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One of the main goals of high school classes is to get good grades that will help you get into the right university. But with so many subjects and other distractions, how do you prepare for your exams and ace them? Alexander Pentchev excelled in his A Levels and has outlined the top 10 tips (and a few mini tips) for you to do the same.

What are some tips to ace your A Level exams?

1. Stay on top of your content throughout the year

DO NOT let things slide if you don't understand them. Make sure you understand them before going into new content. Do your best to understand concepts to a fundamental level and stay on top of things. You don't necessarily have to memorise everything as long as you understand it.

Click below to see how our teachers go to great lengths to ensure students learn their concepts.

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2. Understand what exams you will be taking at the end of the year

Knowing what exams you're doing at the start of the year sets you up and gives you a direction to the goals you want to achieve. Note down what papers you have. How long is each paper? What will each paper involve? And what will you have to know for each paper. The earlier you know what exams you will be taking, the earlier you can prepare for them.

Learn about A Level coursework and subjects here.

3. Textbooks are your best friends

Before class, read the textbook until you understand the knowledge at a basic level. This is almost a new consolidation of that knowledge, even if you don't write notes after every class. You'd probably have about 6 tests a year, so you could write a nice set of condensed notes about all the content as a review. Before each test look over these notes, recognize what you've forgotten and then convert these to flashcards, and memorise the flashcards. Memorising concepts is about repetition so the more times you go over at it the more neuroconnections form - it's that simple really!

Learn the productivity hack called the Pomodoro Technique used by ambitious students everywhere.

4. Set learning objectives

At the end of the year when you’re studying for your exams, each subject will generally have a list of learning objectives (syllabus). Make sure you go through them and check that you understand each point. Understanding each of those learning objectives is very key so that if you know all the learning objectives at least to a primal level, you should be able to answer every question in the exam to some certain point .

5. Treat the mock exams like the real thing

It's a great way to practise, to go over content from the start of the year and do past papers. You can study for it as if you're at your A-level exams, and that should set you up. Although you will be learning new content at this stage and might not have a lot of free time, you can take it as seriously as you can. Definitely DON’T do every past paper for the mock exams at once because that means you won't have any left for the end of year exams. When you receive your checked exam papers, critically analyse your mistakes and what you don’t know as this could highlight weakness you didn’t realize you had.

6. Do the past year papers

The way to prepare for your exam is just to do past year papers (at least the last five years) since questions often repeat themselves. Past year papers are the best resource out there as they give you an idea of what they can assess you on and how they ask questions. Practicing these papers will make you feel more comfortable when you're doing the A-levels exams because you know what to expect.

Click below to see how students learn at CGA.

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7. Learn the mark scheme

This goes against what education is all about but in the end you don't hate the player, you hate the game. Acknowledge what key points the examiners want, what commonalities each of them have between years and then apply that to exams. For some subjects similar questions will have the same number of points. If you can memorise these points, every single time you get a similar question, you'll be able to get those full marks.

8. Make a list of exam tips for each subject

For example, Math: write answers to 3 significant figures, so instead of having a piece of paper packed with content you don't know, you could have another piece of paper with exam tips you should know. Fundamental idea is that you do past year papers, and these exam tips are derived from those past papers. It's not content based, yet it allows you to become a better exam taker.

9. Always aim for a 100%

Make sure you know everything in the textbook, and you do as many past papers as possible, so you know what each question could be. You should always aim for 100% even if you don’t think you will get an A*. If you aim for the moon and miss, you will still land among the stars. This is the perfect analogy for A levels. Go for the 100%, if you don't reach as most people don't, you will hopefully at least get an A or an A*.

Check out how CGA students have been performing in their A Levels here.

10. Take time to plan out your studies

Two months would be ideal to ensure you've gone through all the content and you've done the past papers. For each subject, make a list to go through each unit, then note how many years of past papers you want to do. You might to spend a whole day planning for each subject, so you have everything you want to do, every content piece you want to do, every past year you want to do. And then start with your exam date and work back from that date. If you plug it in backwards correctly, that will allow you to have a starting date of when you need to start. This is so you plan your study from when your exam is rather than from where it is now, and that sort of indicates to you when you should start or when you need to hurry up and get back on track. This tip will lay a clean smooth path up to the exam.

Learn how to better use your time with the Feynman Technique.

Some additional mini tips:

  • What to do when you are blanking in the exam : simply skip the question and do the questions that you can do. This builds confidence, so you can return to the questions you left with a stronger mindset.
  • Use other online resources: For example, Chemguide is a great resource for chemistry.
  • Use flash cards (Quizlet/Anki) after learning the content. Review it and convert the content you didn't know into flash cards.
  • Read the books that are going to be tested in the English Lit exam.
  • For C students that are wanting to become A students, split the quantity of study and effectiveness of study. First of all, make sure you are putting in the hours to get an A. If you're studying a lot, That's fine. The next step will be more applicable for you but if you feel like you know you are studying a lot and just need a boost, add some quality study.

Alexander Pentchev is a Bachelor of Science and Doctor of Medicine student in his third year at the University of Sydney, majoring in Biochemistry with a minor in Economics. He received 5 A* at A Level in Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics, Economics and English Literature as well as an A in AS Spanish. Alex also achieved NZQA Outstanding Scholarships in Biology and Chemistry. Alex was selected for the New Zealand Biology Olympiad team which had the opportunity to join a research expedition in Tanzania and Malawi. He also received a High Distinction award in the New Zealand Economics Competition, placing 19th in the country. Alex enjoys everything football, photography, travelling and cooking.