GCSE Science Revision

21Apr13

The second half of this post will be mostly relevant to AQA Science A and Additional, because that’s mostly what I teach. The rest will be my own opinions on revision. I say opinions, but I try to make sure these are evidence-based, because that’s what we try to do, right? Let’s start off with active revision, what it is and isn’t, and how to convince kids to do it. You could argue this puts the responsibility back on the students rather than us doing it, which strikes me as both moral and effective. It’s incredibly depressing when kids turn up at a scheduled ‘revision class’ expecting to listen to a teacher read through the syllabus. Pointless, frustrating and demoralising for everyone concerned; surely there’s something more constructive they could be doing?

Most of the hyperlinks are to my own posts, because I could find them quickly. I’d love for comments to be added with more/better stuff, so please do!

Active Revision inc MORSE

I like the acronym MORSE, standing for

  • Mnemonics (Yes, I know, relatively small benefit, but can’t miss it out)
  • Organisation (links between concepts, not remembering your calculator)
  • Rehearsal/Repetition (ideally using the ideas behind ‘spaced revision’)
  • Simplification/Summarising (key words, lists, page to paragraph to sentence)
  • Extension (applying facts to new situations)

I presented on this ages ago at a TeachMeet, but it’s continued to be useful when working with my students. It’s a straightforward checklist to make sure that whatever they’re doing, it’s active rather than passive. As I explain to my classes, although there are some surprises, most revision advice is simple. Like healthy eating, it’s not about mysterious secrets, but about willpower.

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

Michael Pollan, 2007

Active revision isn’t a complicated idea. It’s about doing something. Writing, not reading. Describing or thinking or explaining, not just watching or listening. It’s quite telling that when I asked a student how they had revised for a recent test, they told me they’d “looked at the revision guide.” Not even read the revision guide, you notice. Have you seen that students seem to treat revision guides like gym memberships? Owning them is enough to ensure the result you wanted, apparently…

Anyway. I like to get students:

  • using past papers in loads of ways
  • writing revision notes as summaries from a range of sources
  • producing mindmaps/revision cards then using them
  • asking and answering questions with peers
  • rote learning definitions using cover/write/check
  • linking concepts with examples and consequences for the 6 mark questions.
  • advantages/disadvantages, comparisons with linked ideas/examples (eg the Five Cs format)
  • practising mathematical situations, both clear and challenging

..and of course much more. I’m constantly behind in updates to my student-focused site, studenttoolkit.co.uk, which has a revision category. New ideas, contributions, referrals all welcome of course!

AQA-Specific Links

Booklets for students to complete, with checklists. These are all in .pdf format.

Nothing for Chemistry, on account of me being a Physicist who can also teach the squishy stuff, but is more likely to blow himself up accidentally rather than on purpose. 🙂

Hope some of the above is useful – please met me know what you think, whether positive or negative.

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9 Responses to “GCSE Science Revision”

  1. Really useful, Ian, thanks on behalf of busy teachers everywhere.

  2. 2 Sue

    These are lovely frameworks – I’m teaching The AQA iGCSE (Certificate) Double Award and single sciences online, and just starting to develop materials for students to use to actually “DO” revision. Think I might pinch some of your ideas for inspiration; will put whatever I make onto TES resources as don’t have enough genius thoughts to make a blog worth writing! Thanks very much!

    • 3 IanH

      Glad you liked them, by all means borrow anything useful. Please comment with a link as and when, or you would be very welcome to do a credited blog post here. Cheers for now…

  3. Great stuff, I like the Morse idea, and the healthy eating analogy also holds true for the importance of it being a habit and not a one off. Thanks, I’ll be sharingsome of this and of course crediting your good work.

  4. As Mary says, thank you on behalf of anyone and everyone (teachers and students) who make use of these. Your revision checklists are great, and I’ll be magpie-ing the MORSE mneumonic tomorrow.

    I will circulate these to my team forthwith, and endeavour to create something comparable for Chemistry!

    I have also made (some based on versions found on TES resources) learning checklists for all the Unit 2 topics for AQA; I will attempt to put these somewhere they can be found and tweet the links with #asechat

  5. Reblogged this on Healthy Skepticism and commented:
    Great ideas and strategies for promoting effective revision with students, especially for those teaching AQA GCSE Science courses.

  6. 7 Arnav

    Really good site for Science revision. Will use these in my science classes. Visit my site for some resources on GCSE Maths, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Geography, History and Computing.


  1. 1 AQA Additional Science – learning/revision checklists | Healthy Skepticism
  2. 2 GCSE science revision – ideas | Healthy Skepticism

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