Tagged: motivation

Revision is best done as a social activity……

Then students I teach are at an all-boarding school.  This gives them a massive advantage in the revision period before exams because it is so easy to revise together.  Working as a group is great for motivation as you can all help each other.  It is a good idea to revise a topic or two then get together to discuss the main ideas.  Why not create a test on a particular topic you have revised and see if any of your friends want to have a go at it?  Zondle, Quizlet and Kahoot all allow you to create your own tests…..  Or you could be old-school and use a paper and pen.


This picture too has a great message for revision…. Have a go at teaching or explaining a topic to someone else.  I can think of half a dozen biology topics I never really understood until I tried to teach them to other people…  Everyone is a learner and everyone can be a teacher!

Keep working hard – it will be worth it in the end…..  But please get enough sleep.  It is the commonest mistake I encounter with Y11 students and working too late in the evening can have a seriously negative impact on your exam performance.  However tempted you are, don’t do it!


Holiday revision: some PMG tips for Y11 students to maximise the effectiveness of their work

The Easter holidays will be the critical period for all Y11 students preparing for the summer iGCSE exams.  The main paper for Biology is so early in May that you need to make good use of time of the holidays.  Indeed the majority of your Biology revision should be accomplished before you come back to school in April

Here are some tips in no particular order that might help.

1) Revision is not measured in hours.  It is not how many hours you do that matters, it is the benefit you gain from your work.  Don’t worry about people who tell you they are doing 10 hours a day – most of their effort will be wasted….

2) What do you need for revision? I suggest you make sure you have all of the following ready for Biology revision this holidays.

  • Textbook (absolutely essential as it should now be your main source of information)
  • Specification booklet (either the printed version I give you or one downloaded from Firefly)
  • Blank paper/cards and coloured pens and pencils (for making summary notes and diagrams)
  • Past Paper 1B booklet
  • Past Paper 1B mark schemes

3) Active Revision:  You all know that reading is a very poor way to revise.  The more active and multi-sensory you can be in revision, the more you will learn.  Make flash cards that summarise each topic.  Use a dictation app to record yourself speaking about the three key ideas in a topic.  Make revision videos that you can post to a YouTube channel.  Do some of the Zondle revision activities I will set up during the holidays.  Leave replies to my blog posts with anything that doesn’t make sense or with any questions you may have.  Past papers are best used sparingly in the early stages of revision – your task this holidays is to try to learn as much of the specification as you can.  We will look at many past papers and mark schemes next term.

4) Do not revise any one topic for more than 35 minutes.  Take a 5-10 minute break and then start something new.

5) Have a plan.  I suggest you should aim to work a maximum of 5 hours a day and I think it is best to split the day into three periods of work.  9.15am – 12pm; 2pm – 4.45pm; 7.30pm – 10.15pm.  The idea is that every day you always work in the morning slot plus either the afternoon or the evening slot as you prefer.

The plan is good because you want to know that when you are not working, you can relax and enjoy yourself properly.    Each revision session is divided into three or four topics, each lasting about half an hour.

Do not ever work late in the evening.  Always get up at your normal time and always start work at 9.15am.

6) Do some fun things in the holidays as well as work, but put them into the plan.  Exercise is good, spending time with friends is good, eating healthily is good, getting plenty of sleep (8 hours at least a night) is essential.

Basically for this one holiday, you want to trick your body and mind into sticking in “school mode”.  Early to bed, early to rise, keep active each day and work hard!  The summer term will fly by and you can do a great deal of sleeping and proper relaxing in the months of June, July and August.

Good luck – and keep checking the blog and/or Twitter for new posts and Zondle quizzes

Last week of work for Biology IGCSE students

This is the final week of work for all iGCSE year 11 Biologists.


For the D block boys I teach, think back to those first few days at the start of F block when you had your new uniforms that didn’t fit and consider how much you have changed and learned in the intervening years.  Now with just one final week of Biology revision to go, this is the time to make those final steps in your journey to an A* grade.

It is so easy when the GCSE exams are almost done to relax, to ease up a little and not give of your best this week.  Please don’t do this – there is plenty of time for relaxing and easing up in late June, July and August.  You can still make a big difference to your chances next Monday if you can keep working hard for the final few days.

1) If you need more example of past paper 2s, please get in touch via email/Twitter or by commenting on the blog.

2) If you want to go through any past papers you have completed with me, contact me to fix up a time to meet up.

3) Why not have a go at one of my Zondle revision challenges this week?; next one is Monday 9pm – see Twitter feed for details of how to register.

4) Keep looking over your revision notes, keep practising questions and focus your revision now on the topics most likely to appear.  See my earlier post on question-spotting for paper 2 if you haven’t already.

Easter holiday iGCSE revision: the final stages

I hope that many of the Y11 students reading this will have made good use of the time in the holidays to get ahead with their revision.  If you can “hit the ground running” when you return to school next week, that makes it so much easier for you to benefit fully from the revision classes to come.  (If this doesn’t apply to you, skip the next paragraph and continue on in the post.)

Your aim when school starts next week is to keep up the good work habits, the organisation and the high personal motivation levels you have shown this holiday.  Remember that you can never do as much as you can with schoolwork: there is always another past paper to work through, another time to go over your revision notes, another summary poster to make.  The important thing is to use the time you do spend working wisely and gain the most you can from the experience.  Sheikh Mohammed is a man I greatly admire for what he has achieved both in racing and as a leader: his epithet is that “in the race for excellence, there is no finishing line”.   There is more to do, you will almost certainly benefit by doing a little more, and you can do it!  Keep going…….

If you haven’t managed to achieve what you wanted in the past three weeks, don’t panic.  You won’t be alone.  There is still time for you to make a big difference to your chances in summer exams.  I think your best bet is to now team up with a mate or two for revision.  (These comments apply to students in the boarding school where I work but the idea is transferable)  Ask a friend who you know has good work habits if you can pair up with him for the first week of school for revision.  When he or she works, you work.  Ideally you work alongside each other (the housemaster’s dining room is often a good venue free of distractions)  Don’t copy exactly what they are doing as they may be at a different stage in the revision process to you, but just work with them, never alone.

You will all have more conflicting demands on your time when the term starts again.  Don’t worry about this at all.  Keep doing your sport, your music, your social activities with mates.  All are vital to success.  You will probably be set homework by teachers in these first few weeks:  that’s fine too.  Complete each task as conscientiously as you can even if you think you could be better doing something else. The key thing is to keep the positive energy, the focus and the high performance levels going.  Don’t allow yourself to ever slip into old habits (at least not until the end of June)  Momentum is key:  if you don’t yet have it, build it quick. If you do have it, keep going.  Keep working with the same focus, the same intensity and enjoy the feeling of making progress.  Just think how much better you understand topics compared to a few weeks ago!

Final idea in this post is this.  Keep looking after yourself and your mates.  Eat healthily, get to bed early, keep your room tidy and clean and help others to do the same.  Work is not something you do alone.  You and your friends are “all in it together” so look after others and to some extent they will look out for you.  Exams are important but so are many other things in life – friendship, health, family to name just three – so don’t neglect these things even when the pressures start to build.

If anyone reading this wants any help with anything to do with revision, schoolwork etc. please get in touch.  Catch me in my schoolroom if you can or get in touch via Twitter or comments on my blog.

Motivational advice for D block Biologists

Motivational advice for D block Biologists

I know some of you are working hard at the moment. How do I know? Well I can see that you are reading these blog posts, are playing the revision games on Zondle and producing good scores…..

Revision is a great example of a self-perpetuating process. The hardest thing is to get started but once you are in a routine, I hope the rhythm of revision will see you through to the end.

It is good to have an end-product to show for your work. This is why revision notes or flash cards are such a good idea. You can see them on your desk every day, you can see how they are growing or being used and this can motivate you to keep going! Have a go at working through some of the past paper questions in the booklet. Mark your answers using the provided mark schemes. Can you show evidence to yourself that you are making progress?

Revision can feel like a slog and in some ways it is….. There is no getting round that. But if you can make it fun, you are much more likely to keep going and all the effort will be worth it in the end.

You have a long summer holiday ahead of you. I can just about remember what that particular summer was like for me in 1987. (I know it’s hard to believe but I am so old I didn’t even do GCSEs but their predecessor O levels) I remember dancing to New Order, U2 releasing Joshua Tree and a lot of parties with some very special people. It will be the same for you I’m sure so work hard now so you can enjoy it with not a drop of guilt……