There are some A Level exam tips to help you get outstanding results. We also need excellent time-management skills to be well-prepared for every exam.
Planning plays a significant role in the preparations for your exams since you will know how many days are left until the next exam venue. You can do revisions and practice on the subjects on which the exam is coming soon.
There are also some common errors in the exams, including not reading questions carefully, not keeping a suitable number of significant figures or decimal places, and so on.
During the revision process, I also have my methodology like reviewing syllabuses and reviewing with my classmates, and so on.
Today, I am going to give you my advice on the A Level exams as well as my planning system. Let's go!
Note: This article is mainly for Cambridge International (CAIE) AS and A Level. Different awarding bodies may have different knowledge points and/or course structures.
Common Errors in A Level Exams
Firstly, I have analysed and summarised some common errors in the exams of my chosen subjects from my experiences.
- Forgot to keep suitable number of significant figures (s.f.) or decimal places (d.p.) (usually 3 s.f. (or 1 d.p. in case of angles in degrees) unless specified in the question)
- Solutions of trigonometry is outside the given range (e.g. 0° ≤ x ≤ 360°, 0 ≤ x ≤ 2π )
- Forgot to state the y-coordinate when you are asked to write the coordinates.
- Forgot to keep suitable number of significant figures (s.f.) (usually ≥ 2 s.f. in general answers) (e.g. Change 6 A to 6.0 A)
- Use acceleration of gravity g = 10 m s-1 in A Level Physics exam. It is g = 9.81 m s-1. Don't be confused with 9709 Mechanics!
Computer Science (9618, 9608)
- Forgot to CLOSEFILE after using a file
- Forgot ENDPROCEDURE or ENDFUNCTION headers
- Incorrectly use between pre-condition ( WHILE ) and post-condition ( REPEAT ) loops
- Forgot to add quote marks ( ' or " ) in characters or strings in Trace Tables.
- Forgot to add CALL when calling a procedure in pseudocode.
- Forgot to initialise variables (e.g. set to zero 0).
- Forgot to DECLARE variables, especially the Count variable for the FOR loop. For example,
My A Level Exam Tips
Read Questions Very Carefully
First, you need to read questions very carefully. Some questions may contain trap options, especially Multiple-Choice Questions (MCQs).
When I was practising past papers, I have done a research about the traps in some incorrect options.
There is still an available option even if you forgot to multiply or divide by 2, forgot to square or make square root of the numbers, forgot to change units (e.g. from cm to m), inversely interpret x- and y-axis, partially finish the question with middle values, and forgot to read the whole question.
Sometimes, you may be forgetting reading the question part after 'and' clause.
Keep your Desk Tidy
Another thing is to keep your desk tidy to make sure you have enough space for your paper-based materials.
Don't Leave Many Tasks Until Deadline
I recommend you finish your tasks on time. No matter what the deadlines they are, you always need to complete your tasks.
If you cram or leave too many tasks until deadlines, you will rush to make your projects finished. This will lower the quality of your projects and hence they will become less effective in your exams.
Review your subjects, especially your upcoming exams, as soon as possible so you have sufficient time for revision as well as your big knowledge database.
Reduce procrastination and don't delay your today's tasks. You will have a sense of achievement by finishing all tasks today.
Don't Discuss Answers with your Classmates After an Exam
There is one more tip during the exam day. Don't discuss answers with your classmates immediately after an exam.
I discovered that some students usually discuss the answers with their classmates loudly after exiting the exam room. The exam is over, so the answers cannot be changed even though we discuss them.
If your answer is incorrect when discussing answers, not only will you exert pressure on yourself, but also it will affect your mood for preparing for future exams.
No matter what your feelings are or what results you will get after an exam, you always need to prepare for future exams and subjects.
So, I usually forget the answers when the exam is over like clearing my brain's RAM content.
You can discuss your feelings and estimations of the exam (e.g. I almost reached full marks, I was out of gear, the questions are difficult). However, it is not recommended to discuss answers.
Always prepare for your upcoming exams to raise your overall score.
My Revision Methodology
Now, let's talk about how do I review knowledge and prepare for the exams.
Plan and Check for Upcoming Exams
The first thing is to write down and check for your upcoming exams and adjust your priorities.
So, how do I plan for my exams? Well, I am using my programmed Ken's Study Planner app to plan my exams as well as my study tasks.
Since I am a Computer Science student with programming skills, I have made my website and this web-based Planner app by my own to solve my planning difficulties.
The days of each exam with different papers for each subject are discrete, so I will need to be aware of the date for each exam to make correct preparations.
So, I have added them into the Event section of my Study Planner. Upcoming exams with less than 7 days left are marked as orange.
I use "syllabus code / component code" to name an exam for each paper. For example "9709/33 (Pure Maths)" and "9618/13 (CS Theory)".
An important feature of my planner is that it also shows how many days left until the next exam on its Home Page. The box will turn orange when there are less than 7 days remaining.Sign up and Use
Alternatively, in case that your school does not allow electronic devices, you can list them on a small piece of paper including the "Syllabus Code / Component Code", dates, and/or your goals.
The next thing is to review the syllabuses of your subjects.
CAIE international exams have syllabuses which illustrate the knowledge points to be tested in the exams.
You can download and use the syllabuses to recall each knowledge point, finding out your missing knowledge points.
The subject syllabuses are directly available on the official website. You can type "https://www.cambridgeinternational.org/9709" on your browser (where you can change "9709" to your subjects' syllabus code like 9709, 9702, 9618), scroll down and download the syllabus PDF file (and List of Formulae or Data Booklet too!).
For example, in Computer Science (9618) syllabus, it requires candidates to describe Abstraction and Decomposition. So, we will remember their definitions and understand these key terms.
Review Missing Knowledge Points
After reviewing the syllabuses, you need to review your missing knowledge points.
You can look at your textbook and/or some online resources to fill the gap of your knowledge database.
In the example above, you will know that:
- Abstraction is to filter out unnecessary information while only extracting necessary information to solve a problem.
- Decomposition is to break down a big problem into several smaller steps.
Use Active Recall+ while Walking or Exercising
I also use my upgraded method called Active Recall+ (Plus) to recall the knowledge I have revised while walking or exercising to make sure I remember them firmly.
In my upgraded Active Recall+ methodology, I also recall my today's tasks list and goals as well as the knowledge.
You will always think about this question "What is Abstraction and Decomposition?" to recall these two definitions.
Practise Past Papers with a Timer and Mark Scheme
Then practise past papers after reviewing the knowledge points.
You can immerse yourself into the vibe of taking exams with time limitations. By practising past papers, you will be familiar with the question types as well as how to answer them.
I use my study timer to limit my time of practising past papers (depending on the exam time limits on each paper).
My programmed study timer also displays the current time as well as the remaining time, so I can simply know the time now without switching to the clock mode.
If you still have too much time at the end of the exam, I recommend you to take a rest for a few minutes and then read and check each question very carefully.
You also need to check the Mark Scheme after finishing a paper because you need to know how are papers marked and what types of answers are expected.
For example, you still can get an M1 mark after writing the correct formula (e.g. F=ma, I∝A2) even if you can't do the question.
Test and Review with your Classmates
I also test my classmates in my free time about the knowledge we have learned.
Based on this methodology, I also make some question papers to express my questions in a written form and test my classmates.
For example, since I am a Computer Science (9618) student, I have made the following question papers to my classmates.
I have also had the same idea with one of my other classmates who is a mathematics student and has also made an A Level Pure Mathematics 3 (9709/P3) question a day just before the exam.
Even if the answers and/or questions may be incorrect or inaccurate, this is a studying process and they can be corrected as we review the relevant knowledge points.
Sometimes, perhaps we can meet the same question types in the exam.
Add Stimulating Backgrounds and Decorations
I have also added a stimulating desktop background on my laptop and phone as well as a banner above my apartment bedroom door to encourage myself to study diligently including my goals and encouraging words.
From my imagination, The star (*) of A* (A Star) on the certificate can be converted into a star in reality, emitting lights in the sky, leading students to a successful way, and encouraging students to study hard/smart.
There are many grades in A Level exams, from A*, A, B, C, D to E, in which A* is the highest one.
That's why I usually say "A* Flies to the Sky, Making your Future Bright" along with my hand-made desktop background.
Hope you can Pass the Exam!
The A Level international exam or school assessment is in progress. I hope you can study diligently and get outstanding results on your (I)GCSE or A Level exam! Come on!
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Ken's Study Journey strives to provide high-quality articles about my tips and tutorials to study productively, together with some knowledge explanations. If you need help, I am here for you.
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