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Teaching Issues

Ten Top Tips for History Exam Revision



Between February and Easter every year teachers and students gear themselves up for revision. The all-important exams are looming and everyone is under increasing pressure to succeed: students, teachers, schools. But what are the keys to success with revision?

Firstly we would stress the fact that revision is something that should happen across two years of the course (or three if school leaders are stupid enough to think that a three year KS4 is a good idea) .  Not just in the final few weeks.

Can we panic now?Teachers should build in tasks to remind students of the work they have covered and may have forgotten.  Testing of substantive knowledge is hugely important.

But we would be foolish / smug / sat in an ivory tower if we said that in the period leading up to the exams we didn’t spend time re-visiting information and helping our students get ready to succeed.

So what makes for good revision?

Essentially we break this learning down into three mains areas:

  1. Getting the information into your brain in the first place by taking a highly engaging enquiry based approach to learning.
  2. Remembering and recalling the information.
  3. Applying the information to different contexts  (ultimately exam questions)

Step 1 is simple. Teach ’em the stuff well. Use an enquiry based approach.

This is what we do day in day out in the classroom. I personally view the classwork book as a learning book. Not as something that is created for revision notes that students take home. This is different. Learning is messy and students will make mistakes.

We provide our students with revision notes after they have learnt the ‘stuff’.

I am not saying that I think presentation in class books should be poor. Just that the classwork book is a learning book where students will write essays, create charts, complete links diagrams and so on.

Step 2: Remembering and recalling information.

We must remember that information needs to be re-visited. This process should be repeated. We do not advocate the rote learning of possible answers to exam questions. This just creates a problem for your kids if the question they have practiced doesn’t appear on the exam.

Students need to be able to recall the information they need, and then decide exactly what they should be doing with that information when asked.

RevisionOne problem with revision in schools and the growth of extra revision classes is  students think learning and revision is something that their teacher does to them.

This often happens when a school hasn’t created a positive learning environment. Schools should work hard to create the right attitude for learning across their institutions.

The more you can get your students to complete these revision tasks independently of the teacher, the better. I am not saying that the teacher shouldn’t be involved in setting up the activities. They should. But all revision lessons shouldn’t just involve the teacher asking the students about what they remember, then filling in the gaps when they don’t know.

Revision is quite simple – that is why ‘look, cover, write, check’ works.

We can use a number of different approaches to help students remember the information after we have taught them.

Below are fifteen ideas and three free downloads.

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About the author
Richard McFahn
Founder of History Resource Cupboard, Richard has worked for 20 years as a history teacher, subject and senior leader, Advanced Skills Teacher, local authority adviser and history ITE tutor.

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