6 Secrets to Help You Ace Your A-Level Exams
Shaking in your boots at the thought of your A-Level exams? Here are 6 tips to help you achieve top grades in this highly competitive course.
Updated 06 Mar 2019
Are you sick of everyone telling you that A-Level is hard? If you’re planning on taking the programme, we’re sure you’re already well acquainted with its notorious reputation for being tough.
So instead of describing just how hard it is, we’re here to offer you a game plan. In this article, we break down the best study tips to help you ace your A-Level exams.
Brace yourself for those A*s!
#1. Go through the syllabus
Reviewing your syllabus should be the first thing you do when preparing for your A-Level exam as it gives you a bird’s eye view of all the ground you’ll have to cover before your exams. Being confronted with all the work you have left to complete might also
scare motivate you to buckle down and revise.
What might seem like an elusive document filled with unimportant information, is, in fact, a complete list of key concepts that could potentially be tested in the exam. As such, you might want to print out your subject syllabus and tick off what you have studied so that you don’t risk leaving anything out.
The Resource Centre by Cambridge International is a great way to get hold of your subject syllabus. What’s more, not only do these documents contain learning outcomes, but they also include lists of mathematical formulae and cheat sheets for important material such as chemical reactions and tests.
#2. Start preparing early
As the A-Level is 100% exam-based, you might be tempted to leave all your revision to the last minute. But not only will this poorly thought-out tactic yield disastrous results, it’s also virtually impossible to condense your entire A-Level syllabus into a series of short cram sessions just weeks before your paper.
Thankfully, there are ways to prepare for your exam consistently throughout the year. One method is to actively recall what you learned during your lecture by taking notes after each class. This an effective strategy as it helps you solidify important bits of information that will stay in your long-term memory.
According to a few top A-Level students, you should also study a chapter at least one month after you’ve learned it in class. This will ensure any crucial information expounded by your lecturer is still relatively fresh in your mind.
#3. Work on past year papers
You may be inclined to reread your Physics textbook over and over again in an effort to burn the information into your brain. But if you haven’t already heard, rereading is the ultimate recipe for failure. In order to get those A’s, you’ll need to apply your knowledge to the questions in your exam and not just regurgitate what you’ve memorised.
So how can you become a test-taking ninja?
Start doing past year papers at least 2 weeks before your exam and aim to do each paper twice to really fortify your knowledge of the format and familiarise yourself with the type of questions that might be asked. Surprises are great but it’s the last thing you’ll want on the day of your exam.
But don’t stop there! Once you’ve completed the past year papers, scour marking schemes from the Cambridge International Resource Centre to see if you’ve answered correctly and included all pertinent points. Better still, have your lecturer mark it and walk you through your mistakes so you don’t repeat them during the exam.
#4. Read the examiner reports
Ever wish you could read the examiner’s mind to see exactly what he or she is looking for in your answer?
You’re in luck. The Cambridge International AS and A-Level exam board allows you to do just that by giving you unlimited access to examiner reports — a breakdown of the answer scripts received that year. The reports provide a comprehensive analysis of each question presented in the exam paper and give invaluable insight into how the best candidates responded and how students could have improved on their answers.
Poring over these examiner reports will help you gauge exactly how to answer similar questions in the future. This guideline is especially useful for open-ended questions, so you’ll know which keywords to include, how to offer criticism in your responses and relate your answer to personal research.
#5. Study smart
As with any exam, you’ll need a foolproof study strategy to secure that top score.
“Failing to plan is planning to fail” acts as sound advice when studying for your A-Level exams. So plan ahead by creating a study schedule, so you are able to visualise all the topics you have to cover and how much time you have left before your exam.
Once you’ve learned each chapter, review the material periodically and use flashcards to promote active recall. Once you’re confident that you know everything, test yourself with practice tests and past year papers, but remember to simulate exam conditions by removing reference material and subjecting yourself to the same time constraints you would experience in the actual exam.
Need some help kickstarting your revision? Check out the Cambridge International AS & A-Level Learner Guide to tailor your study strategy to the programme requirements!
#6. Diversify your resources
With your examiners marking hundreds of scripts with similar answers to the same exam questions, you’ll need to work extra hard to garner their attention and convince them that your answer is worthy of that highly coveted A*.
To do this, try to cultivate a unique point of view on your subject matter by referring to a range of different materials when you study. This is especially useful for essay questions where criticism and further research are highly valued.
Don’t think that one textbook your lecturer cited as required reading in class will be enough! Peruse supplementary textbooks recommended by your lecturer for additional examples and explanations. Checking out relevant journal articles, magazine commentaries and even YouTube videos might also equip you with a new perspective so you’re able to tackle your exam questions from all angles.
While A-Level can be challenging, with enough diligence and preparation, you’ll be breezing through the course with flying colours. The in-depth exploration of topics and critical analysis throughout the programme acts as a great preparation for any degree, gearing you up to graduate from university with the same ease.