Education: Your Choice: Plan your A-level success: Study need not take up all your time, says Christopher Grant

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The Independent Online
WITH only days to go to your A-level exams, what should you do now to give yourself the very best chance of success? It's all about time. You have to fit in that revision, the car, the girlfriend or boyfriend, the pub, the sport, the computer and the music. Something has definitely got to go.

My advice is to give up as little as possible, but to ration it carefully. Your revision schedule has to have priority, but there's no reason why the rest of your life should fold. How about limiting phone calls to a strict 10 minutes? Perhaps see friends only at weekends? Only one pub visit for a while? Many of your mates are in the same boat, and some positive suggestions could be welcomed by the majority.

So you've made some more time available, but need to think it out. How many study sessions are you going to do per week? What time is supper? When is Neighbours on? What about regular clubs, music practice, sport? What about the weekends?

Take everything into account and then write out what you think you might set aside for study. Take another look at it. Make sure it is enough and that there is spare time that you can use when an examination is really close. Make up your mind and draw up your timetable.

Now for the real secret of success: make a second copy and give it to a parent, or somebody you think will be calmly reasonable. There is no harm and a lot of good in appointing an umpire to oversee fair play.

The next phase is physical organisation. If you are an average member of the human race, you will need to put your house in order. Work your way round your room. Start with the clothes, cassettes, CDs, magazines and books. Spread your papers out on the floor in their different subjects. Throw out the rubbish. Only keep papers that are going to be helpful now. Think as you go. Look for those areas of the subject which you know will need special effort. Make some notes as you organise.

Make sure that you have a copy of the syllabus. You can't do any really important final work until you are sure about the extent of knowledge required. Take a highlighting pen and mark those areas of the syllabus that you feel are still only a vague awareness in your mind.

Get stuck into these as soon as possible. Gradually pare down your previous notes, either with that highlighting pen or by making a fresh set of brief reminders until you feel that you have distilled the information into the briefest and most meaningful form. Make sure your new notes are well organised, with lots of headings, underlinings and highlighting.

Use file cards for these final revision 'super notes'. Or record important facts on to cassette, and take yourself out for a walk, armed with Walkman, cassette and file cards.

If you have a reasonably fit young mind and body, neither will take very kindly to being cooped up within four bedroom walls for the next few weeks. Plan regular breaks. Make a cup of coffee or watch television, but get outside as well. You need a real break and contrast of activity.

When it comes to last-minute revision the night before the exam, keep it short. Concentrate on just those key points at the centre of the subject - vital dates, formulae and vocabulary, for example.

Get to bed early with clothes and equipment all ready for the morning exam, and drift off to sleep thinking of the three months of summer holiday you will have earned when it's all over.

The author is deputy head of the sixth form at Dr Challoner's Grammar School, Amersham, Buckinghamshire.

(Photograph omitted)

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