years of schooling. In fact, it is an incredible opportunity to develop personal discipline not unlike that required in training for any major event one wishes to undertake. Simply committing this quantity of time to self-regulated learning is a great opportunity for learning and practising self-regulation.

I agree that revision is about quality of activity and that it shouldn’t be a proxy for not teaching well. I also think that revision needs to be thought about carefully in terms of a teaching sequence if it is going to be used for maximum effect.

One of the things I love about the revision period as a classroom teacher is the chance to really bring the subject content together. Sure, I will have been making links with topics throughout the course, just see my IBDP biology course outline.

But structured revision is the point where students who have built up solid domain specific declarative knowledge are able to begin to develop a thorough understanding as this material can now be abstracted in the mind to allow the development of connections of understanding.

As a teacher part of my role is to help students birth this understanding, that can be the underpinning of excellent further study.

To be able to refer back to topics and help students finally begin to make connections because they have built up a solid factual base to allow them to think.

My advice to my Y13 biologists is as follows:

DP Revision Instructions

  1. Plan! Focus on planning for a normal 8 hour working day (0900-1300 & 1400-1800).
  2. Make a schedule that spaces your subjects out. Out of your six subjects focus on three a day and rotate every two days. This will give you 1-2 hours per day on each subject.
  3. Plan each hour for 50mins study and 10mins of break.
  4. Plan activities and rewards for the evenings.
  5. If you want to do something in the afternoon or morning, shift that study session to the evening.
  6. Plan sleep and proper breaks that will take your mind off of your work – give your brain recovery time.
  7. During the 50mins study time, switch off notifications (turn on do not disturb or use an app)
  8. During the 50mins of study time undertake “active strategies” you have seen throughout the course.

Essential Activities 

  1. Make a list of all of the experiments and procedures mentioned in the DP guide. –make sure you know what these are and can describe them.
  2. Make a list of all of the calculations (including statistics) included in the DP guide.- make sure you know what these are and can use them.
  3. Make a list of the drawings required in the syllabus included in the DP guide.- make sure you know what these are practice drawing them.

You can find these lists prepared on the course website.

Active Revision Strategies

  1. Connect-Extend-Challenge.
  2. Quizlet activities
  3. Memory clock – 12mins revising a topic – 30mins answering questions – 12mins reviewing your answers.
  4. Make lists of everything you don’t know when studying from a text.
  5. Peer-2-Peer teaching and feedback.
  6. Thinking/Discussion about the course material that pertains to specific functions as you carry out those functions e.g. digestive system while you are eating.
  7. Word-Phrase-Sentence to help you summarise and re-summarise.
  8. Create voice memos on your phone for each subtopic and then listen to these on the train/bus/etc.
  9. Create mind maps and concept maps, try to build links
  10. When self-correcting and reviewing your work, use a new contrasting colour to help you remember the information you were missing
  11. Complete past papers: Start with open notes
    1. Progress to closed notes
    2. Progress to timed with closed notes
    3. You can also reuse these – if you know that there is an eight mark question of the light-dependent reactions of photosynthesis you can use this question over and over each time you review this topic.

Active Revision tools

  1. Textbook
  2. Oxford IB Biology Guide (thin orange textbook)
  3. Quizlet for key vocab
  4. Syllabus (AKA confusingly as the DP Guide)
  5. Question bank on kognity.
  6. Use all the above to create shorter and shorter summary notes for each topic/sub-topic

Please share your thoughts..

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