How to revise for exams when studying at home


It’s that time of year when the sun is shining and at the back of your mind is the thought that your exam date is not far away.  Now’s the time to make a plan of how (and when) you are going to revise so that you can do your best on the day.

Plan ahead

If you are studying at home using one of our Oxford Home Schooling courses and are planning to take your exam this May or June, then you should be nearing the end of your course of study.  Make a note of how much time you have left before your exam date, then think about how you will divide your time between finishing the course and revising for your exam.  Some people find it useful to make a revision plan and record this on a calendar, or in a diary, on screen, or on a sheet of paper stuck up over their study place.  What will work best for you and help to keep you on track?

Use the time…

to make sure you have studied all parts of the course, understood the lesson content, and can use what you have learned to answer questions.  Easier said than done! So how can you break up this general aim into smaller, manageable tasks?

1.  Make the most of your course materials

First of all, re-read your course introduction.  It’s full of useful information about the overall content of the course: what’s in each module and lesson; where to go online to read the exam specification (or syllabus), and where to find practice exam papers online. Depending on your subject, your course introduction may also include advice on how to write essays, carry out a piece of practical work, or answer exam-type questions.

As you revise the course itself, use the lesson aims as topic headings and then make revision notes from the lessons on these topics.

Check your answers to tests and assignments that you did as part of the course.  You can learn a lot from the mistakes you made first time around.

Sort out all the extra papers, notes, photocopies or downloads you might have slipped into the course folder; put them in order, and think about how you might use this additional material/research as case studies, examples or data to support your exam answers.  Sometimes you are asked to use the data provided in the exam question itself and your own knowledge when answering a question.  Make sure you have some good examples of your own that you can draw on to support your exam answers.

If the last Tutor-marked assignment is a practice exam, think about whether you want to do your revision first, before you do this assignment.  When you get your marked paper back from your tutor, use his or her comments as aids to further study, to improve upon your mark.

2.  Make the most of information about your exam

When you go to the AQA and Edexcel websites to look at the subject specification, you will find that this includes the following details for every assessment:

  • how many papers you will need to sit
  • how long each exam lasts
  • how many sections each exam contains
  • how many questions you will need to answer in each section
  • how marks are allocated across sections and questions
  • what criteria the assessor will use to mark your exam
  • what the achievement objectives are and how these are marked

If you look at sample assessment papers and past papers on the AQA and Edexcel websites, these show you:

  • what exam papers look like
  • what instructions are on the first page
  • how much space you have for writing answers to questions in the answer booklets
  • what kinds of questions you can expect to find in your exam
  • where the marks for each question appear on the exam paper
  • how long the exam is, and sometimes how much time you should spend on each question

On both websites you can also find :

  • specimen answers to old exam papers with examiners comments: these can be very useful.  You can find examples of an A grade answer or a C grade answer to a question and compare these with some of your own TMA answers to get an idea of where you stand;
  • webpages for private candidates.  As a student at Oxford Home Schooling, you will be entered for your exam as a private candidate;
  • webpages of advice for students taking exams: make sure you have a look at these as there are lots of useful tips.

3.  Ask your tutor

If there’s something you are not sure of, then do ask your tutor: tutors have helped lots of students to prepare for exams and they can draw on their experience to help you prepare for yours.

4.  Ask your student adviser

Don’t forget that our student advisers are also here to help you.  You can contact us, too.  We are here to help.  Good luck!

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