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Study Skills
Study SkillsGeography

Study Skills offers tips on how to revise and cope with course work

Your Notes
Learning the work
In the exam
General tips

1. Your Notes
Good revision is not just learning the geography but also learning how you use it to pass your exams.

Revision begins as soon as you start your course. You can prepare by:
  • Finding out what you need to know.
  • Organizing your notes - make a list of the topics and case studies.
  • Knowing how your GCSE papers are structured and practising past questions.
  • Make sure you have a copy of the syllabus, be really clear what topics you need to know then check that your notes are complete and make sense.
  • Most exams have compulsory questions so you can't afford to have gaps in your notes just in case those topics come up.
  • Write clear and complete notes when you do the work in the first place.
If you need to improve your notes you could ...
  • Ask someone if you can copy up any work that you have missed - but make sure you understand it.
  • Find extra information on topics using textbooks, the library or the Internet. There are many sources of information but for it to be useful make sure that you fully understand it - if not ask your teacher.
  • Get a good revision guide. There are lots available in the bookshops and there may be one specially designed for your syllabus.
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2. Learning the work
We do not all learn in the same way and there are many ways to revise. Some people use lists, others use pictures and diagrams. The best way is to use a range of learning styles. Case studies need learning but map skills can't be learned: they need practice.

To revise work effectively, you need to know about your exam...
  • Which topics are tested in which paper?
  • What is compulsory?
  • What types of questions are asked?
Geography exams frequently have a mixture of short and extended answers that will test your knowledge, understanding and skills.

Once you know what topics to cover, you have to work out the best way to learn them...
  • Make a realistic revision timetable and plan your revision carefully so that you have time to fit in everything you need to cover.
  • Work in concentrated bursts and then have a break rather than trying to work continuously. Be ruthless when people interrupt you - don't answer the phone/read the text message/have that drink - save it for your planned break.
Don't just read your notes or copy them out. Set yourself questions and retest yourself on those questions to ensure you still know the answers.

Try to do something active with the material, for example...
  • Draw mind maps with bullet points. Highlight the most important ones using colours.
  • Draw charts and tables to organize key ideas about the processes, causes and effects, problems and benefits that you need to learn.
  • Draw time lines and living graphs that help you understand processes that cause change.
  • Prepare small cards that summarise the key points you need to learn, especially case studies.
  • Use colours to classify items, eg causes/effects, long/short term effects, effects on natural environment/people, etc.
  • Ask your teacher for past papers and test yourself. Look at as many past papers as possible. Look at the type of questions that are asked in terms of content and style. Sometimes it is useful to practise writing out the answers in test conditions.
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3. Answering the questions in the examination

If your teacher hasn't explained to you how the exams are marked, ask about it. Most short answer questions are marked using point marking but longer answers are marked using a Levels of Response mark scheme. In this scheme, answers that offer some analysis and evaluation to back up the facts, earn higher marks.
  • Make sure you allocate your time carefully. If, for example, there are 40 marks to get in 60 minutes, then that is 1.5 minutes per mark but remember that includes time reading, thinking, choosing and planning as well as writing. It's no good writing a page if the question is only worth two marks. It could mean you don't have enough time to answer the eight-mark question properly.
  • Read the questions carefully. When you answer questions on the paper think very carefully. Try to learn how to respond to command words like EXPLAIN, COMPARE, DESCRIBE and EVALUATE. It is important that you answer the question and do not fall into the trap of just writing down everything you know.
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4. General tips
  • Make sure that you bring the correct equipment to the examination including pen, pencil, ruler, rubber and calculator.
  • Make sure you know the examination rubric. Read and obey the instructions on the front cover. Do not answer all questions when you are asked to make a choice.
  • Read each question carefully, paying particular attention to command words.
  • Answer the questions in order of how confident you are - leave the one you are not confident about until last.
  • Be careful when making your choice of case study. If the question asks you to choose an example from an LEDC do not choose one from an MEDC. If the question asks you to choose a country do not choose a city or continent.
  • Do not repeat the same answer in different sections - such answers do not gain double credit.
  • Use all of the resources and do not ignore resources such as maps, photographs and diagrams that are provided. Be precise when using information from maps, graphs and diagrams and make sure you include the correct units when asked for measurements.
  • Be aware of how much time you are taking to answer each section of the examination paper and use your time wisely. Do not sit back when you have completed your answers. Re-read and check your answers adding more facts and ideas if you can remember them.
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BBC Schools revision site
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