Lo and behold, the 'How to Revise' series is making its return this Back to School season- and we're starting with the highly anticipated post about how to revise for maths, both at A-Level and GCSE! Admittedly, this has been a blog post that I've been putting off because, unlike English Literature or Spanish where my revision methods are quite varied, maths is a subject where my revision is rather repetitive and almost ritualistic- but it's a process that has really worked for me over the years, and I thought it might be helpful to share it nevertheless. As always, if you have any queries or if there's anything you think I've missed out, feel free to leave me a comment down below and I hope you find this post useful!
When it comes to revision, particularly for STEM subjects, there are two main stages in the revision process: the learning/understanding of information and then the application of said information. However, these are also the subjects that tend to be very content heavy- therefore, before you can even begin the revision itself, it's absolutely essential that you have a topic checklist that you can work through. Below is the template that I used for this year's mock exams (feel to free to message me on Instagram, @gabijabarkute, if you'd like the document); as you can see, I've listed all of the topics with the number that corresponds to that particular topic in my folder (see above) and I have boxes to colour code how happy I feel with it prior to any sort of review and afterwards. For me, spaced repetition is the most effective when it comes to revision and this year, I managed to go over every topic at least once and the poorer my understanding, the more reviews I would do. Additionally, I have an extra column for problem areas and this a particular perk of doing a topic list online- as I simply add comments with my common mistakes so I can quickly review them a few days before and leading up to the exam!
Once you have spent some time going through every topic and identifying your weaker areas, that's when you can begin to fix up gaps in understanding. What I did this year that I didn't at GCSE was make flashcards with some key pieces of information- whether that be the laws of logarithms or simply the notation for a real number- and I went through them whenever I would have a test using this method and found that this was brilliant to make sure my basic knowledge is continually up to scratch. If there was a particular topic I didn't understand even after having gone through my flashcards, that's when I'd turn to either YouTube or my teachers as I've found that with maths, it's important to have somebody explain a concept to you in a way that you understand it! Admittedly, this was a lot more accessible at GCSE as there were a lot more resources out there (you'd be surprised at how little there actually is for the new A-Level specification!) but I've found TLMaths to be a personal favourite this year. At GCSE, I found the website Mathswatch to be by far the most useful (although I believe you need a membership through your school) along with Corbett Maths. I also remember looking at Primrose Kitten's summary of GCSE Maths in 2 hours- but I believe this is best to look at a few days or so from the actual exam and that you should focus on specific topics up to that point. Speaking of watching videos, I've actually found that making my own videos or just explaining concepts either to myself or other people has been incredibly helpful- I think it's fair to say that you don't truly understand a topic until you can clearly and concisely explain it to somebody!
I know I've touched upon the way that I gain a base knowledge of a topic but one of the most important things that I haven't yet mentioned is that, after having gone through my flashcards for said topic, I would always do some practice questions afterwards. What I did for my mock exams this year is make sure that I completed most if not all of the mixed and review exercises in the textbook as well as the corresponding questions on Maths Genie and some on Physicsandmathstutor if I really struggled with the topic. When it came closer to the time, I began to plough through mock exams and also tests that my teacher had sent over which had come from the publishers of the A-Level textbook. After completing these various questions, I'd always write my common mistakes on a Post-It note afterwards so that I could look back at them a few days before and leading up to the exam, ensuring I don't fall into the same traps again. At the end of the day, most of your maths revision should be constituted with practice because having the knowledge is all fair and well- but it's the application that really counts, especially on the new specifications. As I make the transition into Year 13, I've also bought a few workbooks so that I can ideally review a topic a week by going through some practice questions. I wouldn't say this is essential at GCSE because there are simply so many free resources online now (I got my practice questions from past papers, Maths Genie, Corbett Maths, Mathswatch and TES)- although I did buy the CGP Grade 8-9 Targeted Workbook and found it had some brilliant questions to really push my thought process to the next level. Just before we conclude, I also thought I'd quickly mention revision guides; although I did get my hands on a few revision guides in Year 11, they're not something I would recommend for maths because it really isn't a subject wherein passive reading is going to help you out an awful lot! While they did help me to make my notes, my workbook ended up being a far better investment in the long run because, again, it's the application that matters!