How to revise for a grade 9

As the crunch time for revision is coming up, I thought it would be useful to share my advice on how to revise for a grade 9; how to be at the top of your game on the day and do the right preparation in the lead up.


Revision principles

Here are some principles I lived by whilst revising and they worked for every subject and both GCSEs and A-Levels. Give them a go and you will see your stress-levels fall quite quickly!

Avoid comparisons

Throughout the revision period you will hear everyone talking about how much or little revision they have done. You'll also hear recommended revision plans from teachers, family and other friends. Do bear in mind:

  • You are all generally starting from a different level of understanding
  • Some people will be mentioning their revision just to see how much you've done!
  • Some people exaggerate
  • Some people play it down
  • Sometimes an hour of someone else's revision could mean 10 minutes of revision and 50 minutes of procrastination
  • They might be taking different subjects which require different types of revision
  • Their brain probably works differently to yours so they need to do different activities
  • They will learn at a different speed

All of this sums up to a problem. It is so easy to compare yourself to others but do know that it is entirely unfair to because of the points above. You should plan your time until exams, spreading the time you have between the subjects, pick the amount of time per day you think you can realistically commit your concentration to and take one day at a time, doing what is right for you.

Treat teachers like grandparents

I was told as a child to ask my grandparents more about their childhood. It was a strange request but I'm eternally grateful for it as it opened my eyes to how much they had gone through and how many funny, interesting and surprising stories they could tell. When taking exams, treat teachers like grandparents. Ask them as much as you want to; you'll be surprised how much they can help in most situations. Whether it be about how to revise, for reassurance or extra help outside of class. Do remind yourself:

  • They all had to go through education themselves and did well so they will have good exam advice
  • They have been teaching and learning for years so will have other ways of explaining things if you are truly stuck on a topic. Do ask them for different examples of where theories are seen in real life - one of them will resonate with you and will make everything suddenly clear!
  • They know recommended text books, worksheets and revision notes that you should take advantage of if you're ever running out of past papers
  • They are great to talk to when it all feels like it is too much; they will have reassurance, great next steps and know you well enough to get you back on track

Tick off understanding, not pages

When creating revision plans, it is easy to split the text book up into pages and tick chapters off as you are revising. However, the better way to approach revision is to realise that there are 3 levels of understanding which you should work your way through for every topic:

  1. Feeling as though you understand and are familiar with all the notes/books and theory;
  2. Feeling able to attempt exam-style questions, still lacking marks but you can muddle through;
  3. Feeling able to get most marks on a past paper.

Make a list of topics, including tick boxes for these three levels of understanding and make sure you get to the final one for each. If you just revise the text books, you'll only ever ace the first!

Revision notes

How to create revision notes

Condense condense condense

There are a wide range of recommended processes for creating revision notes. My recommended process is to condense the text book, condense again and then condense a third time. If you just re-write out the book, you are not only creating a huge workload for yourself, you will also be unable to revise quickly nearer the exam.

Think about if you were asked to clear out your wardrobe. The first time you sift through your clothes, it is difficult to throw out a lot of things as some hold sentimental value and others you think you might wear at some point. If the following week you did it again, you would find more items else to throw out. The following week, after repeating, you end up with a truly condensed wardrobe of the things you really do still need.

Repeating the amount of times you sifting through the revision content to find the truly relevant bits, means you will end up with revision notes that are quick to revise and less-daunting to look at nearer the exams. An added bonus is each time you do so, your brain will pick up more and will piece together a new understanding!

Revision activities

Revision activities

Try new contexts

With the new specifications now out for GCSEs and A-Levels, the biggest change made is the flexibility at which examiners will introduce completely new concepts in exams. There can now be exams where it feels as though you haven't studied the right topics and it feels as though you are in the wrong exam hall! The intention behind this is to check you can apply your knowledge to new concepts as it separates those who truly understand and those that don't. 

My recommended revision technique that has become more important is to try new contexts when revising. For example, when revising transverse and longitudinal waves, have a think about other kinds of waves they could ask about. What about sound waves inside a piano, what would happen there? What about a skipping rope, how does that work? Could a clock be described as a wave and if so how? These questions seem out of the box and a bit strange, but having this curiosity will separate you from other students and this really is a 'grade 9' attitude.

It is easy to be like a rabbit in headlights in the exam, seeing questions with new contexts often makes students think they will fail and that they won't get any of the marks. Don't allow yourself to think this way; start every question you ever attempt with this thought: 'I do know something that will help me answer this question. I can do this.'

Past papers win

As mentioned above, the three levels of understanding are:

  1. Feeling as though you understand and are familiar with all the notes/books and theory;
  2. Feeling able to attempt exam-style questions, still lacking marks but you can muddle through;
  3. Feeling able to get most marks on a past paper.

The final level of understanding is all about past papers. It is no good near the exam doing questions in text books as they are not representative enough of the pressure or difficulty of the actual exam. Do past papers, rinse the mark schemes afterwards for all they marks you missed out on and make notes of everything you missed. This is the jewel of revision near exams and there is no better activity! 

Making the most of your time

Making the most of your time

Don't waste time being stuck

I always say there is no point being stuck as everyone can understand every topic, it just hasn't been explained properly to you yet. Don't waste revision time being stuck, have someone you can call every time you are unsure, pull that confused face or feel defeated. Whether that is an older sibling, a teacher, a friend you know understands the subject well or a tutor. If you spend a tiny amount of your revision time being stuck, you will approach your exams confident and with a winning attitude. 

Best of luck with all your revision and exams - you will do great. Do get in touch if you ever need any advice - I'm available throughout the revision months to be that person to call.

Contact Kathryn